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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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Royal Princess 21 Days western Mediterranean and Greek Isles

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We are thinking about taking this trip in May 2017. Has anyone taken this cruise previously? Please tell us your findings...interesting ports, and etc. Is it to many days? Any info and comments will be helpful! We are an active mid60's couple that have never been to this area of Europe. Thanks

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    First, do not hesitate or think your cruise on Royal Princess would not be a wonderful experience. We just did the sister ship, Princess Regal, and it is beautiful.

    However, if it is the cruise on May 27, departing from Barcelona, I don't particularly like the first few days of that cruise. Barcelona for only a day is not quite enough. If you do this cruise, go a couple of days early. Personally, Gibraltar is a waste of time.

    Going to Florence and Rome from the cruise ports is terribly rushed. That is a shame because these two cities really deserve much more time and a more leisurely pace, especially in May when weather is beautiful. Most of Italy (and Spain) is better visited doing it yourself by land, so you can be there to enjoy the evening culture.

    The second half of the cruise, to various islands, is nice and works well, though you still do not get the evening times which are such a pleasure in Europe. What this segment is great for are the archeological sites like Athens and Ephesus, and interesting places like Rhodes.

    Have a look at this cruise by Holland America, Westerdam, 24 nights, departing May 23, for a comparison.

    My advice is based on many visits to Europe and several cruises in that area. Since you have not been there before, take a shorter cruise between two places that would be interesting to visit for a few days at each end. You can have the same length trip with more in-depth experiences and sightseeing, book-ending each end of a cruise. I will take a quick look for good examples of that.

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    LuxuryTravelExpert mentioned the good pricing of RCI (Royal Caribbean Cruise Line), but I think you are looking at Princess line, and Princess Royal Princess is one of their newer, larger ships, above average IME.

    Anyway, I still think for a first visit to the area, it would be better to combine it with land time. You could even fly into one city for a few days, then fly or train to the departure port, or do the same at the end. Easier though to fly straight into the port city. Don't know if your time frame is flexible, and there are many other options, but look at these samples.

    HAL, Westerdam, 5*, 10 day cruise, departing Venice, May 23, ending in Rome.
    Go to Venice 3 or 4 days early, or fly into Milan and visit Verona (or other places nearby) and on to Venice. It is a straight shot by train. At the end, spend 3 to 5 days in Rome, or 3 in Rome and maybe 3 or 4 in Tuscany (Florence).

    RCCL, Jewel of the Seas, 4&1/2*, Rome to Rome, departs May 15, and again May 24.
    Go to Rome a few days early to really tour Rome. Then, this ship stops in Naples the next to last day. Depart the ship there instead of going on to Rome. Yes, you lose one night on the ship, but you don't have to spend time and money backtracking. Since the port is not actually in Rome, returning to Naples would eat up more time. The city of Naples is right at the port, so easy. You get off in Naples and go to the Amalfi Coast for 4 or 5 days. Depart for home from either Naples or Rome. You are allowed to do it. We have departed ships early several times.

    Celebrity, Reflection, larger, even more upscale, 5&1/2*, 10 days, Rome to Rome. Follow same advice as above.

    I would book directly with the cruise companies, but to see all the info on the ships and itineraries, vacationstogo.com is very user friendly.

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    Momburd,
    "LuxuryTravelExpert" is an agent for Crystal Cruises, so of course, she touts working with an agent. Of course, she "leans towards a mid to smaller vessel" because that is what Crystal offers.
    Depending on the ship, service and space per person can be just as good on a bigger ship as a small one. Big ships also offer quality gourmet dining. It may be a small additional cost, but nothing near the cost of the highest end lines. While smaller ships may be able to dock where larger ships can't, large ships can provide a level of entertainment, family programs and other activities that small ships can't. It is a different kind of service, but a high quality experience that is just as valuable as white glove service for adults.

    I have booked a number of cruises, none with an individual travel agent. There is nothing wrong with doing that, but if you go that route, book with a full service agent who has knowledge about many lines and the services they provide. They should be able, without bias, to find what suits you without making it seem inferior.
    A full service cruise agent is good if you need a lot of help choosing the cruise and selecting a cabin. I do not think the OP needs that at this point.

    I have booked with on-line agencies and had good luck, but I knew which ship, itinerary, cabin, etc. I also understand the different pricing of cabins, deck layouts, etc. I know the lowest price is usually the cheapest guaranteed cabin, so I expect to pay more for more desirable cabins. Several times, when I have already picked the cruise, ship, itinerary, etc. I have booked directly with the cruise lines and had excellent service. They were able to answer every question about the cabins, ships, etc.

    There are so many great websites, like cruisecritic.com where you can get information and personal experience opinions from people who have actually been on the ship, it is easy to make your own, informed choices.

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    If first time cruiser's simply cannot afford the "best in the industry" what do you recommend for a "next to best" cruise experience in the mid-price range?

    Also, which particular ships do you recommend for families with young (age 4-10) children, besides Disney. I know Disney is one of the "best" for kids, but it is way out of price for DD's family.

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    Vacations to go is great. Their phone agents are very knowledgeable.

    I think the particular ship and itinerary are more important than th cruiseline.

    You might want to look at particular ships reiews on cruise critic.

    All lines have things they do well and othere things less well.

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    Momburd, you have great advise from Sassafrass who is a traveler and not a travel agent. I think Sass had guessed correctly that you are on the May 27 departure date.

    If this is going to be your one and only time to Europe, I can see why you want to get as much ground in the shortest time frame.

    We have cruise both East and West Med and we enjoyed East Med more so than West Med. Since I studied Greek and Roman mythology in my younger years, We just love Greece, Turkey and Italy. While I find places like Delos and Olympia intriguing, most will find them boring.

    It all depends on what you are looking in your travel. If you tell us what you enjoy most (food, wine, sights, culture, history), we can make better suggestions.

    As Sassafrass had put it quite nicely, many nice places to visit are so far away from the port that you travel for an hour or more to visit a place for 30 minutes, or even less time. But you got to see 3 or 4 (or even more) places for 30 minutes each, which is not a bad thing.

    On every European cruises that we have taken we always arrive at least 2 or 3 days pre-cruise and when we disembark, we spend another 3 or 4 days post-cruise.

    To some, the ports are the destination. Others will feel the ship is the destination. In our case, it is a little bit of both. The ships offer the comfort of home away from home if you are familiar with the cruise line, and enjoy the activities on board, the level and type of service.

    We are in our 60's as well, active, and not quite fully retried yet. After been on many cruise lines multiple times, we seems to gravitate back to a couple that we are most comfortable with, and the main reasons why we were comfortable? The familiar layout of the ship (have you ever get lost in a ship before? LOL), the fellow passengers, the type of activities, the "cruising style". the price point (value), the loyalty awards etc.

    With the understanding that this is your itinerary, this woudl be my suggestions, without knowing your likes and dislikes.

    We were on the Royal princess for 7 days the summer on the front part of your itinerary. You can read the trip report posted on Fodors with the link below.

    http://www.fodors.com/community/cruises/barcelona-to-rome-169051-2.cfm

    Barcelona, you got to spend at least a couple days there before embarking. There are lots to see and do,and the pricing is reasonable.

    Cartagena and Gibraltar weren't much to write home about, if you read my trip report, they were a blur ... We did enjoyed the unique cultural aspect and the history of both places.

    Marseille itself offers not a heck of a lot but Le Pont du Gard is about hour and a half away and we spent a fair amount of time there. Avignon is not all that far and it is very "Medieval". We did spent a couple hours in the "Palace of the Popes". IMHO, it is over-rated, not that there is anything wrong with it. Just that we have seen better. The displays are quite barren in comparison to other "museum castles". On the other hand, the red wine in Avignon is to die for.

    We actually enjoyed Genoa very much and we just walked and walked and walked. You really don't need to book a tour and it is perfectly safe and easy to do a self guided tour. The trick is to get a map from the tourist info office (located at the old harbor).

    Florence/Pisa is actually quite a distance from Livorno (the port), unless you are a really big fan of David (Michelangelo's most famous marble piece), I would skip that unless you think waiting in line for almost an hour is worth it, after already paying for a "priority" admission ticket.

    Rome is fabulous, we been there a few times both pre and post cruise. and we still have not seen everything yet and will go back in a few year's time. Unfortunately, with such a short port day, you really have to make some tough choices.

    Messina offers great wine. Claim to fame is Mt Etna and Taormina.

    Valletta is a World Heritage site with Baroque architecture

    For Crete, Knossos Palace and Heraklion Archaeological Museum would be the do not miss.

    Kusadasi, Ephesus is the destination, and make sure you visit the Terrace houses.

    Mykonos, I have mentioned that I am a fan of Delos but others will find it boring. There are a few museums around tat you can visit and the town itself is interesting.

    Athens is about an hour from Piraeus (port), with only a few hours here, the Acropolis and Plaka would be the places to visit.

    Volos, cannot comment as I have not been there.

    Istanbul, with an over night stay, you have time to explore. The Blue Mosque is the #1 destination. with Topkapi Palace a close second.

    ALl I know of Khios is the birthplace of Homer, the famed Greek poet. Did not have a chance to visit yet.

    Rhodes has a lot to offer from ancient ruins to 14th century fortresses.

    Here are my suggestions:

    option 1 - book the cruise enjoy the 21 days on the ship. The ship is wonderful and you will enjoyed it. The service and food is good. This cruise has many ports and be fore warned that you will have to travel from port to destinations by car or bus in many stops and that can get tiring. Some of the ports would mean leaving the ship early (before 8 am). That means no late nights, up early, get breakfast and on the go all day.

    option 2 - Book the cruise with embarkation in Rome on June 3. It is a 14 day cruise called the "Greece, Turkey & Italy Medley". It is the exact itinerary without the first 7 days. Go to Rome 3 or 4 days early and enjoy Rome. That is barely enough time. Almost every place is within walking distance if you pick a centrally located hotel. If not, take a cab, the price is reasonable. With the cruise ending in Athens, spend 2 to 3 days in Athens before going home. Just use the hop-on hop-off bus in Athens.

    But here is the catch, you will find the 7 days in Rome and Athens more expensive then the extra 7 days on the cruise.

    Good luck and your research!

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    Momburd,

    Wanting to see more places is understandable, but I agree with Eschew's advice about doing a shorter cruise, and spending more time in Rome at the beginning. There are great daytrips close to Rome, even very long daytrips to Florence or Pompeii. I would choose either of those over places you would see on the first 7 days of the longer cruise.

    Howver, if Gaudi's architecture is of major interest to you, that could be a strong point in favor of Barcelona and the longer cruise. Grab a taxi and go anywhere on your own schedule in Barcelona. Get tickets ahead of time for Gaudi buildings.

    Some people disagree, but I also think Gibraltar is kind of a waste. Get a taxi/van tour right in town.

    Also agree with Eschew about Avignon. From Marseille, visit either Aix or Arles. Both, I think, are more interesting than Avignon. Take a bus to Aix or the train to Arles. DIY. No need for tour.

    Aix is right out of an impressionist painting, little cafes in a warren of narrow streets intersecting with squares with more cafes and trees, Windows draped with flowers and a wide avenue lined with huge Plane trees, one of the most beautiful streets anywhere. Great food with Morroccan influence. Home of Cezzanne.

    Arles is, of course, famous for Van Gogh living there, and you can see cafes and gardens that he painted. In addition, it has Roman ruins and a great, intact Roman arena that is still in use for major events. Since, with this cruise, you would not have much time in Rome, Arles would give more perspective on Rome's influence.

    In Istanbul, one other "Do Not Miss" sight is the Hagia Sophia, about a three minute walk from the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace.

    The archeological sites in Athens and Ephesus are so beautiful, they will just about bring your to tears.

    Rhodes, take tours (or rent a car) to many places (beautiful island with beaches, archeological sites, etc), or stay in old town and walk on your own. Get a ticket and do the Palace of the Grand Masters yourself. Research and decide for yourself.

    You may agonize over your choices, but which ever cruise you take, no matter which places you spend more or less time in, will be wonderful.

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    Thank you for the helpful information!! I appreciate your thoughts and ideas. We are planning to stay on in Athens after the cruise. We would like to spend more time in Rome, so we may not do the first week of cruise. To much to see to little time! Thank, again!

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    Momburd, info for Rome:

    Bob's Limo and Rome Cab are two companies that I have used for airport and cruise terminal transfers on my previous trips. They both charge reasonable rates and they speak English! I don't favor one over the other as they are both busy and unless you book early, they may not be able to fit you in. Both offers shared and private vehicles.

    As to hotels, you have to find one that is centrally located and is walking distance to everywhere. We had stayed at Rome both pre-cruise and post-cruise several times and stayed in the same hotel for the last 3 times. The big reason? Location location location, and of course, the price is right. They also offer a complimentary full (hot) breakfast. Most of the popular attractions are within a 10 block radius, or a short cab or metro ride away.

    Hotel Quirinale is where we stayed but there are quite a few nice hotels around there as well. Check out the location and the attractions nearby.

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