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Just got home from first cruise, short report

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Just got home from first cruise, short report

Old Mar 30th, 2010, 07:09 PM
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Just got home from first cruise, short report

Hi all,
A big thank you to everybody who answered my pre-cruise questions and gave advice.

First off, despite all my misgivings, I absolutely loved the cruise and will definitely do it again! We were on Caribbean Princess in, of course, the Caribbean. We mostly do very low budget, sightseeing trips, all planed by ourselves, to Europe. This was so different. I had a hard time getting used to having everything done for me, and not rushing around trying to see things.

Perhaps because they were not sold out, or to encourage us to cruise again, we were upgraded from the tiniest, inside cabin to a lovely, outside cabin with a picture window - really nice. We liked that so much, we would probably pay the difference to have it next time. Bedding was new and very nice.

I was concerned that I would feel trapped at sea, but the ship was docked in a different port each day from early morning to late afternoon or early evening, so there was something to do everyday. Actually, a big surprise was how much I started to love being on the ship, and looked froward to the day at sea, so much so, that I would take a longer trip with lots of time at sea now.

I was also afraid that I would hate a big ship with so many people (3000 passengers), but the ship is so well arranged that it never seemed crowded except in the buffet line a couple of times. It has three large banks of elevators (fore, aft & mid-ship), so they were never crowded and there was never a wait. Also, being so big, it has lots of places people can gather in small groups with activities that suit you: six pools in several different areas and different decks (three adults only & one kids only), five hot tubs (three adults only), five restaurants & two buffets plus cafes, burger & fries place, pizza cafe, bakery, several bars, etc, a place for everyone.

The food was good, and well prepared, but not gourmet. There was an interesting variety though, and some of the cakes were really good. Presentation was very nice. There was always fresh fruit, salad, etc.

It has two night clubs, each with different entertainment, and a 1000 seat auditorium that was quite beautiful with very comfortable seats. The entertainment (especially the ship's own orchestra and pianist) was really good.

Getting on and off was efficient and fast. As a matter of fact, everything was efficient. The staff was very friendly as well as efficient. The ship was very clean and it was emphasized that everyone use hand sanitizers that were near eating areas.

I noticed a few tiny little signs of wear on things that night need repair or replacing, but most everything looked nearly new, and very nice. Glass, brass, etc. was being constantly cleaned and polished.

We choose anytime seating so we could meet lots of people. That was one of the best things on the trip. I had been told so many things, I had formed an unfair and incorrect image of people we would meet. Well, we met so many interesting, kind people from many different places. We are planning on exchanging visits with a couple from England, another from Israel and another from the US.

Unfortunately, we didn't plan ahead as well as we could have. We did only a couple of sightseeing tours on our own with local tours through the Virgin Islands Tourist board. Both were interesting and well worth the money, plus a lot cheaper than those from the ship. However, if you don't want to do the work of planning things, it certainly is easier to just do the ship's excursions, especially for water activities like diving or swimming with animals, etc. We did go to one rain forest and into the volcano on St. Lucia. I loved both of those activities. We did one beach day, also fun, and some just walking around.

One kind of cool thing that probably most people didn't even see. In each port, there were captains familiar with that port, who came on board our ship and guided it into the harbor. They also guided us out at night, and were picked up by a small boat that came right up under our ship. That captain stepped out, back onto the small boat and returned to the harbor as our ship went out to sea. We heard something about it and watched for it. I found it pretty exciting - and just a bit scary if you were that captain. I also wonder how it feels to be the captain of such a big ship, turning over your ship to somebody else.

The most significant thing about large ship cruising: If you want to really experience a place, I don't think a cruise is the ideal thing. For example, to me, just seeing a few masterpieces in major museums is wonderful, but not what Italy or Spain is all about. Walking around in Venice or Rome or some small Italian or Spanish village in the evening and meeting local people at small cafes during dinner is essential to get a real feeling for Italy or Spain, and many other places. We often stay a week or so in one place, getting to know local restaurant owners and shop keepers, and I love that, which is why I was so worried that I would hate the cruise.

Well, it wasn't what we usually do, but I did love it! Two completely different experiences, each great in their own way.

Oh, almost forgot.
Favorite things:
1. Sitting down at nicely set table with DH for all meals, with no TV or other distractions.
2. Watching the sunset from the covered promenade deck as we departed the dock each evening and headed out to sea.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 12:50 AM
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Nice concise report.
And you are so right re doing your own R&D re port excursions
which is so easy in the Carib altho I have also done that in Europe. Also less expensive. Next time you might want to meet up w/folks on Cruise Critic to share info & cabs ports.

Anytime dining is the BEST way to meet the various folks aboard & forming new friendships.

Cruising in the Carib is the one of the best ways to beat the winter blahs.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 10:43 AM
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Very nice report! And Princess is one of the better companies, we loved it too.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 12:20 PM
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Now that you have gotten your feet wet so to speak try princess for the one of their Venice - Greek isles trips.
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Old Mar 31st, 2010, 07:49 PM
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Joanne,
I was wondering about that. Have you done that cruise? I've been to Venice, but want to go to Greece and some of the islands, also Croatia and Turkey. With such short times in each port, might I feel I am missing out on a cultural experience in Greece? I am already looking at other cruise options though.

Rhea,
We are already thinking; cruise time, next Jan for our anniversary to someplace warm, perhaps even the same or a similar cruise, now that we know what to expect and could plan shore excursions better.
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Old Apr 1st, 2010, 01:15 AM
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S: If you decide to visit Croatia, cruise out of Venice
which I have done & you have the added bennie of seeing Venice again (one cannot see Venice too often in my book!).

As for Greece, IMO, cruising to their many islands does not give a seasoned traveler enough time. Better to fly in and take ferries and/or short hops; say from Rhodes to Crete.

Great idea re Jan cruise. I combined our anniversary & 2 birthdays w/an annual cruise. My husband did not have to shop for me (a + in his book) & we were able to beat the winter blahs albeit briefly!
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Old Apr 1st, 2010, 11:06 AM
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Great report! and sounds like you have a great trip ... did you get to play the piano at all? and I remeber you were worried about the sea day with nothing to do ...

Curising is what I called a "travel sampler". We stop by each place a bit, and if we like it, we go back for more. Either going direct and stay a week or, take the same cruise again, with the same cruise line or ship (it's almost like home coming), or the same cruise on a different ship or cruise line and visit the same ports, seeing different attractions.

DW and I've been to Alaska a few times, stopping mostly at same ports. We have even flew there and stay a bit still, we have the urges to return. The trip last summer, we just mostly walked around town, and were not even close to the tourist areas. We hiked on a very popular trail but not too many people we met were from the cruise ship. Since we've been there a few time, we sort of go around on our own, not even bother to book anything with anyone.

Same thing with the Caribbean, it is inexpensive, easy to get to, nice and warm when it is cold at home ... Consider what you paid for both room and board on the ship plus the free entertainment, it's good value.

Food is not gourmet, it's at least on par to most convention banquet halls or better. Good selection and variety as well.
So, did you find the coffee card for your DH? How was the quartet or piano player in the atrium/piaza? Princess also offers smaller ship cruise, with about 650 passenegrss only on 3 ships.

Our October trip will be my DW firest trip on a smaller ship (she hasn't been on anything with less than 2000 passengers) So it will be interesting. She is worry about sea sickness but I was told thsose 3 were designed for ocean cruising.

You mentoend Greece and Turkey on your post, interesting enough, this cruise starts at Athens, with 2 stops on 2 Greek islands (santorini and Pathmos), 1 stop in Turkey, 2 stops in Israrel, and 2 stops in Egypt, one more stop at Carpi and ends up in Rome. There are some sea days in between. We are staying in Athens for a few days before boarding and staying in Rome a few days after, maybe taht's an attempt to get the best of both world?
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Old Apr 1st, 2010, 11:07 AM
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Yes I have twice what do you want to know?
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Old Apr 7th, 2010, 12:00 PM
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What are the must see shore excursions on the trip if there is such a thing ....
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Old Apr 10th, 2010, 06:54 PM
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Joanne, Was wondering which ports/islands you stopped at, and if you felt shortchanged at any of them, time wise. Which ships? Were you tendered at any of them? Also, do you know; does it take a long time if you are tendered and can you go back and forth at any time? Being so new to cruising, there must be questions I should ask, that I don't even know to ask.

Eschew, The quartet was excellent. The trumpet player was really great. The sax player was very good. They were at their best when they accompanied a singer from somewhere in the islands in a one time performance. The singer was wonderful. The pianist was very good, but not overly enthusiastic. He was better when he played come classical pieces, and as part of a show about pianists, he was really good.

I thought most of the entertainment was quite good. Both comics were good. The hypnotist was annoying and we didn't like him at all. The dancing was very good. The singers were pretty good.

I decided not to carry any music and was too intimidated to ask to play on the ship, but found a beautiful Steinway in a little, out of the way, lobby kind of space at the hotel in San Juan, and played for a little while. When I finished, there was a applause and I realized a small group of people had gathered round. DH said I should have put my hat out.

DH was happy enough with the coffee most of the time, so didn't get a coffee card.

Rhea, Anytime dining was perfect for us, and we are already thinking we'll do a winter cruise next year. Right now, we are even thinking transatlantic while they are so cheap. I think I might want more time on the Islands also, plus, I love evenings in Italy and think it might be the same in Greece. Since I've spent a lot of time in Italy, I wouldn't mind a cruise there now, but for a new place in Europe, I don't know. As Eschew says though, it is just a sample, and hopefully, I could go back someday if there was a place I fell in love with. You are right: never too much time in Venice.
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Old Apr 12th, 2010, 03:56 PM
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Glad that you enjoyed everything. On sea days, listening to the musical ensemble at the attrium/piazza/lobby is our favorite past time, with a nice coffee and a light snack, time flies and it is very relaxing.

I have not seen a hypnotist on any of our crusies yet. I think we stayed away from them ... we stay away from the magic acts and jugglers etc too as they are all pretty well the same.

The stage shows are generally quite well done but they do the same show for 6 months to a year and the show is across the whole fleet. So if you cruise regualrly, you may see the same show, performed by different people, on different ships. There is one show that they did really well and has run for more than a year. I think it is called the piano man and I think we had seen it 3 times and loved it evreytime.

You should have a large cup on top of the piano. Maybe people will have request! Hope to see more of your cruise report in the future.
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 07:44 AM
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Excellent summary, Sassafrass. Glad you had such a great time.
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 12:32 PM
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Joanne, Was wondering which ports/islands you stopped at, and if you felt shortchanged at any of them, time wise. Which ships? Were you tendered at any of them? Also, do you know; does it take a long time if you are tendered and can you go back and forth at any time? Being so new to cruising, there must be questions I should ask, that I don't even know to ask.

Here are the most popular islands that are on cruises. Santorini Mykonos Corfu Crete Rhodes Kos Zakynthos Skiathos, Delos, Naxos and Pharos. Of course there are 100's more but these are the main ones.

I have been to Santorini - you tender in there I did it on Princess and they have everyone off in about an hour. Boat was always waiting at dock for return would fill up so sometimes you had a short wait then make the trip. Mykonos and Delos. Mykonos the boat docks outside of town you can walk about 25 min or hop on the bus. Its a party town lots of places to eat, shops etc. Delos is only for you if your interested ruins the island has been uninhabited for about 1500 years so its old temples, houses that kind of thing with a so so museum.

Corfu is another island more tropical in feel not much there but a palace you can easily do this on your own. Boat dock to town a good walk

Crete: Here is one place that there is not enough time (for me) just so much to see but if your not into ancient history and seeing the ruins and or know the history then it's enough time.

Rhodes has the castle and what seems like 100's of gold ships. You can also go to Lindos which is a short drive by taxi on your own. Most of this island you can do on own. Boat dock to town short walk

Naxos more of everyday place lots to see and do but not on most island stops.

So bottom line is you can do them all on your own, you just need to plan ahead. Delos was only $5.00 more than going into town to catch the day boat so I think that one is a better value to do from ship. You don't need to book most of them in advance.
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 12:34 PM
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I meant gold shops not ships <G>
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 02:23 PM
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Sassafrass: Welcome to the wonderful world of cruising! The "captains" you speak of are port pilots. They know that particular port backwards and forewards (water depths, submerged object, etc.). A pilot usually boards the ship via pilot boat as the ship approaches a port. While the pilot is at the helm, he is responsible for the ship (and any damage should that happen to the ship). It was really fun to see the pilot a work while we transited the Panama Canal.
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 03:53 PM
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Joanne, Thanks so much. Exactly the kind of info I wanted.
Eschew, Yep, The Piano Man was what they did. Loved it.
BarbAnn, Can't believe how ignorant I was; really enjoyed learning though.

Now, in between reading Fodor's, I'm looking at cruises!
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Old Apr 14th, 2010, 08:55 AM
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Well you can get some great deals from crucon agency on line and vacations to go on line if you can wait and book say 45-30 days out. In other words you can drop everything and go.
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Old Apr 19th, 2010, 03:16 PM
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There is one that I really liked and want to see it again but no luck. I think it was called "dream" or soemthing. Beatles music with dancers and signers in 17th century costumes. I have only seen it once (Ruby inaugural Nov 09). I wonder if it was a special one shot deal. They also ad an ABBA tribute band on that crusie as well and they are awesome. Looked and played the part.
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Old Apr 30th, 2010, 12:04 PM
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You have mentioned the cruises from Athens going to Istanbul, Croatia etc & finally to Venice. I wonder if you have any recommendations for shore excursions, as we have never been to thet part of the world before. We are going on the Princess cruise in September.
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Old Apr 30th, 2010, 01:28 PM
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Venice needs at least three days if you have never been there either go early or plan to stay if that's your end port. There is so much to see and enjoy.
Athens I think it is more worthwhile to hire a driver of your own. You get to the sites ahead of the mobs, skip the shopping stops if they don't interest you or go to the best places if they do and in general make far better use of the day you have there. Its not cheap but then you get what you pay for. Don't miss the museum the gold will amaze you.
Depending on the islands and stops you can do most of them on your own except Olympia i.e. Kataloo the site is about 1/2 hour away from where ship docks but worthwhile as is the museum though its always packed. Ephesus take a cab and go after the mobs on the bus tour, explore the port a while and let them get a head start on you, then take the taxi and have them drop you at the top of the site and you then walk down hill, spring for the extra for the terrace houses a real insight into how people lived.
The islands some they shuttle you into and others are docks. If your interested in ruins then do Delos, cost is more or less the same doing it with princess as taking the bus, going to town and doing it your own, but if your not interested in ruins then skip it and do the town on Mykonos, windmills etc. Santorini you can do on your own unless you want to go to the caldera. Rhodes tons of gold shops, or you can get a taxi to Lindos. But it depends on what are the stops on your trip and what is of interest to you.
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