Cruising is all the rage at the moment and there are good reasons why. My hubby and I did a 14-day Mediterranean Cruise on the Royal Princess to Rome, Naples, Crete, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Mykonos, Athens, Santorini, Kotor, Messina, Naples and we docked in Barcelona as our last port.
For our first cruise this ship's itinerary was a great choice because we had not experienced the Greek Islands yet and sailing into Kotor (Montenegro) was both spectacular and relaxing as we cruised on water as still as a pool. The Mediterranean was mainly smooth sailing, we didn't even feel like we were on a ship.
Great Greek food with a magnificent Santorini view.
The Royal Princess is the largest and newest ship in the Princess Cruise Lines fleet, however there is a new one being built, and it's "even bigger and better" according to cruise staff.
We flew from Sydney to Rome and boarded the ship in Civitavecchia. This port is about an hour north of Rome by train, which is how we chose to get there after spending two days in Rome. We then caught the local "Argo" bus to the Princess Cruise free shuttle that takes you to the area where you begin boarding procedures. If we do cruise Europe again we're going to stay in Civitavecchia, it's a picturesque port town and there is the advantage of being at the port so there is no need for more travelling.
The first seven days were busy with the ship docking at beautiful ports every day except one. We only had one 'sea day', which means you don't get off the ship. This is the time to explore the ship and meet other passengers. It's especially good for garnering cruise tips from those who have cruised before. Some passengers we met have cruised for years, many saying they don't holiday any other way.
The second week of the cruise there were more 'sea days' giving us time to explore the ship thoroughly. With 4,000 passengers Princess Cruises certainly put on an array of activities. There is bingo to movies under the stars (on a huge screen), cabaret shows, educational seminars to Zumba and dance classes, as well as a sports deck (including Gym), which is very well equipped.
Live entertainment every night at 8.15 and 10.15pm in the Princess Theatre.
Also a library full of books, games and gorgeously comfortable lounge chairs to sink into. The activities cater for both the adventurous and the not so adventurous. There is no time to be bored or you can be as bored as you like (for us sloths out there who love doing nothing and just enjoy soaking up the ambience). The Royal Princess has a lot of ambience to take in, every part of the ship is furnished for comfort.
Let's not forget the pools. Royal Princess has two pool and spa areas, one for families and another for adults only. This is perfect for those of us who prefer to read or sleep by the pool … and there was not a day where we couldn't find a free deck chair on either level. Both levels were full of deck chairs in sunny or shady positions. Again, the choice is yours to be with other passengers and chat, or find a private spot to enjoy some solitude.
With 43 nationalities on board between passengers and staff, we heard people speaking languages from all over the world. We met many interesting people and exchanged stories with everyone we met. Our holiday list of places to visit on our next cruise just kept growing.
It's easy to start chatting anywhere on the ship … the buffet, the restaurants, the Princess theatre, around the pools, in the lifts and even in the laundromat. Yes, there is one on every level, this is a practical convenience offered to passengers.
Princess Cruises is a cruise company who obviously prides itself on providing exceptional service. We found the staff to be attentive, nothing was a problem and they were professional in every way. The staff is obviously well trained in keeping the passengers happy as well as keeping up the high standards expected of them.
The whole operation of catering for 4000 passengers, all with very different needs, was mind-boggling to us as first-time cruisers. Other cruise enthusiasts we met assured us the size of the ship becomes secondary to your enjoyment. So, once we settled into the relaxed atmosphere of cruising we agreed it is an addictive and comfortable way to travel.
Once you are settled in your cabin and unpacked, all sorted with your cruise card in hand, the rest of your holiday is carefree. The cruise card is your 'cash' on board so there are no issues with currency exchange or having to carry any money around.
Have card ... will cruise. Don't lose this card, it's your cash on board the ship.
This is a big advantage of cruising, once you have paid for your ticket, almost everything on board is included. Food is 'all you can eat' with some restaurant areas open 24/7. For families, it is a hassle-free holiday as there are areas safe for children with all sorts of activities to keep them busy. Some passengers we spoke to said they only saw their children at dinnertime.
When we were deciding which cruise provider most people we asked said to choose your destinations first, then find an itinerary that suits your budget. For this holiday Princess Cruises provided the itinerary we were after.
The excursions (port tours) we chose were professional and ran on time. If you haven't been to a destination before I recommend you book an excursion. If you are on an excursion and it runs late the ship has to wait for all passengers to be back on board before sailing. If you decide to discover the ports on your own it's your responsibility to be back on time. Europe during summer is very busy and ferries/buses/taxis fill up quickly.
My only issue with this cruise is two weeks was too long, but that's just me, hubby enjoyed every minute on board. Will we choose Princess Cruises next time? The answer is yes, especially if the ports suit us at the time we want to travel. My only concession will be that we cruise seven days next time as I wasn't well for the second week; I obviously don't have 'sea legs' like my hubby does.
Photos in this article were taken by Marie, MPG Narratives. Opinions about cruising are my own.