UPDATED ON July 13, 2019) If you have read any of my blog posts, you already know that I am a dedicated cruises. One of my favorites was aboard the Emerald Princess ship that brought my friend, Jo, and I to see the amazing Black Sea. My Black Sea cruise is still one of my top two out of 40+ cruises, and one I recommend to anyone who will listen. Here is how my cruise played out.
Cruise Itinerary and Ports of Call
We embarked in Athens, Greece and disembarked in Istanbul, Turkey, after two days and an overnight . Our ports of call were:
- Khios, Greece
- Volos, Greece
- Constanta, Romania
- Burgas, Bulgaria
Favorite Things at Each Port of Call
Athens, Greece: Jo and I did a three-hour walking food tour through Viator, tasting the amazing dishes of Greece. Our guide was informative and entertaining, plus on my third trip to Athens, I learned several new neighborhoods.
Volos, Greece: Jo and I took a private excursion to see the amazing village of Makrinitsa village, complete with pedestrian cobblestone paths and a mystical old-world charm feel. We also visited a couple of the hanging monasteries, something you have to see to believe!
Khios, Greece: We took an excursion with Princess Cruise Lines in Khios that drove us through the gorgeous countryside, snaking our way up steep mountains, to visit Nea Moni Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We stopped at several other places during the day and did quite a bit of hiking.
Constanta, Romania: We went with a small group tour in Constanta that took us walking around town before heading out to sample Romanian wines. We had a tour of Murfatlar Winery and afterward, a food and wine pairing at a local restaurant. I wasn’t very fond of the wines, but loved the excursion, which also took us to the old city of Histria.
Burgas, Bulgaria: Our day in Bulgaria was the favorite cruse port day of my Black Sea cruise. We had a private guide who showed us amazing views, historic sites, and best of all, Nessebar, a medieval UNESCO village full of churches, shops, and cafes.
Istanbul, Turkey: Here, Jo and I had the pleasure of a small group (12) tour for two days to see all of the big attractions in Istanbul. From Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque to the Grand Bazaar, this is definitely something everyone should experience in their lifetime. It was also my #1 bucket list item!
Why The Black Sea Cruise?
I love to shop around for cruise deals and when I stumbled upon this cruise, deeply discounted to $699 for an inside room, I jumped at the opportunity. Luckily, my friend Jo is not one to be left behind so she gladly signed up to share the room with me. This cruise was actually a three-week sailing for many of our fellow passengers.
My Favorites Onboard the Emerald Princess
Activities: Trivia, Disco show by the Princess Dancers, Afternoon Tea, Movies Under the Stars, and 24-hour Love Boat reruns shown on our stateroom TVs.
Food Worth Mentioning: The risotto cakes on the appetizer dinner menu were spectacular and Surf & Turf is always a happy dining night. Our German-themed dinner buffet was my favorite though, with tasty sausages, sauerkraut, sweet red cabbage, pretzel rolls, German potato salad, and apple strudel.
Special Offerings by Princess: The British Pub lunch is held at least once per cruise in the Wheelhouse Bar. It is a do-not-miss Princess offering. On this day, you can choose between Bangers & Mash, Fish & Chips, and Shepherd’s Pie, or one of each if you’d like. All of them are quite tasty and a special treat from the regular restaurants.
Best Part of the Cruise: Winning trivia six times, but who is counting?
Worst Part of the Cruise: Our room steward on the Emerald Princess was a dud. This was the first time for both Jo and I, who are seasoned cruisers. He was not one bit friendly, very demanding of us, actually yelled at us, and was a horrid pest the entire cruise. We ended up not having service many times so we did not have to cross paths with him.
Thoughts on My Black Sea Cruise
This Black Sea cruise had a fantastic itinerary with much smaller ports than our usual ocean cruise. After we visited Bulgaria, Jo and I learned that in the previous year, Bulgaria had 90 cruise ships visits. This year, ours was only the 16th and in the following year, they only had six on the books scheduled to visit.
Bulgaria is a poor country, with extreme beauty, that is a wonderful place to visit. It was easily the best day of our cruise, so I hope the cruise lines will reconsider the Bulgaria itineraries and include this one more often. I would definitely go back.
Hold on tight for your tender (a smaller boat that ferries you to the cruise port due to shallow water or not having a dock big enough to fit a cruise ship into) into Khios, as the waves are incredibly rough and many people got sick.
Lastly, the embarkation lines for boarding the Emerald Princess were basically non-existent and we were on the ship within 5-10 minutes. We arrived at our cabin to find our luggage already standing in the doorway. Impressive, Princess! What a way to start our Black Sea cruise!
If cruising Eastern Europe is on your travel bucket list, this is a great one to see the world at a great price!