Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
h-sar

Our Med dream: August 6-18, 2014

Recommended Posts

Traveling the Med with two teens and DH in a quad inside - eeeek! Actually, it turned out to be just fine.

 

Note: if you don't like a lengthy story and especially reading it as one long post, without pictures, this is not the thread for you. Apologies in advance. The rest of you, grab a coffee/tea and settle in. I have proofread this many times, but may have missed some errors. Hopefully, nothing significant. I realize that this thread might be better off as smaller pieces in the ports of call, and will provide the link on those European boards. (There will be many pictures to follow).

 

First, a little background about us. DH and I are late 40's, DS just turned 17 and DD turned 15 during the vacation. Much to her delight, she got to celebrate her birthday in London, during the 5 nights we spent there after disembarking in Barcelona. Both kids have been soccer players since the age of 4 - this will figure prominently post cruise. As a family, we have 8 Caribbean cruises under our belts, from 2006 on; 6 on Princess, one on Oasis, and one on Carnival. These previous cruises were taken during Christmas holidays to escape a bit of the 6 month long winter we face in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. While August is not ideal for a Med cruise due to the hot weather and crowds, school holidays for both the kids and I dictated the time.

 

p><p>While we

 

If you aren't interested in the travel details to our Venice embarkation point, please feel free to skip the next few paragraphs. When I read reviews, I want to know every detail, every price, pre, during, and post cruise, so I'll try to do likewise for those who like the minutiae.

 

We left on Aug 4th on Icelandair from Edmonton to Munich, via a 40 min layover in Iceland. Yup, it was a panic filled layover, running from one gate to another. Our bags went straight through to Munich, thank goodness, but a 15 minute late arrival into Iceland meant we had to be escorted through security, bypassing a line which appeared more populous than the entire county of Iceland! Since Icelandair had given us this connection, they were responsible for ensuring that we made it to Munich. Icelandair will actually allow passengers a couple days layover in Iceland at no added charge (a way to boost tourism), but we had a pretty tight schedule on both ends of our trip. No free snacks or meals, other than drinks, are provided on Icelandair flights unless you are a very young child. Pack a lunch! The airport really doesn't have much in the way of restaurants, either.

 

We had a two hr layover in Munich before we were to board Air Dolimiti for Venice. A 40 minute delay in baggage leaving the aircraft meant that we had another nerve wracking layover. That we had to go to another terminal, get our bags screened, and go through security has convinced me that anything less than a 3 hr layover in a similar situation is foolish. I also should have paid the few extra hundred dollars to book flights through one carrier (Icelandair does not fly to Venice). Had we not made the connection to Venice, we would have been left to our own devices as both legs were two different tickets and two bookings.

 

Our flight breakdown:

Edmonton to Munich, via Iceland - Icelandair

Munich to Venice - Air Dolimiti

Returning home:

Barcelona to London (we are spending 5 nights post cruise in London) - British Airways

London to Edmonton, via Iceland - Icelandair

 

Total cost - $1500 per person. Had we booked tickets all the way through on Air Canada, the cost would have been over $2000 per person at the time I booked. Significant savings, but a bit of stress having two different carriers.

 

We had a very quick and uneventful 45 min flight from Munich to Venice. Seeing Venice from the air was incredible! Thanks to all the excellent advice and reviews on CC, I was able to quickly locate the ticket stand for the local public transportation, ACTV. There was a small kiosk, manned by a woman (excuse the bad pun) located right in front of the first baggage claim carousel. For 24e each, we bought a 24 hr vaporetto pass which also included a one way public bus ride from the airport to Piazalla Roma. Teens were same price as adults. Had we needed to get back to the airport, it would have been another 4e.

 

The Venice airport is extremely easy to navigate and the bus stop was outside, steps away from the baggage claim. Busses run every 10 or 15 min and we only waited about 2 min. We had 3 med-large suitcases, 1 small carryon suitcase, and three napsacks between the 4 of us. The carryon was mine as I knew I would have to do a lot of carrying and hefting through uneven, cobblestoned alleyways and bridges. With laundry available on board and then in our London apartment, travelling light was not a problem.

 

The bus was empty when we and the other passengers got on, as the airport is the last stop. We had absolutely no issues with getting our baggage on the bus. Public busses are the same large ones you would see in most North American cities, with far more empty space which made putting the bags between our legs quite easy. Getting them onto the bus was not an issue as the steps come down to almost street level. We actually enjoyed seeing some of the residential area as the bus made about 5 stops. The journey took 22-25 minutes. I would highly recommend the public bus to get to the port or to your Venice hotel. It was worth the 4e we paid on our ACTV pass and then some! Do not get the ACTV mixed up with the other transportation company, the ATVO, which will cost more. Make sure you validate your ticket each time you get on a bus or water taxi (vaporetto). You have to scan it in front of a little machine. There are scanners as you enter each station. The fines can be heavy if you don't and get spot checked. No one ever checked our tickets on the dozen or so vaporetto trips we made, but it's not worth taking the risk.

 

Once we got to the Piazzale Roma, we walked a minute from the bus stop to the vaporetto station. Here's where we made our first mistake - we got on the vaporetto that would take us to Rialto station, but took the one going in the wrong direction, so the trip took over 1/2 an hr and required us to change vaporettos part way through. Not easy while lugging luggage. Had I asked an attendant, we would have made the trip in one vaporetto in 10 min. Oh, well, we were excited to be in Venice and saw a huge part of the Grand Canal. We also got a close sight of the Regal Princess which would be our home for 12 nights starting the next day. It was as beautiful as all the reviews and pictures on CC had described! A warning here: getting on the vaporetto with each of us holding a suitcase, in rush hour as it was 4:30 pm, was not for the faint of heart or body. It was literally wall to wall people on the water taxi and sitting at that time of day is never an option. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Would I do it in my later years or if I had children unable to hold on to their own luggage? Nope.

 

From the Rialto station, it was a quick 5 min walk (which felt interminably long in the crowds, 35+ weather, hauling luggage) to the hotel. Some good directions from Trip Advisor made navigating through the alleys painless. Our hotel was the Allogi Alla Scala and I had booked, months in advance, what was one of the few quad rooms in Venice at 135e for one night pre-cruise. We ended up in two double rooms next to each other as our quad had been mistakenly given away. Not sure how it worked out, but they only asked for 121e for BOTH rooms, total. Yes, I asked for a printed receipt. We were gratified for our good fortune. It was definitely an old school Venetian hotel in terms of style and lack of extra amenities, and there really wasn't much space in the main part of the room for anything other than the bed, but free wifi in the lobby, two rooms, more importantly, two bathrooms, and an excellent location, made this the deal of the century!! The hotel is owned and run by the epitome of the little old Italian, non English speaking, grandma, referred to by the young English speaking male assistant as "The Lady." Felt like something out of a movie! Definitely more memorable than a Holiday Inn!!

 

The first order of business after washing up was to find some food and I had my heart set on fresh, home made pasta from the #1 rated Venetian restaurant on trip advisor - Alfredo's, sometimes referred to as Alfredino's, a take out pasta place. DS downloaded the walking map using the hotel wifi. We found it quickly, but it would have been impossible without the tech help. Too many twists and turns down tiny alleyways. The pasta definitely lived up to expectations and at around 7e for a pound of fresh pasta, was a great value. We took our to-go containers and around the corner found a small bridge to sit on while enjoying our first meal in Italy - the first of many as the kids and I are on a mission this trip - to find the best pasta, pizza, and gelato in Europe! We will leave no stone unturned :) We then took the vaporetto to San Marco Square and walked around, taking in the sights.

 

Wednesday - embarkation day!

The next morning, DH and I were up at 5:00, still not adjusted to the 8 hr time difference. The two of us headed out and toured Venice on the water taxis and on foot between 7-9:30 am. What a wonderful time to see Venice, before the crowds came out. For a time, it seemed to just be us and the locals going to work. We were also able to get a look at how Venetians depend on their boats and the waterways just as we use our freeways and roads. I would highly recommend an early morning water taxi tour of Venice - so much different than when the masses descend around 9:00 AM on.

 

We went back to the hotel, and after the kids got ready, hauled our bags onto a water taxi after walking to the Rialto stop - the vaporeto not quite so crowded at 10:45 am as it had been in the early evening before, thank goodness. From the Piazalle Roma, we walked a block to the people mover monorail, buying 1.60e one way tickets out of the vending machine. The machine will take bills and coins, and dispenses change. From the people mover, we waited 5 min for a cost free Princess shuttle bus to take us to the pier. Later in the day, without luggage, we chose not to wait for the bus, and it was a 10 min walk from the ship to the people mover. There are some people who've written on CC about walking to Piazalle Roma instead of taking the people mover. Honestly, in the oppressive heat we experienced, I can't imagine doing so - and all 4 of us are fit. Perhaps there's a shortcut we didn't see. I also wonder if we missed a vaporeto stop closer to the ship?

 

We were on the ship before noon (with a one night stay in Venice, the passengers were rather staggered in their boarding, not like in Fort Lauderdale, where everyone arrives en masse). We boarded within 10 min of arriving on the shuttle bus, so no wait at all. In Venice, passengers don't drop their bags off with porters; instead you wait in line, put them on the conveyer belt for x-raying and then go through to board. We dropped off our carryons in the cabin and, again, heeding the advice of many of you, went to Alfredo's for lunch. The service, by waiter Hector, was wonderful, and the food delicious (we split the veggie pizza, a Hawaiian, the veal pasta -agnolotti - the eggplant pasta, and a calzone for DS.) Yes, a lot of food! What can I say? We were hungry! Actually, the two pasta dishes are extremely tiny, barely an appetizer size. Everything was delectable and I'm so glad we didn't fight the hoards of people in the Horizon Court. My husband later learned that he was able to have his calzone custom made, using any of the ingredients the kitchen has on hand for the pizza's. He ended up having three different kinds of calzones custom made over the week. It became one of his favourite meals on the ship.

 

Our bags actually arrived at our rooms while we were having lunch. We left them unpacked in the room and headed back into Venice. The day was spent seeing the sights, including the island of Murano. In hindsight, I wish we'd gone to Burano instead to see the picturesque, colourful buildings. I had wanted the kids and DH to see glass blowing (I had been to Murano in my early 20's, but this was their first time in Italy). Unfortunately, we didn't find a single place giving demo's that day. We made good use of our vaporeto passes the rest of that day, before they expired at 4:00 pm, and then spent the evening traversing Venice by foot. As during the previous evening, a gelato stop was a priority. I thought about trying to find one that was highly recommended online, but really, went it comes to gelato in 35-40 degree weather, just go with the location you come across (they'll all be great) rather than wasting time trying to find a particular one.

 

Venice expenses:

 

27e Alfredo's take away pasta lunch

7e gelato

121e hotel

96e vaporetto and bus passes

1e coffee

15 e people mover - 3 trips for 4 people

Gelato 5e

Sonia's 2 leather bracelets 5e

Venice = 277e

 

Thursday

We left Venice at 1:00 pm, I believe. I wasn't expecting to sail out so close in front of San Marco Square. It truly is as incredible an experience as everyone describes. As such, there is no real sailaway party out of Venice as there is in Florida. People are too immersed in watching Venice pass by.

 

Dinner tonight was at Crown Grill, courtesy of a Princess promotion when we booked, and we paid for the kids to join us. The 'dinner for two' promo just goes on as a $50 credit to your obc account, so we didn't necessarily have to use it for the specialty restaurants, but had never eaten in a Princess specialty restaurant and decided to try it out. We were given each of the sides, family style, and I ordered filet mignon, DS had a steak, and DD and DH lobster. Everything was beyond perfection, including the service. This was our first time at specialty dining on Princess and we decided this would become a 'once on each cruise' experience from this point on. Speaking of obc, we had around $600 this time! $75 each from FCCs we'd each purchased on our last Caribbean cruise as this cruise was over 7 nights; $50 for the dinner promo from Princess; $200 from Princess for an excursion promo (we didn't actually use it for ship excursions, but put it toward the prepaid tips); and $85 from our cruise agent. With all this obc and the fact that we don't drink or do ship excursions, our bill at the end of 12 night was only $255. I had purchased the Coke card and my son the ultimate drinks card. Boy, was he disappointed to find out that milkshakes are not included on the card as they are on other Princess ships - they're available for a charge at Gelato's on Regal. PS: my kids didn't think much of the ship's gelato after the Italian ports.

 

Friday

Today was our day in Dubrovnik, Croatia. We headed off the ship soon after it docked and caught a cab to the medieval city walls. It took about ten minutes and cost 10e. Taxis did take euros. DH always loves chatting up the locals about local affairs and the economy, but, sadly, our driver was the silent type. Beautiful clear skies had followed us from Italy, but so had the intense heat. It was in the high 30's by late morning, a very uncomfortable heat. We were dropped off close to one of the main gates, Pile Gate, went in and quickly found the ticket office. The kids were given children's reduced price tix, and I believe the total was around 40e for the 4 of us. This was the only time on the cruise that I had to use my credit card as they did not accept euros and I didn't want to purchase the local Kuna's.

 

We started the wall walk, already feeling the heat blazing on our heads at 10:00 am. Sadly, the heat beat us and we left the wall walk at the midpoint. Fortunately, we had chosen (inadvertently) the coastal part of the walk at the onset and the views on that side were incredible. The half we didn't complete was on the interior, mountain side, and I like to believe that we saw the better half. (That's the story I'm sticking to ;) My advice is to pack lots of water, wear a hat, comfy runners, and if you're a family like us, take the cheaper cab rather than the more expensive ship Princess shuttle. Taxi's were plentiful and faster. Also, get off the ship as soon as you are allowed so that you can beat the heat. Of course, this is assuming that your ship gets in early in the morning. Or, simply don't travel in August! Wish we'd had that option. Ladies, wearing a really lightweight dress will help keep you cool. I packed a number of mid length and maxi dresses that weighed next to nothing, could be rolled up into a ball and not wrinkle, and kept me cool on our very hot port days, and would be appropriate for the churches we toured.

 

From the wall, we walked down inside to the old city and explored some of the churches and the pretty little side streets. Of course, gelato did make an appearance and the shop did take euros, unlike the first one we tried. DS was able to buy a Croatia team soccer scarf for his bedroom wall (his mission on the trip - well, one of them - is to collect team scarves from all the cities/countries we travel to - that have teams of some repute; DD's mission was to collect stickers of each country's flag or emblem for her laptop case - a much easier packing choice and cheaper than the scarves!). We explored a few of the streets outside the walls and went into a small, local supermarket to buy DS a bottle of coke and DD a local savoury bun. We hailed a cab for another 10e and headed back to port, stopping to do some browsing in the handful of stands next to the ship. DS found his soccer scarf priced at 6e, 4 less than what he'd paid in the old walled city!

 

We spent a grand total of 87e on this port, including food and souvenirs.

The wall tix and taxis were 60e of that amount. Had we taken the similar ship excursion, which would have dropped us off and picked us up and paid for our wall tix, it would have been $280 US for our family. So, a great savings doing it on our own.

 

Dubrovnik expenses:

 

20e taxis

Gelato 7.5e

Soccer scarf and decal 16 e

Wall entry 40 e

Coke and bun 3e

= 87 e

Similar ship bus tour $280 US for four

 

Saturday

This was our first sea day and also formal night. It was also laundry day (come to think of it, it was the second laundry day of the trip). I know that some will wonder why anyone would want to spend any time doing laundry on their cruise, while others will completely understand, especially those with teenagers. I love that Princess has laundry on many decks as well as irons. I'd be embarrassed to tell you how much joy this fills me with! This feature allows us as a family to travel much lighter. I can't imagine having dragged larger or more numerous bags through Venice. On the Regal, coins are no longer used in the machines and one must purchase tokens from vending machines in the laundry rooms, $2 US for each wash and $2 to dry. I did 6 loads of laundry on this 12 day trip, alternating darks and whites, and probably spent a sum total of 40 minutes on the entire process over the 12 days. Laundry was always thrown into the machine on my way to or from somewhere, and over 8 cruises, I've never felt the need to babysit my clothing. I am extremely conscientious about getting back to the laundry room in time, so that I don't hold up anyone else. I found on this trip, though, that the machines were mostly empty when I went in. I found the Regal machines to be very well running, probably due to newness. The washer and dryer both run about 35 min each. I had brought from home some Tide pods in a small plastic Tupperware container, fearing they might break or tear in my suitcase. They worked great. Won't get into too much detail about the experience I had a few years back with Toronto security, trying to fly to Fort L carrying a ziplock bag of actual old-school white laundry detergent. Who'da thought that white powder would cause such a fuss at an airport?! Yup, had to buy a new pack at the Target near our pre-cruise hotel. Anyway, I think you all get the point that lack of self serve laundry on holidays is almost a deal breaker for me :) I guess I'm sticking with Princess. Did I mention that our post cruise London holiday apartment has an in-suite washer and dryer?!? Joy and bliss!

 

This sea day was spent on lounge chairs around the pool deck, reading, watching the pool games, and occasionally rolling over for some poolside pizza or fries. Ok, there were more than a few such rollovers. DH and I made it a habit to sit in the hot tub in the retreat adult area after dinner most evenings. We usually had the entire retreat area to ourselves. During the day on sea days and immediately after ports were the only times that I saw people using the retreat pool and even then it wasn't incredibly crowded. The for-pay lounge cabanas in retreat were not well used during the first half if the cruise, but became a but busier later on. The lack of two distinct pool areas midship, as on Ruby or Crown, etc, really didn't seem to be an issue on this very port intensive cruise. This may not be the same in the Caribbean, however. While I found the Regal to be a beautiful ship, particularly the larger, even more dazzling Piazza, I found the fountain to be a dud. Vegas does it better, and it adds nothing to the cruise experience, IMHO, and takes away from valuable pool real estate during Caribbean cruises. On the other hand, the addition of Alfredo's restaurant was pure genius, provided it doesn't become for-pay at some point. The service we had in Alfredo's during this cruise went above and beyond; they were extremely friendly, happy to be doing what they were doing, and eager to serve. We found our 3 dinners there far more enjoyable than the MDR. Honestly can't remember even one meal we had in the MDR, and we had many - they were not memorable at all. I was highly disappointed in the dishes we had on this trip - and I've always loved dining in the MDR. On two occasions, we requested and were accommodated with, Indian dishes for dinner. On all other Princess ships, we've been able to pre-order specific Indian dishes the evening before with the head waiter, but on the Regal, they brought us what the chef decided upon and this was served to all those who had also requested Indian. And, no, they didn't come out of the crew dining room (although that, too, would have been enjoyable!) - they were prepared in the dining room galley. We could request vegetarian or non veg Indian, but that was it. The Indian chef actually came out a few evenings and stood and chatted with us and we had some very interesting conversations. Hope to see him again on the Regal at Christmas. He and my husband talked about the mother country during those conversations, and I noticed that he made a point to stop at a number of tables to see how the guests were enjoying their dinner.

 

Sunday

Athens

We ported in Piraeus and were met immediately upon disembarkation at 8:00 am by our private driver, Mikis, or Mike, or Mickey Mouse! of Private Greek Taxi. The owner, Spiros, had been very punctual and informative in his emails and had let us tailor the day as we wished. As there were 4 of us, we had a Mercedes sedan car. It was very comfortable for us, but might not have been for a family with larger individuals. Mikis was very outgoing, entertaining, and informative. He also had wifi in his car and that allowed us all to check our emails and gave me a chance to send to friends and family some of the pictures I'd been taking on my iPhone. Princess had given me 250 free wifi minutes on this cruise for finally achieving Platinum status, but the internet wasn't always working well, although it did improve later in the cruise.

 

Mikis made a couple of photo op stops on the way to Athens and always offered to take our family picture. Our first stop was the Temple of Zeus, next to Hadrian's Gate, a remarkable ruin. Here, we purchased the entry tix which would also get us into the Acropolis and the Agora, so don't throw your ticket away until the end of the day! My daughter got a free ticket as she is under 17. Bring your kids' passports, as proof of age is required. There were only a couple dozen people at the site at this early time in the morning. We spent 15 min here, which is really all one needs, and left for the Acropolis. We got to the Acropolis before the ship bus tours, but it was still fairly busy and starting to get hot. I would recommend actually leaving the ship at 7:30 if you are able to.

 

As a driver, Mikis is not able to guide us through the sites as guides need a special degree, as is the case in much of Europe, but he gave us great information in the car at each site, using DVDs and picture books. We toured the Acropolis for 1 and 1/2 hrs, maybe 2, and were met by Mikis where he had dropped us off. The acropolis was magnificent and all 4 of us enjoyed our self guided tour. I had been in Athens 4 months earlier, leading a group of my jr high students, and we had had a licensed guide at the Acropolis, so I was able to relay much of the information I had learned to my family. Again, bring a hat, lots of water, and wear good runners as the terrain is very uneven, rocky, and pebbly. Mikis took us to the 10:30 AM changing of the guard ceremony in front of the Parliament building. As it was a Sunday, this involved a special ceremony with a parade of soldiers and a mini band leading the way. It was quite a spectacle. From here, we drove to the ancient agora and toured it using our original tix, then were dropped off at the Plaka for some sightseeing and shopping. Gelato, stickers, soccer scarf...you get the picture :) I also picked up some Greek spices for 2e a packet. That seemed to be the going rate.

 

After an hour and 1/2, we met up with Mikis, who always let us off at locations that were easy to get back to, and we asked that he take us to a non-touristy local restaurant, one where my son could get a good Greek gyro (known in our parts as a donair, something DS likes to occasionally indulge in). Mikis helped us select some dishes and let us know that we were ordering too much food; thank goodness he did, as it was still too much even we'd cut back our order! The food was delicious - we had ordered a gyro, a large pork souvlaki plate to share, and some vegetable side dishes. Everything was wonderful and we were grateful for Mikis for leading us to the restaurant. We had offered to treat him to lunch, but he insisted that he eats lunch much later in the day.

 

From the restaurant, we toured a bit of the central part of Athens in the car and then Mikis took us to Lycabettus Hill, one of the highest points in Athens. This allowed us a great view of the entire city. Athens is incredibly congested and hazy! We also stopped at the Olympic stadium and the running man statue. Sadly, our 8.5 hr tour was coming to an end. Earlier in the afternoon, Mikis had gone off and purchased some freshly made Baklava at one of his favourite restaurants as a gift for us! What a wonderful treat. We kept it in our fridge in the cabin and enjoyed it for the next couple of days. On the way to the ship, we asked Mikis to take us to the best gelato shop in Athens and he pulled over a couple of minutes later at the same bakery at which he had purchased our baklava! It was truly great gelato. Throughout our ports, gelato averaged around 2.50-3.50e depending on the size.

 

At the port, Mikis gave us some maps and a book about Greece as souvenirs. The entire day cost 340e, including the private car and driver, entry tix, lunch, snacks, souvenirs, spices. Out of that total, the 8.5 hr tour cost 220e and we gave Mikis a 30e tip. The ship's similar tour on this sailing was over $600 US, and you have to keep in mind that this would be on a big bus with 40 other people, no personal service, and no changes to the itinerary. When I saw large groups of Princess passengers following a guide with an umbrella in the Plaka, I have to confess I felt rather sorry for them. I have to say that some of our best memories were of our interactions with our port drivers and the relationships we developed with them, something impossible on a large group tour. I realize that some prefer the ship excursions and that works well for them, but we've always done private excursions and that is what works best for us. I was nervous about using this approach in the Med ports, but it couldn't have gone more smoothly.

 

It was truly a great day in Athens, made all the better for having had Mikis to lead the way!

 

Athens

250e tour

8e gelato

3e iced coffee and baklava

Sonia - 2 silver rings 13e

Lunch 33e

Devon soccer scarf 6e

Spices 4e

Entry tix sites 24e

=341e

Similar ship bus tour $600 US - also included lunch, but no souvenirs or snack

 

Monday

We ported into Kusadasi, Turkey and had pre-booked a private tour with Ephesus Shuttle. (I had used them back in March during the spring break trip with my students). The guide was waiting just outside the gate, holding a sign with my name. We had booked a 7 hr tour of Ephesus, the terrace houses, Sirince village, a traditional Turkish lunch, an educational tour at a carpet factory (yes, I actually requested it myself - they didn't even have to hijack me! Wanted my kids to see the process of generating silk from worms and see true artisans at work on the looms. ) They did show us some carpets, but there was no pressure to buy. And we didn't. But they did go uncomfortably overboard on unrolling dozens of carpets.

 

Whatever you do, DO NOT miss the Terrace Houses in Ephesus. It is an incredible experience and the homes are wonderfully preserved. The technology evident in the houses was incredible for that time period. Ephesus was a wonderful experience. In fact, this partially unearthed city ruined us for all other ruins! It was by far our favourite, surpassing the Acropolis, Pompeii, and everything in Rome - not that they weren't all awe inspiring as well. The price for this day tour was an incredibly reasonable 240e (although they will also take US $), and included a newer, extremely well kept 15 passenger van for just the 4 of us, the driver, plus a certified tour guide, entry into Ephesus, and lunch for 4. Having a guide was an absolute must for us as otherwise we would have just been looking at ruins, not fully comprehending what we were seeing. Our guide was very knowledgable and we left with a very clear understanding of the ancient city of Ephesus. While there are pay toilets just before the entrance by the shops, there are free toilets just as you exit the site after the tour (if you can hold off that long) on the left, just before the shopping stalls inside the gates. The restrooms are inside the gates, so don't exit and then look for them.

 

Be warned that vendors are pretty aggressive and will follow you, asking you to come into their stores. Just keep walking, don't make eye contact, not even a 'no, thank you' - the minute you interact in any way, you will have a shadow, trying to sell you something. Just be respectful of the fact that their aggressive nature comes from a cultural background different from our own and that their families rely on whatever income the vendors are able to make. The sales tactics of this part of the world may be uncomfortable for some of us, but far better to treat it with a degree of amusement rather than annoyance and ethnocentrism. My laid back attitude partly comes from my Indo-Canadian background and watching my husband, who actually grew up in India, barter his way into the best deals, even at our local Sears appliance store! In ports, the kids and I will point out what we want and then go hide around the corner in embarrassment while he works his magic. Putting up an Indian against the Turks, the Greeks, and the Italians - it's quite a sight. Don't think they really knew what hit them. Again, bartering, too, must be conducted in a respectful manner, with the intent to get the best price, not to insult the vendor. Do not show a huge degree of interest in what you really want, walk out of the store if you don't get the price you'd requested, and chances are they will follow you out, lowering their price. We had one who tracked us down about 6 stalls later, agreeing to our price.

 

Lunch at a local restaurant in the next town was wonderful - our guide helped us select three side dishes and we had the choice of chicken, pork, or lamb kebabs. These were truly some of the best kebabs I have ever had. We only had to pay for our soft drinks. For dessert, they cut up some chilled watermelon for us. As we had disembarked at 7:20 AM, we beat both the crowds and the heat at Ephesus. After lunch, we stopped at Sirince Village and I could have done without this stop. I thought it might be a bit of a cultural experience to see a small Turkish village, but it turned out to be street after street (well, more alley after alley) of the same cheap souvenirs, most not handcrafted by the local women as descriptions proclaimed, but mass produced in China. We did pick up some inexpensive trinkets, however. We had some time, so made a stop on the way to the ship at a pottery factory, again, so my kids could see that not everything is manufactured by machines on an assembly line. I'm sure one day they'll appreciate these experiences. Not sure they were in the moment as much as their dad and I were. Sigh. We were given a short demo by one of the master craftsmen who made a beautiful urn before our eyes, and then watched an artist decorating another piece. This took about 15 min and then we toured the shop for a few more minutes, admiring the beautiful, finished pieces. Absolutely no pressure to buy.

 

At the end of the day, we were dropped off at the Grand Bazar next to the port and went through the myriad of streets, shopping for souvenirs. Wow, talk about pushy salesmen, but, again, don't let it bother you. And, of course, we made a gelato stop.

 

This stop cost 285e with 240e of that for the tour and lunch. This company does take US $ as well. The similar Princess excursion on a large bus with 40 other people was $450 US for 4 people versus our 240e.

 

Kusadasi

250e tour, included entry tix and lunch

Dev 2 scarves 10e

Drinks lunch 2e

DH wallet 6e

Sonia Starbucks 5e

Bracelets and change purse 7e

Pottery at Sirince 5 e

=285e

 

Tuesday

Mykonosc

The kids have been real troopers about this history laden cruise, but I knew they (and me, too, I confess!) were looking forward to a more relaxing day on Mykonos. Princess kept stressing repeatedly that there was a great shortage of taxis on Mykonos and the best way to get into town was the ships's bus shuttles. Maybe $10?? per person return. I was admiring the view of Mykonos from behind the Horizon Court after we docked and noticed many taxis coming and going, most dropping off non-Princess passengers and leaving empty. There were also city busses coming and going. Then I noticed a booth with a large sign reading "water taxi 2 euro". Woohoo!

 

We disembarked after a leisurely breakfast for a change and waited about 5-10 min for the water taxi to fill up (it was located right next to the ship). We had the option of a single or return fare, but chose single as there was no discount for the return. After a 10-12 min ride, we were let off close to the part of town by the windmills. Had we taken the Princess shuttle, we would have had to walk further to the windmills. We spent a fair amount of time exploring the pretty side streets, all white and blue trimmed, taking many pictures. From there, we went to the windmills, getting lost many times, but that's part of the charm of Mykonos. This was the promised beach day for the kids and we got directions to the public bus stop which is just a bit up from the windmills and to the left. We purchased return tix from a local grocery mart, 1.60e each way.

 

The area around the bus stop was teeming with people waiting to board the bus that would take them to a particular beach. A tourist who knew the island well recommended Platys to us. We got off at the stop about 10-15 min later and then had a heckuva time finding a path down as it wasn't marked. The one we should've taken was right by the stop, but looked like a private, gated driveway. So, we ended up taking a pretty precarious path down to the beach. We paid 12e for two chairs and a grass umbrella and had a wonderful time watching the glitterati of Europe romping in their moored yachts. After a couple of hours, we took the easier path up to the road. It was blazing hot and we were all sweating. We hadn't made it to the stop when we saw the bus coming toward us. Fortunately, the driver stopped when we flagged him down or we would have had a 20 min wait in 38 degree weather for the next one. My son was craving another gyro and as soon as we got off the bus we spotted a small outdoor gyro restaurant, immediately at the bus stop. It's just to the right when the busses are at your back. They also had free wifi, with the password displayed prominently outside. The gyros were 2.50e and amazing!!

 

From there we wandered some more and found gelato, a few souvenirs, and then were off to take the water taxi back to the ship. Sadly, we didn't run into Petros, the Pelican.

 

This was by far our cheapest port at 57e !!! Had we taken the ship beach excursion (drop off and pick up at a beach, nothing else) it would've been $49 per person!! That would have been $200 for a beach break for my family - no food, souvenirs, etc. I am so grateful to everyone who posts such helpful port tips on CC (in this case, thank you, Hlitner!) The information posted by a number of you has managed to save some of us a fortune! In some ports, public transportation is the only way to go.

 

Mykonos

Water taxi, return, 4 people 16 e

Bus to beach return 13e

Beach 2 chairs 1 umbrella 12e

Gelato 6e

3 Gyros 1 pop 10e

Sonia sticker 1e

=58e

 

Wednesday

This was a much needed sea day and formal night. We went to the MDR and as we'd reserved a table early in the morning (we had anytime dining), we only had a 5 min wait. We were given a table right by the window and it was a lovely view. On days where we left the ship too early to reserve a table (phone lines open at 8:00 am), we usually had a 45 min wait, so always factored that in and would go down for a pager 45 min before we actually wanted to eat. Then we'd sit in the intl cafe, enjoying the entertainment, not getting frustrated by standing in line. I have to say that the only time I saw cranky people on the ship was during the wait for a table. And they were mostly just being unreasonable. Overall, everyone I came across was having a great time and the kids and teens were well behaved. The Regal crew was wonderful and it appears that Princess has put some of their top people on their newest ship. Ron Goodman was the cruise director and while I don't really pay attention to that kind of detail, it's always great to see him on a ship. Even DD was excited to see him again! Evolution was the poolside live band and I've been a fan for a number of sailings. Having only experienced them on Caribbean sailings at Christmas, it was nice to see them in the Med. I am so glad that Princess has not done away with the live poolside music as other lines have done. We enjoyed the other Princess touches - cookies and milk brought around to MUTS, fresh popcorn, poolside soft ice cream which was pretty close to tasting like DQ's. Or maybe I just haven't had DQ in a while...

 

DS loved his UKP card as usual, drinking multiple mocktails daily. He and DD had quickly made friends in their age groups and spent much of their free time playing b'ball, soccer, or just hanging out, but never in the teen club; they did that only on the first day to connect with other teens. According to DD, the only kids regularly in the teen club were the 13 year olds. She said it with the disdain that can only be mustered by a 15 yo!

 

Thursday

This was a port I knew would be a winner - the Amalfi coast with stops in Sorrento and Positano and then Pompeii. I had hired Joe Banana Limo for three ports based on excellent trip advisor reviews. Paolo, who comes highly recommended on CC, was our driver. Thank you, ShellDil! When we met him at 8:00, it was already getting busy with traffic leaving from the port. We drove along an incredibly scenic route along the coast to Positano, stopping frequently for pictures. At one point, Paolo bought us all fresh lemonade - incredibly refreshing and delicious, not to mention thoughtful. The lemons at this vegetable and fruit stand were a good three times the size of what I'm used to!

 

This drive is full of hairpin turns and along cliffsides, making me grateful for Paolo's expertise. We arrived in Positano and left Paolo with the van, and walked through the picturesque town streets down to the beach. Positano is truly a postcard. We happened upon a group of young African singers who were singing outside a large church. Apparently a special service had just concluded and the crowds flowing out of the church were immense. Leaving Positano after 45 minutes, we drove to Sorrento, another beautiful town. We did some shopping and I picked up dried herbs for pasta sauce, and the kids bought their stickers and soccer scarves. The shopping area was beautiful!

 

We then had the best pasta and pizza I have ever had, at a local restaurant recommended by Paolo. We sat outside and enjoyed people watching. When I went in to pay, I noticed the wood burning pizza oven off in a corner by itself, open to the restaurant, but not in the kitchen itself. Had I seen it earlier, I would have asked if my daughter and I could have watched the pizza cook at work. Sadly, it was time to leave the coast and drive to Pompeii. We had asked Joe Banana to hire a private guide for us and he was a very experienced gentleman whose name escapes me. We had a great time exploring Pompeii and it would not have been the same without a guide explaining all the details to us. When we saw the large ship tours crowding around their one tour guide, trying to hear the commentary, or wearing ear pieces, I was glad for our more personalized service. My phone died here, so DD took pics on her camera.

 

Positano and Sorrento had been hot, but Pompeii was surprisingly pleasant. We had a rather uninspiring drive back to the ship, arriving an hr before all aboard time. What an absolutely wonderful day!

 

We paid Joe Banana 400e for this day, having received a discount on this tour for booking three tours. Lunch was 45e, the Pompeii guide was 110e. So, a total of 555e and the ship tour with 40 of your closest friends was, get this, $1400!!! I am looking at the Princess shore excursion form (tour NAP-150) with the pricing as I type this. $349 per person for exactly the same stops. In fact, somewhat less of an itinerary than ours; ours did not include lunch, and Princess tour did. Note that my kids, due to age, would be considered adult pricing by Princess.

 

Naples

Positano, Sorrento, Pompeii

Tour 400. Tip 65e 8.5 hr private van

Pompeii guide 110e, 30e tip

Pompeii tix 22e

Gelato, coffee, 2 lemonade 6e

Herbs and spices 5e

Sonia sticker Devon scarf 6e

Lunch at Basillica restaurant 43e

Total Naples 690e

 

Friday

Rome

We were picked up by Joe Banana's driver, Buccioni, in the morning. Our intention had been to skip the Vatican as most of it would be closed due to a major holiday. Only the Basilica would be accessible, so we asked for just a drive by instead. However, we arrived there by 8:30 am, with just a very small line starting to form, we decided to go into the Basilica and are so glad we did. Seeing Michelangelo's Pieta alone was worth it! Unfortunately, my daughter's shorts did not meet dress code (we hadn't planned to actually go inside when she got dressed that morning) and she had to wait outside. We spent 1/2 an hr inside - truly an incredible experience, even for us non-Christians. I didn't take notes on that day, so this next part is not in order and I know I'm missing certain stops.

 

Buccioni dropped us off next by the Trevi fountain. I was disappointed that it was still under scaffolding with no water, more for my family's sake as they had not been here before. We found a scrumptious bakery close by where the kids indulged in one of their favourite Italian sweets - cannoli. It was much bigger, and dare I say far better, than the ones they regularly get at Edmonton's Italian Centre bakery. It was stuffed for them as they watched - apparently they're not supposed to be pre-stuffed. Who knew?! Delicious! We stopped for another incredible meal of pasta and pizza at a restaurant recommended by our driver. We invited him to join us and treated him to lunch. He was a great conversationalist and kept us well entertained with his knowledge. We also made stops at the Pantheon (my daughter was allowed in) - no admission here or the Basilica; piazza Navona, Spanish steps; did a pre-purchased-online guided tour of the colosseum, which included the underground portion (I would highly recommend this tour). There were only 18 people and the guide was excellent. We got into sections that the regular tour does not allow. Again, Joe Banana's driver was great at getting us through the long lines at the colosseum and to the right place for our tour within minutes.

 

We can't recommend Joe Banana highly enough for the three wonderful ports we saw with them. On our own, we couldn't have seen even a fraction of what we did with them. Having air conditioned vans in the heat of mid August was a God-send. Just the fact that they could get us right next to our points of interests, that big busses couldn't always get to, saved much time. Loved, loved, loved Rome!

 

Not sure what happened with my pictures in Rome - I think I had some weird filter setting turned on inadvertently.

 

Rome

Soccer scarf 12e

Cannoli and pastry 5e

Lunch 53e

Tour 500e, 8.5 hr, private van. 30 e tip (most similar ship tour was $1300, but did not include everything we saw)

Colosseum underground tour 68e

Total for the day = 678e

 

Saturday

Livorno - Pisa and Florence

This was to be our third excursion with Joe Banana Limo. We left the ship at 7:45 and were greeted by our driver, Francesco, holding a sign with our name. This time we had a Voyager minivan, again with a wifi hotspot. We used a particularly unscenic portion of the drive on a highway between the port of Livorno and Pisa to catch up on emails, etc. Quickly, though, we put our tech away as we came upon more scenic views.

 

Just like in Rome, we got to the first site, Pisa, well ahead of the tour busses. The journey had taken 1/2 an hour, there had been absolutely no traffic, and we were the second in line to purchase tickets so that DH and the kids could climb the tower. They wouldn't let the kids up alone as they were under 18. My family said it was a weird sensation climbing up, and my husband said he had the feeling he was going to fall due to the leaning of the tower. Didn't, of course. Bags had to be deposited in security, but as I wasn't going up, I held on to them. The added benefit of a private tour was that we could keep a lot of our possessions in the van as well. Tickets are sold in time increments and only a certain number of people are allowed up at a time. The three of them were in the first group and had a great time climbing to the top and taking pictures. There are just under 300 steps.

 

During the 20 min or so that they were gone, I wandered around taking pictures. It was a perfect time for pics as there were very few people around. Around 8:50, the Princess tour busses came in and things started to get busy. The Tower tix would have allowed entry into the church, but it didn't open until 10:00 am, although a side door was open for those wishing to pray. Visitors would have to wait until 10:00, but we needed to head off to Florence, but not before attempting the requisite pictures of attempting to push the Tower straight. The kids were very adept at choreographing this, but I was a dismal failure when it came my turn to man the camera. In the wonderful way that teens have, they let me know just how pathetic my attempts were. They didn't exaggerate. I saw the results. I stopped at a vendor's kiosk for my souvenir postcard of the city.

 

From Pisa, we went to Florence. The driver, Francesco, veered off the main, very modern freeway to finish the last 12 km of the journey along a more scenic route. This was what I had imagined the Tuscany region to be like - rolling hills, beautiful old villas overlooking the family vineyards. Under the Tuscan Sun come to life! He stopped at one point so that he could take a picture of us against this beautiful vista and to show us the varieties of grapes and olives being grown. He picked some grapes for us to taste and they were unbelievably sweet.

 

Florence was one of my most anticipated stops. Having taught the Renaissance to gr 8 students for a couple of decades, I was in love with everything about Florence, particularly the history of the Medici family in making Florence the most powerful city state at that time. If you are going to Florence, get your hands on the PBS series: The Medici, Godfathers of the Renaissance - you will gain such an insight into the history of Florence, the political intrigue of the Medici's, and how they brought the very best to Florence - Michelangelo, Galileo, Brunelleschi (engineer of the famous dome) and others. It is not a boring documentary by any means. A bit of a docudrama. Superbly done.

 

The weather was absolutely prefect, a bit of a cool breeze as it had rained the day before. It had threatened to rain on us, but remained sunny and the rain held off until after we left. We had bought online tix to the Accademia to see David and our driver adeptly maneuvered us past the longish line of people who had also pre-purchased and took us right in to the voucher redemption area. It was nice to have him there to do all the communicating in Italian. We spent 1/2 an hr in the gallery while he waited near the exit. David was as breathtaking as I had seen him 23 yrs previously and the kids were pretty overwhelmed as well - they actually voiced their enthusiasm unlike the usual "I'm too cool to verbalize how much I enjoyed this". Then we went off to see the Church of Santa Croce, which is a pretty massive structure with the corridors, private Medici chapels, and extensive grounds. There was a 5e charge for this per person, but well worth it. The line wasn't very long at all. Please ensure your shoulders and knees are covered. I kept a couple of extremely lightweight scarves in our bag for this purpose. Unfortunately, not the Vatican day :( . We had a great time finding all the tombs and monuments of the likes of Galileo, Dante, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Donatello. Didn't notice the map/legend showing where everyone was buried until we were leaving. Oh, well, we had fun figuring it out! The greatest minds of the Renaissance, buried in one place. Again, pretty incredible to all of us. Do not miss Santa Croce.

 

We then saw the Duomo, went to the leather markets, walked across Ponteveccio Bridge, saw the San Lorenzo Church where the Medici's are buried, went to the main squares, had our daily gelato fix, ate pizza slices, calzone, tiramisu, and panini's on the go. All yummy! We marvelled over the architecture at every turn. Our driver was knowledgeable, very friendly and charming, and ended up buying pastries and cappuccino for us without our being the wiser until it was too late for us to pay. He also found me a small version of a Safeway style store (Coop) where I was able to replenish our dwindling supply of hair conditioner. Advice: ladies, don't forget that you might be washing your hair more than once a day if you swim and that Princess has no conditioner, other than the 2 in 1 shampoo/conditioner which is absolutely awful for long hair. In fact, I didn't use their gel or shampoo at all.

 

Another absolutely incredible day, due in great part to Joe Banana Limo.

The tour was 500e for 8 to 8.5 hrs, and the similar ship tour for 4 in a bus of 40-45 people was $800 US.

 

Livorno

Pisa. Florence

8 hr private tour in van 500e , 30e tip

Pisa Tower tix 54e for 3 people

Academia tix??

Santa Croce tix 20e

Leather Bracelets Sonia 13e

Devon scarf 10e

Pizza, gelato, panini, calzone 24e

Total 681e

 

Sunday

This was our last full day on Princess and we ported in Toulon (which was actually a neighbouring town, La Seyne Sur Mer.) Princess shuttles were $20 per person from the port to Toulon, one could use the shuttle multiple times. Of course, this was highway robbery to me. I thought I had done my homework, reading on CC that I could take a public bus into Toulon, and from there, another public bus to the pretty beachside town of Sanary Sur Mer. Unfortunately, this being a Sunday, there was no public bus from the port to the larger city of Toulon. We had the choice of a 28e one way cab ride to Toulon or $80 for the Princess shuttle for the 4 of us. We took the cab and were dropped off at the centre of town at 8:40 am, close to an info centre. Which turned out to be closed til 10:00. Another glitch. We wandered around a market that was just opening up and asked one of the vendors about busses to Sanary. We were directed to a large bus stop by the Plaza Liberte and had a pleasant 15 min walk through the market. Unfortunately, the bus drivers kept directing us to other stops and by then we had walked for 45 min and everyone was starting to get hot and bothered. We wound up at the SNCF train station and negotiated a price with a cab driver for 130e for a 3 hr tour of a nearby medieval village, Castellet, and then a visit to a beachside resort town, Sanary Sur Mer, which also had a charming medieval section as well as a modern side.

 

Castellet was about 15 min away from Toulon and was a typical, charming, medieval village set atop a high hill, with fortified walls and a large Medieval style church. No cars are allowed in the main part. We were there 40 min and poked around the little streets and the kids got the Nutella crepes they'd been craving, a very common street food in France. They were made right on the spot in front of us and were delicious and hot. From Castellet, we drove a short distance to Sanary Sur Mer, driving through the beaches of Bandol town along the way. Sanary, like many French towns, was having a market day and some of the waterside streets were closed to vehicles. There is a beautiful marina area and the market stalls and tents added a very festive air. As typical in France, there was also a large, beautiful, ornate, carousel in the centre. We explored the older, more medieval section, and then the market stalls which stretched on forever along the water's edge. A day that looked to be a failure sure turned into a very pleasurable excursion, courtesy of our taxi driver. Note: English was prevalent in all of our ports, except for France. Very few store owners spoke any English at all. We relied on my rusty French and the kids' more recent school French. Fortunately, our driver spoke a bit of English, enough for us to ask the odd bit of touristy questions, and he was happy to communicate as much as he was able.

 

This is a port that many CC members vociferously complain about as being in an inconvenient location for excursions or tours other than those offered by Princess. The city of Nice would be such a better port. I would guess that of our ports on this trip, Toulon was the one which had the greatest number of people staying on board, enjoying the ship. I think, too, at this point, many people were 'toured' out and enjoyed a relaxing day on the ship. Toulon is definitely a place that, if you do want to get off the ship, ensure you have something pre-planned or get a cab right at the port and negotiate a price for a 3-4 hr tour of some of the smaller seaside towns or of the medieval villages. We thoroughly enjoyed our cab tour and are very glad, but not having a decent plan right from the get go meant a couple of wasted hours and walking around Toulon looking for a bus was not enjoyable.

 

Toulon

Taxi to Toulon 30e

Taxi for 3 hr tour from Toulon to castellat and Sanary sur mer and back to ship 130e

Crepes 11e

Total = 171e

Similar ship tour on 45 passenger bus $240 US, pretty similar price, but having a private tour was definitely better.

 

Monday

Usually, disembarkation is always a sad affair, but knowing that we had two nights in Barcelona and 5 in London made it almost pleasant! The process was quite easy in Barcelona. We had requested a 9:00 AM disembark, found our luggage quickly, and were at the taxi line within a couple of minutes. There was no security or customs line to go through. Simply grab your bags and head outside. Unfortunately, the taxi line was long and took about 1/2 an hr. The police were directing people to the taxis and it was pretty efficient on the whole. We had an apt in Las Ramblas right by the Boqueira market and the taxi cost 15e from the port. From the apt to the airport two days later was 32e and this was early in the morning with absolutely no traffic.

 

All in all, a fabulous, once in a lifetime trip. So glad we waited until the kids were this age and could really appreciate the history. The Regal was a wonderful ship on which to experience the Med. We also loved our post cruise time in Barcelona, where we indulged the kids and ourselves with tickets to the FC Barcelona game. 90,000 people at the game. Incredible experience. Our 5 nights in London were definitely not enough. We all want to go back soon. Here, the kids went by themselves to see Chelsea play, another highlight for them.

 

We have booked the Regal for Christmas in the Caribbean, that's how much we enjoyed it. Since we're not pool people, we will not be adversely affected by the lack of pools. Cannot wait to get back to Alfredo's!! Hope to see Hector still working there. The service by all the employees was impeccable. One thing that was rather strange was that on the first night, we had a great window 4 top in the mdr, anytime dining room. The next day I called back in the morning to the reservation line and managed to book it again. The third time, when I went to book it again, I was told that it had been booked for the entire cruise by the same family and that we had been fortunate to get it the first two nights as the family had eaten in specialty dining. Made no sense to me as I thought you had to book each morning and this week long booking defeats the purpose of anytime dining; even being able to reserve on the morning of sort of defeats the purpose. Anyway, we sat next to that family one night and my son saw the grandpa give the headwaiter a $20 as they left. Hmmm..... Not a big deal, though. We had a sideways interior and the extra few feet and layout were outstanding. I didn't have issues with privacy in terms of the door opening into the bed/desk area. Didn't really impact us at all- just made sure to bolt the door from the inside in case one of us was in there changing.

 

Any questions, please ask!

 

For anyone who is curious, the 12 day cruise, 2 nights Barcelona, and 5 nights in London cost a grand total of $22,000 CND. London was very, very expensive. Definitely a once in a lifetime trip, with priceless memories, but not one we will be able to afford again for quite a number of years. Back to the Caribbean at Christmas for us! This cruise reinforced for me that Princess will always be our line of choice, with some minor forays to Oasis/Allure for the kids' sake (eg. Christmas 2015!)

 

Pictures to follow.

Edited by h-sar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is hands down the best review I have ever read on Cruise Critic! Thank you for all the effort and detail you put into it!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is hands down the best review I have ever read on Cruise Critic! Thank you for all the effort and detail you put into it!

 

Thank you! I have to confess, it did take a few weeks, working on it here and there. I did about half the notes, poolside, and took as many point form notes as I could throughout the trip. I got back from London the day before school start up, and with Sept being a crazy busy month at school, didn't get it posted in a timely fashion. Hope you'll come back to check out the pics in a couple of days.

 

I've always enjoyed reading your posts and have long admired the picture of the house!

 

Harjinder

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Amazing review. I'm looking to do a similar itinerary next year but on the Island Princess as it seems they are moving the little ships to do the Venice-Barcelona run. You gave me some great DIY hints. We too used Joe Bananas two years ago and will use them again next year. Can't wait to see your pictures.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wonderfully detailed review. Thanks for sharing your fabulous vacation. Very glad to hear that you enjoyed the Regal as we will be sailing on her in November.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great detailed review!

 

One thing to point out however. You're comparing dollars to euros... for most people, that's hardly a fair comparison.... a euro is worth about $.70, so yes, cruise line excursions are more expensive... but not nearly as much as you make it appear to be!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you for your very detailed and informative review. Glad to hear that you and your family had a wonderful trip.:D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Great detailed review!

 

One thing to point out however. You're comparing dollars to euros... for most people, that's hardly a fair comparison.... a euro is worth about $.70, so yes, cruise line excursions are more expensive... but not nearly as much as you make it appear to be!

 

Absolutely a good and valid observation. I did make it a point to use the $ and e at every mention of price in the review, expecting people to convert to CDN, US, Pounds, etc. While I still found the private excursions to be well worth it over the Princess price, even factoring in the conversion, I was more impressed with the fact that a lesser price was getting us a private vehicle and personalized service and that we could change our itinerary on a wim. That to me was even more of a draw than the cheaper price. :) However, you are absolutely correct in that people need to do the conversion to accurately see what kind of a deal they are getting. And of course, to some, the peace of mind of a ship excursion can't beat any price!

 

I'm glad you enjoyed the review!

Edited by h-sar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wonderful review. The kids are so lucky to have parents like the 2 of you. Memories will last forever. Brought back many memories for me. We did a 30 day Mediterranean & Transatlantic cruise on the Ruby 3 years ago. We did 15 ports with private tours(vans seating 9 pax) and 2 ports on Princess excursions. No comparison. We loved the private tours. It is cheaper to do the private tours and you see a lot more. On the buses you have to wait for 45 people to get off and on each stop.

 

Will certainly be back to view the pic s

 

Ciao

Ollie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Loved, loved, loved your review. The attention to detail was wonderful. A quick question about your cabin. Did you have any noise from the deck above you?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Loved, loved, loved your review. The attention to detail was wonderful. A quick question about your cabin. Did you have any noise from the deck above you?

 

Thank you - glad you enjoyed the read!

 

We have always made a point of booking cabins that are on a deck with only cabins, sandwiched between two decks with nothing but cabins. We let our cruise agent know exactly which cabins we want. As a result, noise has never been an issue,and we heard absolutely nothing in our cabin on this cruise. By the way, you all do realize the irony in the use of the word "we" right? I do the booking, research for a year in advance, become a cruise critic addict prior to the cruise (and even when we don't have one booked), and everyone else packs their bags a couple of days in advance and that's the extent of their planning involvement. Secretly, though, I think it would kill me to give up the control!

 

I would like to add a disclaimer here: I used to post under another name (only had a couple hundred posts), but as my screen name included my full last name, I decided a few months ago to opt for something more impersonal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wonderful review. The kids are so lucky to have parents like the 2 of you. Memories will last forever. Brought back many memories for me. We did a 30 day Mediterranean & Transatlantic cruise on the Ruby 3 years ago. We did 15 ports with private tours(vans seating 9 pax) and 2 ports on Princess excursions. No comparison. We loved the private tours. It is cheaper to do the private tours and you see a lot more. On the buses you have to wait for 45 people to get off and on each stop.

 

Will certainly be back to view the pic s

 

Ciao

Ollie

 

Thanks, Ollie. I am envious about your TA. My retirement gift to myself (7 years left - yay - although I still love my school, and the students) will be a TA out of FLL followed by a Med cruise. And I say yay only because it will allow me to take advantage of non-peak times.

 

I have to say we absolutely loved the interactions we had with our drivers/guides. It was a far more personalized experience than a bus tour. While I completely respect and appreciate that a ship's tour works for many, I really think my kids would have tuned out after the first such day. And I've waited for a busload of jr high students to take bathroom breaks on fieldtrips. Won't do it in my personal life ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Loved all the details.

In fact if you have time...

Could you tell us about your apartments

in Barcelona and London and all the sites

you saw. Know everyone would like to

read about it.

 

Thank you again for a Great Review.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great review! Thanks for sharing your experiences. Your wonderful times in all those amazing ports brought back many good memories of our two Med cruises with Princess. Your kids are very lucky to have such great parents!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Loved all the details.

In fact if you have time...

Could you tell us about your apartments

in Barcelona and London and all the sites

you saw. Know everyone would like to

read about it.

 

Thank you again for a Great Review.

 

Thank you, Belle. I think I did this just as much for myself as I did to pay back all the CC posters who have given me so much great information over the years. (Can't tell you how many times on a cruise my kids will say "ohhhh, did you read that on cruuuuise critic?" And I always proudly answer "yes"). The review will serve as a great journal of our experiences this past summer. One day, the kids, too, will appreciate having a detailed account of their grand European adventure!

 

I left out the Barca/London days as I wasn't sure if anyone would be interested in the non-cruise portion, but will definitely complete the journey since you've asked.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Great review! Thanks for sharing your experiences. Your wonderful times in all those amazing ports brought back many good memories of our two Med cruises with Princess. Your kids are very lucky to have such great parents!

 

You are soooo living my dream, split between Canada and Florida! I think, having grown up in a Fort McMurray and then lived in Edmonton since University, that I've more than paid my winter dues :D Those who live in the south have absolutely no conception of the nirvana like state that comes over northerners when they get off the plane in winter and set foot in FLL. Now, I just have to talk DH into a snowbird life!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fantastic review and I am saving this to my favorites. We are going next October on Royal Caribbean and I gleaned so much info from your review regarding private tours!:)

 

Thank you so much

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That is very nice of you, will love to read all

about Barcelona and London.

 

Thanks again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

p><p>She

 

p><p><img src=[/img]

 

Take away pasta from Alfredo's in Venice - divine!

 

p><p><img src=[/img]

 

Absolutely unreal that I get to experience Venice again after 25 years, but this time with DH!

 

<a href=imagejpg9_zps411daf83.jpg' alt='imagejpg

 

Not sure about the sizing of the photo's. Apologies if too big...today was my first time posting pictures...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Amazing review. Thanks for taking the time to put it together and post it.....:):):)

 

Bob

 

Wow - Bob! You may not know it, but you and I are great friends in my cruise critic life! Always look forward to your words of wisdom.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Generally speaking, the majority of the architectural/landscape pictures WITHOUT family members were taken by my 15 yo DD on her good camera, because, really, why on earth would you want to wreck a good picture with a blood relation in it???!!! Most of the family shots were probably taken by me on my iPhone. You may think it looks like my children enjoy getting their picture taken. That's because you didn't see the scowling that went on seconds before when they first saw me pull out my iPhone.

 

p><p><img src=[/img]

 

p><p>Vaporetto

 

p><p><img src=[/img]

 

Sailaway out of Venice - truly as incredible as one imagines

 

<a href=imagejpg20_zps679075d0.jpg' alt='imagejp

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

seeing the pictures and video footage of George Clooney and the Missus in Venice brought back some incredible memories! Can't believe we missed the big affair by a matter of weeks!

 

p><p><img src=[/img]

 

p><p><img src=[/img]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Awesome review and fantastic pictures. We enjoyed them very much. Hope to see more pictures.:cool:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Awesome trip report. Thanks for sharing your trip with all of us. I also appreciated the blurb about your inside cabin. We have 2 sideways insides booked for April on the Regal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • 2019 Cruisers' Choice Awards
      • NCL Sail-Away Giveaway Sweepstakes - Win a 7-Day Cruise on Norwegian Joy!
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Community Contests
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...