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Old March 21st, 2006, 08:42 PM
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Default Grand Mediterranean on Princess

Has anyone been on the Grand Mediterranean 12-day cruise on Princess? This one starts in Venice, goes to Athens, Kusadasi, Istanbul, Mykonos, Naples/Capri, Rome, Florence/Pisa, Marseille, and ends in Barcelona. This is our first cruise and we would welcome any thoughts and advice - especially on what to expect on a Princess cruise, shore excursions, and just general helpful hints. Thanks!
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Old March 21st, 2006, 10:00 PM
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You might want to go to the cruise review area and check out the ship reviews. They generally have a wealth of information in them, once you get past some of the critical comments (like a stained carpet) or other things that are not crucial to cruise enjoyment.

Also on the home page, there are always articles by the CM staffers on various subjects and you can search the archives, too for info.

And you can read posts in the cruise line section, too.

Happy hunting!
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 06:58 PM
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We took that cruise last August of last year and had a wonderful time. Highly recommend it. We used private guides in Athens ( Spiros from Athens Taxi, Tanner from Shorex in Istanbul and Catherine from provence-travel in Marseilles. All great guides. You'll be very tired and have a great time. enjoy
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 08:55 PM
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Willy - Did your cruise skip Kusadasi? I've read on a couple of other boards that Princess has skipped that port a few times recently due to safety (bombings). If so, what port was substituted? What did you do in Rome? It seems like there is just so much to see there in such a short amount of time. Plus, I guess I'll be there on Ascension Thursday, so the Vatican will be closed.

Any thoughts on the cruiseship itself?
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Old March 24th, 2006, 07:14 PM
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On our cruise we did stop in Kusadasi. The cruise before us did not. We took a ship's tour and had a wonderful guide through Ephasis, it was one of the highlights of the cruise. Then again almost all the stops were a highlight. We did not go to Rome, we had been there a few times and we took a wine tour of some of the hill towns. We have been to Rome numerous times and find something new each time. Some of things to try are the Vatican Museums, St. Peter's, the catacombs, the forum, Coliseum, a tour of the churches, the Pantheon, etc. You cannot go wrong with whatever you pick. We will be back in rome in October and will try some new things. enjoy.
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Old March 26th, 2006, 05:03 PM
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Was on the Grand last year for a tour with most of the same ports as yours. Very tiring and port intensive, but wonderful. The Grand is grand and you will enjoy it and the Princess experience greatly. I would say that Mykonos is easy to do on your own. We did a private driver in Rome (our cruise ended there) and in Athens. People we met on the trip hired a wonderful guide for Kusadasi for their tour of Ephesus. We did the Princess tour of the same. We did Princess tour of Amalfi coast/Pompeii and it was a beautiful and memorable day. Frightening also with the 35'bus on the narrow roads of the Amalfi coast. The driver was a master at manuvering that big rig. This has been the best cruise we have been on to date.

You might also check other cruise forum boards, specifically cruise critic dot com which has huge amounts of information and a much more active message board forum than this one.
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Old March 26th, 2006, 10:32 PM
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Willy Paul - thanks again for your reply. I guess I will keep my fingers crossed that our ship will make it to Kusadasi, as I would hate to miss Ephesus!

Virgenia - thanks for your help. We're not doing the same tour as you (Amalfi coast), but Pompeii, Sorrento & Capri - I hope we don't go on that same narrow road!!! I would be very nervous...I have also been checking on cruse critic - you're right, they seem just a little more active over there I like to get a lot of opinions, so I've been going back and forth.

Getting really, really eager to go after hearing everyone's great reviews! Thanks all!!!
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Old April 11th, 2006, 01:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Willy Paul
We took that cruise last August of last year and had a wonderful time. Highly recommend it. We used private guides in Athens ( Spiros from Athens Taxi, Tanner from Shorex in Istanbul and Catherine from provence-travel in Marseilles. All great guides. You'll be very tired and have a great time. enjoy
Willy, can you provide me the contact emails for your guide so I can try to book with them? we are going on the Grand Princess on May16. Thanks for your help!
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Old April 11th, 2006, 02:46 PM
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anonimoun,

Has anyone been on the Grand Mediterranean 12-day cruise on Princess? This one starts in Venice, goes to Athens, Kusadasi, Istanbul, Mykonos, Naples/Capri, Rome, Florence/Pisa, Marseille, and ends in Barcelona. This is our first cruise and we would welcome any thoughts and advice - especially on what to expect on a Princess cruise, shore excursions, and just general helpful hints. Thanks!

I did a similar cruise aboard MV Grand Princess in 1999. Here are a few recommendations.

First, plan to take full day shore excursions in the ports of call, as you'll see a lot more that way than by trying to go on your own. The shore excursions have reserved times at the museums and historic sites so they bypass the lines and walk right in. If you go on your own, you'll spend half of your time waiting in line because most of the attractions have liens that are two or three hours long. I also strongly recommend that you book second seating, partly so you'll have time to unwind and shower before dinner after a full day of touring and partly because the lunches on the tours are not exactly stingy so you probably will not want to eat right away when you return aboard.

Now, here are some recommendations on specific ports.

>> Venice: If you have time there, be sure to take an excursoin that includes the Piazza San Marco, the Doge's Palace, a Venetian Glass factory, and a ride in a gondola. If you have time, check out the art inside the Basilica San Marco (there's a nomianl admission to see the gold reredos up close, and it's worth it) while you are there.

>> Athens: The parthenon is certainly a worthwhile take.

>> Kusadasi (pronounced "Kush'-ah-dah-see"): The tour of the ruins of ancient Ephesus is definitely worthwhile. If you have time, browse through the bazaar right at the end of the cruise ship pier.

>> Istanbul: The tour of "Imperial Istanbul" (the hippodrome, Topkapi Palace, the blue mosque, and Haggia Sophia) is a very interesting stroll through two millennia of unique history.

>> Naples: The full day tour of Capri is fantastic. Don't miss the demonstration of the gorgeous inlay game table in "the department store" in the town of Anacapri.

>> Civitavecchia: Rome has more attractiojs than you can possibly see in a day. The Vatican is home to much impressive art, both in its worship spaces (Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica) and in its muesum. There's also the remains of the city's imperial history, including historic baths and the coluseum.

>> Livorno: I found Florence to be a major disappointment, partly because the combined tour of Florence and Pisa tried to do too much (and thus did not spend as much time in any one place as one might have liked) and partly because Florence's noteworthy attractions --art and gardens -- turned out to be inaccessible (the gardens in private inner courtyards and the art in museums). Doing it over, I would either take the half-day tour of Pisa or a tour of the countryside that visits a Tuscan winery.

>> Marseille: The walking tour of Monaco's old city is very good, if they offer it. (On my cruise, we docked in Monte Carlo instead.)

>> Barcelona: You can't go wrong with just about any tour. The city is very rich in art and expecially architecture, which the tour guide will point out as you drive through the city.

Have a great cruise!

Norm.
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Old April 11th, 2006, 04:58 PM
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here goes:

Athens - Spiros at athenstaxi.net or spirostours@yahoo.com

Istanbul - Tannr at latanerunal@yahoo.com

Marsilles - Catherine at provence-travel.com

Good luck. they were all great guides.
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Old April 12th, 2006, 12:24 AM
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Thanks Norm!!! I definitely agree with taking full-day excursions - we're booking directly through Princess to be "safe" (returning on time and reputable tour companies). We aren't booking anything in Venice or Barcelona because we are doing pre and post cruise stays.

Athens - we're doing the Acropolis & Plaka
Kusadasi - Ephesus (because EVERYONE keeps telling us it's a not-to-miss place)
Istanbul - still debating, but I think we're going to attempt this one on our own because it seems fairly easy to get around, and it's a Sunday so the Grand Bazaar is closed so we didn't want to waste time with a tour that includes that (they say you go to a nearby shopping place instead if you're there on a Sunday)
Naples - we're doing the Pompeii, Sorrento & Capri (trying to fit it all in)
Rome - we're there on a Sunday so the Vatican is closed. We're going to get transportation into Rome, but then do it on our own. We'll spend the day near Trevi Fountain/Spanish Steps, go to the Colosseum, etc.
Livorno - It's so funny you said that the combined tour (Florence & Pisa) was "too much" because that is what we thought, so we're doing the Tuscan winery tour!
Marseille - I think we'll do this very leisurely on our own

Good to know about the lunches on the tour too! We're doing anytime dining - wanted the flexibility since it's such a port-intensive cruise and I don't want to be rushing through dinner when we get back on the ship.

Sounds like you had a great time! I can't wait...
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Old April 12th, 2006, 01:56 AM
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anonimoun,

Thanks Norm!!!

You're welcome!

I definitely agree with taking full-day excursions - we're booking directly through Princess to be "safe" (returning on time and reputable tour companies).

Good. That's definitely the way to go.

We aren't booking anything in Venice or Barcelona because we are doing pre and post cruise stays.

If you booked your hotels through Princess, Princess also will sponsor tours from your hotel. Look for a Princess Cruises hospitality desk in the hotel lobby.

Most of your choices for shore excursions look pretty good.

Naples - we're doing the Pompeii, Sorrento & Capri (trying to fit it all in)

This is WAY too ambitious, with the consequence that you won't really see anything. Choose ONE. (Capri is wonderful, but I cannot speak for Sorrento or Pompeii. It's possible that they are even better..)

Good to know about the lunches on the tour too!

Lunch on a tour generally means a stop at a local eatery for a repast of local cuisine. Don't be shocked if the local eatery happens to be in a hotel affiliated with a major chain that you see here in the States, though. The better hotels have joined the major chains, but they still serve local fare.

We're doing anytime dining - wanted the flexibility since it's such a port-intensive cruise and I don't want to be rushing through dinner when we get back on the ship.

I would reconsider that.

>> The flexibility of anytime dining is a myth because you're still constrained by the timing of the shows.

>> The service in anytime dining generally suffers because you don't have the same waitstaff every evening. In traditional dining, you have the same waitstaff every night so they get to know your preferences on the first couple nights of the cruise and anticipate your requests thereafter -- often before you get to ask.

I recommend traditional dining with second seating for these reasons.

Sounds like you had a great time! I can't wait...

Here, "great" is an understatement. I'm ready to do it again!

Have a great time!

Norm.
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Old April 16th, 2006, 02:34 PM
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When are you cruising? My DW and I will be on this cruise leaving Venice on June 9th. We have a friend that took this cruise last year and loved it. She said that one of the highlights of the cruise was the Tuscan Countryside, San Gimiganano, and Volterra excursion out of Livorno (Florence). My DW and I have reserved that excursion.

One big disappointment is the fact that we are in Rome on a Sunday. That means the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel are closed.
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