We sailed on the EP from May 05 - May 17th - Rome to Venice. This was our first cruise. We really enjoyed every aspect of the trip. We were on the Caribe (426). Found the room to be very spacious, large balcony, it held four chairs and a table. We were on the port side, for this cruise, should have been on the starboard side (next time). We were never in crowds on the ship, great room service, always within 20 minutes. No problem finding chairs around the pools or seats in any of the restaurants. We had a sitting at 8:30 pm, we would never do that again, but rather do 'anytime dining'. Tried the steakhouse & Sabatini's - OK, nothing spectacular, I didn't feel it was worth any extra $$'s. I thought the food was OK, almost reminded me of an all-inclusive. Only hit the comedy club two times, never saw any shows.
We booked a private driver to pick us up in Rome. After flying from Western Canada, we were thrilled to have someone meet us and take us directly to our hotel. Great relief. We used ROMACLICK.com - the transfer to our hotel was $48 Euro for two people.
The next day we booked the same company for our trip to Civitavecchia - we had the driver pick us up at our hotel at 2 pm therefore allowing us extra time to tour Rome. This cost $130 Euros, well worth it - it took the driver only 40 minutes from inner city Rome to the Port.
Accomodation on Land:
In Rome we stayed in the Bettoja Hotel Nord Nuova Roma - very nice clean hotel close to the train station so we could take all of the tour busses on our own without having to buy a package tour.
In Venice, we stayed on for three days at the Arlecchino Hotel. I had booked this on Expedia and had no idea where it was. When you get off Princess, we were bussed to Piazzale Roma (only a 5 minute drive from where the ship docked) - we couldn't believe our eyes when we got off the bus, looked over the bridge and there was our hotel. Fantastic location for proximity to the train, vaparetta's (water busses), restaurants. Not as expenive as staying right on the canal or near Piazza San Marco. However, you are only 10 minutes away by water bus.
We found the vaparetta's an excellent way to get around. We bought a 48 hour pass for $20 EURO per person and rode all around for the two days. At first we got on the longest route so we could sightsee. We went to Marano & Barano Islands - on and off as much as you like. Barano Island was our favourite, very quaint with fantastic prices and different things than we say in the main markets.
We booked tours through the ship for Athens, Pompeii (Naples), Ephesus (Turkey) - the rest we did on our own. If possible, we chose tours that were no more than 4 - 5 hours, we found these enough for one day, got to the 'main' place and got back into the port. I found most of the tours on the internet to be within $$$'s of those tours on Princess.
Thanks to Tom Ogg's website, we did Florence by ourselves and had a blast. We were the second off the ship - grabbed a cab to the train and were downtown Florence before most of the busses had barely left the ship. When we got off the ship there were tons of taxi's there telling us we missed the train and should book a tour throuogh them, we just said no and got on the train, excellent trip! The train station is right in the heart of all the main attractions you would want to see. Visit www.tomogg.com
I booked three tours on line through VIATOR.com - The Hop On - Hop Off passes for Rome & Florence and then a private boat tour through them for Venice. You do not have to buy these passes in advance of getting there like we did. However, I did find it comforting to know exactly what we were doing in each port. The Hop On Hop Off are double decker busses with ear phones that hit all the main sights.
Booze on board:
Everyone we know brought booze on board at each port. We purchased some fantastic wines in local stores and more notable wines in duty free. No one we ever met had any booze confiscated. We truly enjoyed sitting on the balcony of the ship sipping a nice Shiraz or chardonnay from Greece, Italy or Australia if we wanted!!
Excellent vacation overall - the ports were fantastic to visit, very busy itinerary....I could have used one week at a resort to rest after this vacation.....trip of a lifetime for our 25th wedding anniversary!