We just returned from the 7/3 Princess Golden Istanbul to Barcelona (plus 6 day Land Tour to London, Paris and The French Countryside). I learned so much that helped my trip from reading the posts before I left, that I want to pass on the favor. If you are booked on this cruise, you are in for trip of a lifetime!!!!!!
In Istanbul, you will wake up with Mosques outside your window!! My husband and I traveled with our 16-year-old son, and our travel agent got us a last minute upgrade to a mini suite-- D424. We loved the ship and our room, and lived on the balcony, even though it is true, that everyone from above can see you. We got used to it.
ROOM SERVICE. If you are in a mini suite, you can order room service from the restaurant menu, but they keep this quite. You have to know about it, and say “Hello, I’d like to order from the Restaurant Menu”. To know what to order, get a copy of the room service menu or have the room service person read it to you. The food from the restaurant menu was great, but the food from the regular room service menu-- that they tell you about in the maroon book-- is sometimes inedible. Cold fries, dry cake, bad sandwiches. Order a lot, so that if one thing is bad, you have choices.
We landed in Turkey, and I knew from reading CC that we had to pay $ 45 each, in cash. Have cash ready, and you have to stand in the long $45 visa line first, THEN go to the passport stamp line. (We were told by someone there that you could buy the Visa from the shorter passport stamp line, so we went to the passport stamp line only to have to go back to the end of the long Visa line again). If only we‘d have known, our first experience in Turkey would have been a little less frustrated.
It was HOT, so be prepared for bringing water to every port. We spent a lot of money on incidentals on our last cruise, so we went on this one determined not to get nickel and dimed, and we spent much less than we expected--a nice surprise. You can buy bottled water from the ship every day, or you can bring your own water bottle and fill it up. We bought three 99 cent plastic bottles of water before we left, and emptied them to pack them. It worked great. And we saved much $. A word on the tap water on the Golden. It is VILE. I only met a couple of people who could drink it. The water in the Horizon Court is bottled water so you can fill up bottles there. Or you can buy a bottle in your room for about $3 each. ($3 for 3 people for 12 days is $108! It adds up)
Coffee is bad if you are a “coffee snob”, so bring a small coffee pot, (it will plug into the ship outlet with no converter or plug extras). Espresso is free after dinner, so you can get your fix there, too.
Washer and Dryer are great. $1.00 per wash and 50 cents per dry. 50 cents for soap. Bring your own Bounce sheets (they act as great smell fresheners in the suitcases).. We used the laundry room 2 times and it was a lifesaver, even though we thought we had packed enough clothes. Iron and ironing board are free.
THE PORTS: I called Princess before the trip to see which ports you really need to get a tour from, and which you can walk to. They weren’t sure.
ISTANBUL: The dock is 4 miles from city center. You need a taxi or a tour. For touring we used a very reputable local tour operator called Ephesus Tours. They aranged us an extremely knowledgeable guide and a very polite driver. We had our own Mercedes Van for our party of 12 pax. For the 12 of us we paid $260 for a 8 hours tour. Which was the best tour we ever had.
KUSADASI: You can walk off the ship to the town. You need a taxi or tour for Ephesus, which is a few miles away. We again used Ephesus Tours. Highly satisfied from their services for this port too..
ATHENS: You need a tour or a taxi.
VENICE: You can walk right off the boat to the shore (or get the free water taxi to the shore if the boat has to park farther away.) Our boat docked right into Venice. It was the highlight of the cruise for us. My husband took 7 roles of us just coming in to Venice!!!!
NAPLES: We dock 3/4 mile from the city center. You could walk or taxi to Naples, but need a tour to Pompeii, or other places.
LIVORNO: Princess has a shuttle bus for $4 each way to the city center, 2 miles away. Tour or other transport needed to Florence and Pisa.
MONTE CARLO: You can walk up to the city and the Casino. (The casino is the building with the green roof--use the elevator behind the souvenir shop to get to it.)
BARCELONA: Need taxi or tour.
The day tours were the highlight of our trip. We booked online at princess.com ahead, so the tickets were waiting for us in our stateroom. No hassles, and no worries about them selling out, which they can do quickly. We took tours in all cities except Monte Carlo, and were glad we did. The only city that we could have had as good a time without paying for the tour was VENICE, where you can walk right up to St. Mark’s Square and Gondola rides. We didn’t need a tour for that. For tours, pick what sounds good to you, and you will have a great time.
Saint Mark’s Square alert: Our tour guide warned us that if you sit at the outdoor cafes, you pay extra for music. We were hot and figured cokes couldn’t be that much. So we ordered 4 cokes for the three of us, and the bill was $34.00!!!!!!!!! ($6 each for the cokes and about $4 each for the music surcharge!) In Venice, the shops are behind the bell tower in St Mark’s Square. It was great, but a maze, and we actually used my husband’s compass to find our way out!
$$$$$$$The dollar is surprisingly strong. You can buy $5 shirt from Istanbul to Barcelona. The souvenir I like best is a black classy bag that you can find in most ports for $5.
OTHER HELPFUL HINTS:
TENNIS SHOES. I am NOT a tennis shoe person, unless I am exercising. I shuddered at the thought of walking around Europe in tennis shoes, but I bought some, and am SO glad I did. The Acropolis, for example is lots of steps on slippery marble. (I saw lots of cute- sandal-wearers with band-aids.)
PHONECALLS HOME : It is easy from your stateroom and is $5 a minute. (Watch out, 58 seconds is $5 and 62 seconds is counted as 2 minutes $10.)
CLOTHES: 3 Formal, which is what you would wear to a fancy New Year’s Eve party, and the “smart casual” which is what you would normally wear to a nice restaurant.
LUGGAGE: Put a florescent color on all of your bags (we used bright pink plastic tape on the handles) and you will be so much less stressed at baggage claim. We talked to a couple people who’s luggage was lost by the airlines, so bring something to wear in your carry on bag just in case. (Though they got reunited w/ luggage soon.)
$$$CHANGING: There is a state-of-the-art money changer on the GOLDEN at the Purser’s desk. Just put in $ and it will give you the currency for the next port. Easy and hassle-free.
PICTURES: You can walk around to the various picture taking areas and get your picture taken more than once so you can choose the best ones!
Even with all of the WONDERFUL ports, the view of the moonlight shimmering on the sea from our balcony was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.
If you need any other info please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope this helps!!!!!!!!!!