We enjoyed this cruise and would give it 4 out of 5.
We are a retired UK couple in our mid 50's with adult children. We are regular travellers, but only occasional cruisers. Cruising is not our favourite mode of travel, but we have done 2 in the past 5 weeks due to the really keen prices. We don't go on many organised excursions, but like to do our own thing. We chose this cruise for the interesting itinerary and a very good price.
Day 1 Friday - depart Southampton Queen Elizabeth 2 terminal
Not a great start -- we were stuck in traffic for 45 minutes near to the port area. There were a few cruise ships in and the road system was log jammed and just could not cope. Similarly, the car drop off area was unable to cope with the number of cars arriving. Southampton has a lot to learn from Ft Lauderdale and Miami. We arrived for check-in at 13.15 - there were reasonable queues, but they moved quite quickly. The departure terminal looks old, tired and miserable -- a bit of a dump really and below the standard of others we have used. Check in was efficient. There was also a queue at security, but again it moved quite quickly.
Our stateroom was ready for us and one of our suitcases was there when we arrived. The other followed a few minutes later -- that's fast!! We were in balcony cabin B335 and my mother-in-law was nearby on her own in inside cabin B747 -- both cabins starboard side deck 11. Our steward Olympio introduced himself and was very friendly and helpful -- always happy and smiling.
Our cabin was normal size and clean and tidy. A comfortable king size bed with bedside cabinets each side. We slept well each night. There was plenty of closet space. Hair dryer and 2 x US 110v sockets above the desk, plus one US 110v socket in the bathroom. A small fridge with only ice and a bottle of water. Efficient aircon. Small flat screen TV with US channels. Housekeeping was efficient every day. The usual evening turndown service. Room was kept immaculate by the staff -- thank you.
Normal size bathroom. Good shower. Plenty of storage space. Good extraction. Nice and bright with a large mirror. One bathrobe with another available on request from your steward.
Normal size balcony with 2 good comfy chairs and a small table.
We departed on time at 17.30.
FOOD -- the times listed below can vary day to day, so please check the daily information sheet (Princess Patter) for details. We had chosen "Anytime" dining and used the Coral and Island restaurants each night, except for one night when we ate in the Cafe Caribe buffet.
Horizon Court Buffet deck 15
06.00 - 11.30. Breakfast
11.30 - 15.30. Lunch
15.30 -- 17.30. Afternoon snack
Cafe Caribe Buffet deck 15
05.00 - 06.00 Continental breakfast
12.00 - 14.00 Lunch
17.30 -- 24.00 Evening buffet
International Cafe deck 5
24 hour snacks and cakes etc
Island Dining Room deck 5 - waiter service
Anytime dining 17.30 -- 21.30
Coral Dining Room deck 6 - waiter service
07.00 - 09.00 breakfast
12.00 - 13.30 lunch
15.30 - 16.30
17.30 - first seating
18.30 -- 21.30 anytime dining
Palm Dining Room deck 6 - waiter service
17.45 first seating
20.00 second seating
Sabatini's deck 7
18.00 - 23.00
Additional charge Italian a la carte
Crown Grill deck 6
18.00 - 23.00
Additional charge steak and seafood a la carte.
Also open some days11.30 -- 13.30 for no extra charge British Pub food
Vines Wine Bar deck 5
11.00 - 23.00
Wine with free sushi and tapas
Trident Grill and Prego Pizzeria deck 15
11.00 - 23.00 weather permitting
Ice Cream Bar deck 15
11.00 - 23.00 weather permitting
Tea/coffee/water/ice stations at each end of the Cafe Caribe and Horizon buffets.
No charge for water/tea/coffee in the restaurants or buffet.
A good wine list at reasonable prices.
Day 2 Saturday -- at sea
Large selection of activities, films and lectures etc. A bit cold for the "Movies under the Stars". Films were also shown in cabins. We went to 2 lectures on Norway's ports and another on Plate Tectonics. First Formal Dinner. Approx 90% of men wore DJ's. I've never seen so many on a cruise. Not for me though - I'm on holiday and never take one, but I do wear a jacket but no tie. There was a great atmosphere in the Piazza for the "Meet the Captain" glass of champagne before dinner.
Day 3 Sunday Bergen
We arrived at 09.00. I have been here many times on business, but my wife and her mother have not. We docked directly on the jetty, but you cannot just walk off the ship, as it is a busy working port with lots of trucks buzzing about. So for safety, the port authorities provide a free shuttle bus to the city centre. You meet in the Island Restaurant on deck 5, get a numbered ticket and wait to be called to the bus. As the ship does not leave until 17.30, we did not rush. Buses run continuously all day - good service. The weather was terrible but we were determined to see the main harbour, fish market and the World Heritage Site Bryggen -- all near to each other and a few minutes walk from the shuttle bus drop point. We had planned to use the funicular railway up Mount Floein, but we gave it a miss, as visibility was very poor - again it was only a few minutes walk. Many did not leave the ship for long due to the awful weather -- it was rather wild. The ship sailed at 18.00
Day 4 Monday Olden
We entered Nordfjord at approx 03.00. We had had some choppy water in the open sea, so it was nice to find the tranquillity of the fjord. We sailed approx 65 miles into the fjord with pretty forested slopes and small waterfalls on either side. We docked at 08.00 directly in the town. Olden is a very small town. You can walk for a short way in both directions from the jetty. Nothing really to do here, but there are a few shops and some nice walks. There is a small tourist train, but the small town is easily walkable. We departed at 18.00 with good views as we returned back down the fjord.
Day 5 Tuesday Geiranger
Stunning views as we sailed along the steep sided World Heritage fjord. We initially anchored at Hellesylt to drop of the ship's excursions and then we sailed to Geiranger at the end of the fjord. We arrived at 11.00. A short tender hop to the pier. Early embarkation was via ticket allocation in the Island Dining Room deck 5. We waited until after lunch (12.30) and just walked to the tender point. Geiranger is a pleasant small town with plenty of shops and bars. Nice walk up the hill to the church and waterfall and a pleasant stroll around the edge of the fjord end. The town was busy, as there were 3 cruise ships in port. We had a beer in town -- Euro 10 per small beer -- ouch!!!! We departed at 18.00 with a 3 gun salute goodbye from the shore. WOW - the views of the fjord and the 7 Sisters waterfall in the evening sun. Lots of other waterfalls. Just a perfect way to see this fjord with a Gin and Tonic on the balcony!! We would very much liked to have stayed here longer, but that's the disadvantage of cruising. Geiranger looked so tranquil once the cruise hoards had left. We will drive and stay a few nights next time.
Day 6 Wednesday Alesund
We docked at 08.00 -- directly in the town. A small town with a nice harbour. Easy to walk around. Not at all touristy. Pretty "Art Nouveau" buildings. We walked up the 418 steps to the top of Aksla Hill. Great views from the top and there is a cafe and a viewing platform. Plenty of seats for a rest on the way up. You can get the tourist train or a cab to the top and walk down. There were no public toilets that we could find anywhere in the town -- very poor for a cruise port. You even had to pay to use the loo in the Tourist Information. We departed at 17.00 with a bank of speakers on the dockside blasting out Vera Lynn's "We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when" -- a really nice send off by the town.
Day 7 Thursday at sea
We went to lectures on Akureyri, Reykjavik and also to one on the Geology of Iceland. Tried to work off some of the food by walking the Promenade deck a few times. In the early hours of the morning, we crossed into the Arctic Circle -- you get a certificate!!!
Day 8 Friday Akureyri
At dawn, we entered Ekjaforour fjord (Iceland's longest). We arrived at Akureyri at 07.00 -- directly onto the dock. A pleasant small town surrounded by snow capped mountains. An easy 5 minutes walk into town. We visited the main church on our way to the free Botanical Gardens. We walked slowly back to the ship via the town's main shopping street. We departed at 16.00.
Day 9 Saturday Reykjavik
We arrived at 10.00 -- direct onto the dock. There is a shuttle bus to the centre -- approx Euro 4 each way. We went on a ship's excursion to the Blue Lagoon, the Krysuvik volcanic vents (bubbling mud, steam and rotten egg smells etc) and a Viking museum with a Viking longboat. We departed at 20.00.
Days 10,11 and 12 at sea
It was just about as long as we could stand. We kept busy with deck walking, lectures, reading, sleeping and way too much food!!
Night 11 is the second formal dinner. On night 12 - cases outside your cabin before 23.00. There were good instructions for the disembarkation procedure.
Day 13 arrival Southampton Ocean terminal
We arrived silently in port as we slept. Our allocated disembarkation colour was silver and stated that we were due to meet at 07.10 in the Island Restaurant for disembarkation. We were in no rush to get off the ship, so had a lie in and stayed in our room until after 08.00. Our steward was in no rush to push us out and clean our room, so we had a leisurely breakfast in the Horizon buffet and then gently strolled off the ship at approx 09.00. No queues at all as most people went off the ship early. We collected our luggage at the silver collection zone, then picked up our car and off home we went -- very efficient.
We enjoyed all of our meals and even my 81year old mother-in-law ate well. We did "Anytime dining" in both the Island and Coral dining rooms. Though they could be busy around 20.00 and we had to queue sometime, the queues went down quickly. We were occasionally given a bleeper and had to wait for 10 minutes. The menu was different every night and the service was excellent.
We did find the Horizon and Caribe buffets very busy at breakfast and lunchtimes and we often struggled to find seats. The selection and quality of the food was very good. There were always lots of staff to help.
We tried the waiter served breakfast in the Coral a few times and found it busy, but with excellent quality food and service.
We very much enjoyed our lunches in the Crown Grill (British Pub lunch). The steak pie and fish and chips were superb, all washed down with a pint of English ale.
We had tea and fruit most mornings from room service -- very punctual.
We ate once at Sabatini's for a $20 supplement each. Very good.
We found all of the staff to be polite and helpful at all times. There was no evidence at all of any cutbacks due to the recession. There was always lots of staff about. All staff spoke good English. We could not fault them in any way.
We went to the main show in the Princess Theatre most nights. Each night the theatre was full. The shows were varied and professional. We also went to some of the bars when music was playing, although getting a seat could be tough. Lots of dancing classes, bingo etc to keep you busy on those long sea days.
Poor. The morning "Wake up show" from the Cruise Director was good and the films were great for sea days, but there were very few channels and all US. Considering we were in Europe, there were no European channels at all. We could not even watch the Olymipic opening ceremony or any of the Olympics. During the opening ceremony, ESPN was showing speedway racing!!!!! Everyone was complaining. No European news channels at all. Not good enough.
Princess are behind the times and have no interactive bill viewing on the TV, but you can get intermediate bills anytime from machines near reception at the swipe of your card. My final bill was accurate.
There is a coin operated Laundromat on most decks - $1 per wash, $1 per dry.
Room service is 24 hour, with most items free. There is a $3 charge for pizzas.
You get a card to hang on your door each night for fresh fruit to be delivered daily.
We did not use the gym or the spa.
There was an Art theme to the cruise with art exhibitions, lectures and auctions. It all looked a bit of hard sell to us.
Gratuities were $11.50 each per day
We enjoyed this cruise and found the ports of call interesting. The ship was full and it showed. We did feel claustrophobic sometimes with so many people onboard and often we had to wait for a lift and regularly struggled to find a seat in the buffet.
We have sailed previously with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and MSC and found Princess to be on a par with them, no better no worse. This was certainly the most crowded cruise ship we've been on. We have no real complaints about the cruise, but after 2 cruises in 5 weeks, we did feel rather cruised-out and probably will not do another one for a while. I would have much rather driven around Norway, but it was a convenient way to see the fjords and Iceland.
I hope this helps and I'm happy to answer any question on -- firstname.lastname@example.org