North Americans should be warned that this cruise is specifically for Australians; many of whom use it as transportation around Australia to visit family members. The ports are nothing to speak of with very little to do at most of them. We saw more war memorials than we've ever seen in our lives, but at some ports that was the highlight. The people were very polite and very excited to have a cruise ship in port. But we didn't fly 7,500 miles to visit a woman's garden or look at cows and cabbage fields!
We understand Princess is just introducing cruising in Australia, but we had no idea they wouldn't offer the things we've come to expect from a Princess Cruise. There was no Elite Lounge, no Chef's Table, a laughable excuse for a steakhouse (a curtained off part of the buffet), no Sabatini's, terrible nightly entertainment (with the exception of the production shows), and an overly casual style of dress.
After speaking with both the Captain's Circle Hostess and the Cruise Director the first week, we were informed someone would be getting back to us to discuss our issues with the cruise. No one ever did.
The seas were extremely rough at least half of the time (we're bruised from being tossed around the ship...particularly in our bathroom). And it's not terribly appetizing to see "barf bags" splayed attractively across many flat services (including the Maitre D' station of the restaurants) and attached to every stairwell.
The one positive note was that the food was very good. In fact, some of the best we've ever had on a ship. The dining room was at least half empty most nights, as the Aussies seem to prefer to eat at the buffet and certainly don't believe in getting dressed up! My husband brought a tuxedo and I brought several dressy outfits. After the second formal evening, we gave up on wearing them. Many passengers considered a short-sleeved sports shirt with a pair of slacks and a tie to be formal; which it was when you compare it to the t-shirts and flip/flops (thongs) they wore most nights.
The entertainment, as I said, was very disappointing. In general, it was extremely juvenile. Aussie humor is much different from ours...in a Three Stooges/slapstick kind of a way. Many of the terms that were used in the jokes were Aussie specific and we didn't have a clue what they were talking about. The highlight (actually low point) was the evening the entertainer sat on a folding chair with a strong light aimed at him and made shadow puppets for our entertainment. I kid you not! The Aussies loved him. We found it insulting. There was a movie every night, but I don't necessarily consider that entertainment worthy of a cruise line. I can watch movies at home. The singers were terrible and would be boo'd off most stages. They perhaps would have been acceptable had they not been leaping about (literally one singer leapt from one side of the stage to the other as he sang...no dancing...just leaping) or dressed in crazy costumes. And Australians apparently think it's perfectly acceptable to sing along with any entertainer on stage...even if they can't sing. The passenger talent show had several acts that were far superior to those presented by the stage each evening.
The passengers tended to be in the 70-90 age range with a huge number of walkers, wheelchairs and canes (sticks).
I suppose the cruise served its purpose...we saw Australia, but would have enjoyed a trip to Australia far more had we gone on our own and spent more time in Sydney and more time at the Great Barrier Reef. Lesson learned!
We have also been told that cruises around Japan (which we were very interested in booking) are handled in a similar way. Food, entertainment, announcements all geared toward the Japanese consumer. I'm glad we were warned. We'll either look at other cruiselines for a similar trip or do a land-based trip and skip the convenience of cruising all together.
PORT (AIRLIE BEACH): We took a Sail the Whitsundays cruise that was very nice. The catamaran is clean and fairly spacious. The lunch they served was excellent. Unfortunately, it rained (monsoon rains) the entire day, so we weren't able to see as much as we would have liked, but the staff was exceptionally friendly and accommodating. Do NOT do the Great Barrier Reef trip from this port if you can do it from Port Douglas!! This port has a smaller platform and a two-hour catamaran ride in each direction, which gives you less time at the Reef.
PORT (Port Douglas): We took a Great Barrier Reef tour from this port and loved it. It's a 90-minute catamaran ride to the platform. The platform was fabulous and beyond our imagination. It included a lovely buffet lunch, the opportunity to snorkel (all gear included in the price), or scuba dive (if you are certified), ride a glass-bottom boat, view the reef and fish from a tunnel underwater (like in an aquarium), and take a helicopter ride (additional charge) over the reef. Truly a magical day and a highlight of our entire 35 days in Australia.
PORT (Benoa, Bali): Took an Elephant Safari and loved it. The day is long and included a stop for shopping in a small town, which wasn't worth the time. The Elephant Safari is high up in the mountains and probably can't be safely done on your own (due to time restrictions). The Elephant Safari included a lovely buffet lunch, a 35-minute ride on an elephant with the handler sitting on the elephant's neck and answering questions or talking about the elephant and his/her training. Another highlight of our entire trip!
PORT (Perth): Went to the Aquarium of Western Australia. It was fabulous.
PORT (Bunbury): Couldn't dock due to winds and bad weather.
PORT (Albany): Went to the Albany Wind Farm, which was very interesting. We've never been close to a wind thingy (I don't know what they are called...windmill? turbine?), but we sat on a bench underneath one and could count the revolutions and hear how quiet they are. It was interesting.
PORT (Burnie, Tasmania): Not sure why the ship even bothered to stop here. A VERY small town (under 20,000 people) with very, very little to offer. A ride around the countryside to see cows, sheep, and vegetable fields; a trip to Preston Falls (small if you've seen other falls), and a stop in Penguin (the town) to see a 12-foot statue of a penguin. No actual penguins...just a statue of a penguin.
PORT (Hobart, Taxmania): Very nice botanical gardens (can spend several hours here), nice city drive, a fun visit to the Cadbury chocolate factory, which included an entertaining overview of how chocolate is made and a visit to the outlet store to buy chocolates that aren't available in our part of the world. And the most delicious hot chocolate I've ever had in my life. What could be bad about cream with melted chocolate it in topped with whipped cream?