Background Information: This was my fourth cruise with a grandchild age 12 or 13. And my first cruise with Princess. When was 12 I crossed the Atlantic twice on a cruise with my parents, and I have also been on several cruises with my husband. For the last four cruises I have employed a scooter to get around the ship because I have trouble walking. I had to rent the scooter in the US and carry it with me because the Australian branch of Special Needs at Sea absolutely refused to let me take a scooter from Sydney to Perth by airplane.
Travel To Port of Embarkation: All travel arrangements were made independently - none of them were through Princess. The Scooter and I flew from BWI to MIA, picked up my granddaughter and flew to LAX and then on QANTAS to Sydney. The LAX to Sydney flight was 14.5 hours and crossed the International Date Line. We arrived early in the morning.
Hotel Info: We stayed in the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney, The taxi to the hotel in Sydney was was $54+ and included several tunnel and freeway tolls. Even though we arrived early in the morning, our room was ready - we were on the 23rd floor with a view of the city. We had Australian plugs to recharge our electronic items (and the scooter). There was also an extra converter plug in the minibar. The internet was $50 for three days, and was a LAN cable. The room had a long window seat bench. There were bathrobes in the closet and a big minibar. The concierge was very helpful in getting tickets and giving us advice.
After 3 days in Sydney sightseeing, we flew to Perth (five hours) for embarkation. We left at 10:15 and got there at 12:45 because Perth is in a different time zone. A friend pickd me up in Perth and drove us to the Esplanade hotel in Fremantle.
Embarkation: MASS confusion. The taxi fare was about $10 but the driver said he would find someone to take the luggage and get me a wheelchair if I gave him $10. And since I didn't have anything in AUstralian money smaller than a $20, that's what he got and he didn't give me change. Eventually the driver got someone to come and check in the luggage - I checked the scooter because I was afraid that if I just checked the empty bag, it would get crushed because it is mostly foam. They found me a wheelchair, and a man with Ben Franklin hair pushed me inside. Then they said I would have to wait there until it was time to board, and took the wheelchair away.
A lady I had met in the hotel said that I should go ahead and go up the elevator (or the stairs) to get our boarding passes - she had a group one boarding pass. Right after that, a man came and set up a table and took our names etc. and he said we should wait there for a wheelchair and they would take us directly to our room. But about 10:30, another wheelchair person appeared so they asked if I wanted to go up to the waiting room and I said yes. The second wheelchair man checked us in and got boarding pass group 3. He left us in the waiting room and we waited. They called priority, diamond and suites
passengers and group 1. I saw the first wheelchair man wandering around with a chair, so I flagged him down and he was looking for me. So I got into the wheelchair and he took us to check in. Each time they asked what boarding priority we had, he ignored them. He pushed the wheelchair through the magnetic doorway and it didn't seem to matter that it beeped. Someone patted me down sitting in the chair.
I kept asking if we shouldn't check my credit card and the wheelchair guy said not to bother with that (which was wrong as the cruise was charged on a card which was no longer valid). They issued us our key cards and took our photos and then two people pushed me up the ramp to the deck and took us directly to our room, which was ready. We got our suitcases before the drill and unpacked.
I did not know that the drill would be inside (which it was) so we took our coats which we did not need. Dinner was right after the drill so we went to dinner with our coats on.
Stateroom - The obstructed view stateroom on the starboard side gave us a view of any land we were close enough to see. Although I was told that the ship had no US plugs, only Australian, the room actually had TWO US plugs (one more than normal), one European plug and one Australian plug. It was set up VERY well. The two beds have their heads toward the window with a big three drawer chest between them. There is a chair at the bottom of one bed and the dresser with a stool at the bottom of the other. There was a hairdryer which my granddaughter reported did not work at all well. There is enough space at the bottom of that bed to put the scooter, and one of the US plugs is in the dresser wall so we do not need the extension cord I brought. Past the dresser are four closets. One has shelves and wire baskets and the safe (and the life jackets), two are hanging closets and the last one has a low and high hanging closet. My granddaughter used ALL the hangers to hang tops and dresses. I had four or
five hangers for my dresses and my coat - that's all I really needed anyway. We put the scooter bag opened up flat under my bed and the other two big suitcases under the other bed. The beds were comfortable and I liked the pillows because I like flat limp pillows that I can fold. Some people might like plumper pillows, but I don't so I was quite happy with the pillows.
The bathroom has small shelves, and a shower. I can reach the bottom shelf and the sink from the toilet (which is good).
Ship Info: Other than the problem with the gangways, the main problem with the ship was that there were not enough elevators. The aft elevators only went down to about deck 7 and were of no use to anyone wishing to get to the dining room on deck 5 and 6. The six forward elevators were in two sets of three. Pushing the button on one side did NOT activate the other side and I couldn't be someplace where I can see and get the ones on the other side when they came. Since there was only fixed dining, this meant that everyone wanted the elevators at once and sometimes I had to wait 10 minutes before getting to dinner.
The problem with the gangways--Of course four of the ports were tender ports and these were really easier because I could just fold the scooter up and put it on the tender. For non-tender ports while I could almost always ride my scooter OFF the ship, when I got back, they would have changed the gangway to one that had huge pieces of wood across it about every 14" or in one case it was actual steps. That meant that I had to have someone carry the scooter back on while I walked. If I couldn't walk at all, I would have been in trouble. The ship literature warned that for tenders we had to be able to get out of any mobility device to get onto the tender, but they didn't warn about the gangways when we were docked.
I thought the atrium was nice. They often had activities and demonstrations there There was no running track other than the promenade deck. They did have Movies under the Stars although my granddaughter said that it was hard to see during the day. The theatre was small and you had to go early to get a seat. THe internet cafe was nice but I always had to go and get the internet person to give me the extra minutes that I earned by signing up early or when there was a sale. The library was a dead end - you couldn't get through it to the rest of the ship. I couldn't get the scooter over the thresholds out to the promenade deck because they were too steep - I had to lift the scooter over .
The TV had Australian news, ESPN and a variety of movies which my granddaughter liked. There was a booklet in the room which listed which ones would be playing. The port lecturer was excellent and the port maps had the tourist attractions on them and no shopping information. Her lectures were on the TV the following day, which was sometimes a problem as she would give the lecture two days before the port and then if I hadn't turned it on, I was out of luck. There were also some lectures on other topics which were on the TV later. There are laundry rooms. The washer takes the $2 Australian coin (two of them) and the drier also takes 2 of them and the soap is $2.00
The Princess Patter was a bust - the format was terrible and they did not give them to us until late at night after I was in bed. Their excuse was that they were printed on board, but every other cruise I've been on, I had the next day's activity sheet when I got back from dinner. Also at least 2 other cruise lines have an "executive summary" with the times on a single column that can be pulled off and put in your pocket to be referred to. The Princess Patter had nothing like that. You had to find the times of things between all the ads.
I had to go to the purser's desk to change over my credit card and there was a place for me to check that I would pay in Australian dollars. I said I did not agree and did not check it, but they charged me with Australian dollars anyway. I don't know why they asked if there was no choice.
The ship was often late getting to ports.
Dining: We were originally given a table for four and no one came the first night. The second night there was an old couple from New Zealand. She was so soft spken that neither of us could hear her, and he was deaf. So we asked for a change in tables - I was afraid that it might be too late but the wonderful guy in charge found us a table of 10 to join. There was another couple (mother and daughter) from the US, and three other couples from AUstralia. We all had a good time together and had very good waiters.
I felt the food was so-so but we could always find something to eat. They had theme nights (Indonesian, US, Italian etc) but the interpretation of the various 'national' foods was somewhat loose. For the 'country dinner' They had Maryland Crabcakes with Remoulade Sauce (!!) and Cowboy Steak which had broccoli and carrots and a slice of potato with cheese on it. They serve their cold soups in a glass with a straw which means that when there are solids in the soup - you can't get to them.
The shrimp cocktail on the 'everyday' menu had some kind of white sauce with it. There were three formal nights but there was only lobster at one of them. I was able to get cranberry juice at breakfast until the last few days when they said they were out of it, but I know that wasn't true as they still had it at the bar where I could pay for it.
We ate in the pizza place (which was right outside our room) and the pizza was good, but they absolutely refused to let us take it back to our room. They also were somewhat lax in keeping the water glasses filled. They were open only restricted hours so we couldn't go there and get pizza after an excursion.
I generally do not like eating in a buffet because there is no way to carry food if I am using the scooter. Most of the time someone would come with me and put stuff on a plate for me and find me a seat. But not always. Seats were hard to find unless you went to eat early or late. We went up to the BBQ on the Lido deck once, but it wasn't that good.
I tried room service ONCE - one of the attractions of room service has always been that you didn't have to pay extra. But on the Dawn Princess, Room Service is SIX DOLLARS PLUS TIP even if you only get some rolls and coffee. Later in the cruise I got sick (passengers were coughing from the first day), and I was confined to my room for a day, but I just had my granddaughter bring me food from the Lido as I was NOT going to pay extra for room service.
- Children's Clubs: My granddaughter did not participate. She made a friend on the ship who was a year older and therefore could go to the teen club, but she didn't like the teen club and spent her time with the children 8-12.
Service: The waiters were excellent. When my granddaughter ordered something unfamiliar to try and then didn't like it, they found something else for her to eat.
The room steward was also good. He brought me the Princess Patter as soon as he got it.
Entertainment: I tried trivia once and didn't go back. My granddaughter went to some of the movies, and the magicians shows with some of the others at our table.
Other: I heard other passengers coughing from the beginning of the cruise. The Captain made some announcements about it being flu season and to wash our hands but no other precautions were taken. I got a bad cough (I think from one of our table mates), and went to the doctor. They took my BP, pulse, resp and O2 and then stuck a swab up my nose and said I had the flu and quarantined me to my room. I do not think I had the flu. On successive summers I've had bronchitis and pneumonia and I think that one of them was what I had. They charged me $75 plus the charge for panaflu and an antibiotic, and had someone disinfect the room twice a day. I'm still coughing two weeks later.
Disembarkation: Princess gets an A here. I asked for 8:30 and they gave me yellow seven which was the 7th category to disembark at 8:10. I was told to go to the casino to wait for a wheelchair and we actually disembarked at 8:20. The wheelchair people are retired gentlemen. He found our luggage and got someone to put it and us in a taxi, and we were off to the airport PDQ. The taxi fare to the airport was about $85.00. Our flight left at 1300 on the 27th and arrived at 0930 the same day. We went to a hotel at LAX and slept from about 1200 until 2100 and then went back to the airport for the five hour flight to Florida.
Excursions - none of these ports are on the lists.
1 - Geraldton- Our tour for Geraldton was to the Kalberri National Park - Morning tea and Lunch included. It was a 7 hour tour to start at 7:30 and end at 2:30. We were to meet in the Princess Theatre at 6:50 am. The tender service was an hour late starting. They took us crippled people down in the elevator and we got the first tender ashore. We were in bus 4. The first step of the bus was almost too high for me to do. We passed through farming country until we got to North Hampton where we had a bathroom stop. We saw road trains and we passed a dead kangaroo in the middle of the highway. The driver stopped and got out because he said he knew there was a joey in the pouch and it might not be dead. And it wasn't. So he got it and brought it on board the bus and one of the ladies in the back held it inside her jacket to keep it warm until we got to the park headquarters where she turned it over to the park person.
The main thing about this park is the wildflowers and the rock formations. They had a rain yesterday so the wildflowers of the season were in bloom. The driver stopped so we could take photos. Next was Hawks Head which is a canyon cut through layers of sandstone much like the Grand Canyon on a smaller scale. My granddaughter went down the trail to take photos and I just stayed at the top. We had cake and juice at the top. The driver's wife had baked the cake. This was the "tea" part of the tour. After we dropped off the little joey, we had lunch at Jake's Bar in the Zuytdorf restaurant (named after a Dutch ship). We had a choice of vegetarian curry (only 3 people took this), fish and chips (my granddaughter took that), or steak (which I took). This time when I got on the bus, instead of trying to raise my foot, I went up on my hands and knees which was much easier. This caused some consternation. Then we continued on to the Arches. We went back a different way, past the Pink Lake, which is really pink. Apparently an algae that make beta-carotene lives there and they harvest it. Our bus driver (who apparently was in charge of the whole excursion which had 3 buses) made it back to the dock first. The cruise people were anxious as we were an hour late. But they took so long getting us ashore that we were an hour late starting.
2 - Lombok Indonesia - Craft Villages - tender port. This was supposed to like what Bali was before it got all touristic. When we docked they had a whole Indonesian band and dancers there to greet us - colorful but very loud drums. Indonesian traffic is a lot like Dominican Republic traffic with lots of little scooters zipping around and the signs and lights are viewed as optional. The difference was that instead of mini-vans with no doors there were little carts with little ponies pulling them. One of the first things I saw out of the front of the bus was a man on a motor scooter with chickens. I don't know if they were for cock fighting or to eat. We could see them harvesting rice and growing corn and what the guide called 'water spinach'. We saw school children in beige and brown uniforms (they go half a day because there is not enough room in the school for all of them), and people with fruit markets along the road. We also saw rice spread out to dry on all flat surfaces even in the median strip. The guide said they got 3 crops a year of rice where there was enough rain.
He pointed out the Chinese cemeteries - he said his grandfather was Chinese and his father was Arabian. Only his grandmother was Indonesian. We saw lots of domed temples. We got to the first village and he told us to bargain. They were doing woodworking at this village but apparently there is a prohibition against bringing wooden things into Australia. When I got back on the bus some other people were in my seat. I told them I wanted to sit there so they moved, muttering about that 'they could sit anywhere'. The guide (whose name was Tariq) handed out water and also soft drinks. We drove to another village and there were horse carts which the guide said would go a couple of kilometers down the road. It was hot, so I said I would stay on the bus, but my granddaughter went. It turned out that the place they went was the pottery village, and my granddaughter got to make a small dish.
3 - Broome - Pearl Museum, Wildlife Park and Gantheaume Point. We waited in the wheelhouse lounge - for about an hour while they tried to get the ramp placed so we were again late starting. This particular port, you have to either be on an excursion or take a shuttle to town because you are not allowed to walk off the pier. That's because it is a fairly long narrow dock with just enough room for two vehicles.
Since we were late starting, we went by the Japanese Cemetery (which were those killed in diving accidents) and didn't get out. We went to the Pearl Lugger's Museum (a lugger is a type of boat). Originally the pearl in Broome was mother of pearl out of which they made buttons and other items. Aboriginals were forced to do the diving for the oysters. When plastic buttons became common it spelled the end of the mother of pearl industry. Then they started in on real pearls using diving suits. Because we were late, the girl at the Pearl Museum had to rush through the tour.
After the museum we went to the Wildlife Park. Here most of the paths were sand, and my scooter didn't scoot. So after they passed around a baby croc (with the mouth taped shut) for everyone to hold, they took a tour of the park and I just stayed at the main building. My granddaughter went and saw bats, jumping alligators, kangaroos, wallabies and dingoes. She wants a dingo. She thinks they are cute. Then we drove by Cable Beach and went to Gantheaume Point where there was a lighthouse. My granddaughter walked down to the lighthouse and saw the casts of the dinosaur tracks (the real tracks are under water except at low tide). Then we returned to the ship. I had originally intended to take the shuttle in to town and do some shopping, but it was late, and we just didn't feel like it. The ship didn't leave until 2100 so they didn't have set dining times at dinner.
The following day we were cruising along the Kimberly Coast,and there was a narrator just like we had in Alaska at Tracy Arm and going thru the Panama Canal. There was a good view from our room. We cruised past the Bonaparte Archipelago and into York Sound where we stopped for the sunset two miles west of Naturalist Island, We couldn't go any farther forward into the sound because it got shallow, and in fact after we stopped the stern thrusters stirred up a good bit of sand. I went out on the Promenade Deck with my telephoto lens on my camera and took some photos of the sun reflecting in the red cliffs. I went around to the sunny side of the ship, but that wasn't as pretty.
4 - Darwin - we were only going to be here for the morning so we didn't do an excursion. I was able to scooter down the ramp and get a round trip shuttle bus ticket for $14 (My granddaughter was free). They put my scooter in the back of the bus. The Princess information on Darwin was that the banks opened at 8:30, so we found one and went up the ramp to the door only to find that the bank didn't open until 9:30. It was only 9:15. I had to back all the way down the ramp. We did some shopping and then came back to the bank and I changed some money. They charged us $8.00 for each transaction. The charge was $6.00 on the boat.
5 - Port Douglas- Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. This was the one excursion that I really wanted to do, but although the medical person gave me leave to go on the excursion, and I feel much better, I don't really feel up to snorkeling. My muscles were sore from coughing, and I still had a runny nose. So I sent my granddaughter off with Sarah and Jean from our table - they are on the same excursion. My granddaughter said it was cloudy, windy and cold with a lot of current, so I probably was wise not to go.
6 - Airlie Beach - the ship was late getting to this port and we had already had to change the excursion because the ship wasn't going to be there in time to do the one we wanted. So I decided to just take the tender into town. Due to the fact that the ship was EXTRA late getting to here - We were an hour later than our already late scheduled arrival - we were really too late getting tender tickets. We got #35 and had to wait in the atrium as the dining room was full. We finally got on the tender about 3:30. I used the scooter. Then we got to shore and got on the shuttle bus. But it was really late by this time and we looked in the shops - there were lots of things for ladies, but nothing for men. There was a big souvenir shop on the main road, but we
didn't get that far. The sun was going down and it was cold. We were on the next to the last shuttle back to the port, and the next to the last tender back to the ship - did not get back until 1900 - too late for dinner at 1745. So we finally ate at the pizza place.
7 - Brisbane - I had already turned in the tickets for the original excursion for High Tea which I decided that my granddaughter would not like. The night before at dinner as we left the dining room we saw Angela from the Excursion desk and asked her if there was a way we could take an excursion to see koalas. She said yes that we could go to Steve Irwin's zoo and that there were still available places on the excursion and I could use my scooter - so to go to the Princess Theatre at 8 and she would see if her boss would allow us to go on the excursion. After breakfast, I took the sign up sheet up to Angela and she issued a ticket which the meeting place was 8:30.
They sent us with the slow walkers - but actually we are not slow at all, we just need an elevator. We had a smooth gangway to disembark.drove out to the zoo. It was looking rainy and I had not brought any rain gear as none was in the forecast. We got on the tram (including the scooter) and went out to stop 3 which was where the koala enclosure was. But we went the wrong way and went to the kangaroo enclosure first. When we got to the echidnas, there was kangaroo food to buy. By that time I figured out that we had gone the wrong way, so we bought some food and fed some kangaroos on the way back. When we finally got to the enclosure with the koalas, they had a place where you could put your hand on the koala. So I took a photo of that for her. Later there was a place where you could hold one, but it cost over $10.00 and my granddaughter thought that was too expensive so she didn't do it. We also saw (and fed) more kangaroos, some birds (pigeons, ducks, parrots and a funny kind of turkey that was running loose everywhere scratching the mulch onto the path), two kinds of wombats and the children's petting zoo. I took some photos of my granddaughter sitting on a huge croc statue.
My scooter was all the way into the light green (middle) so I though I'd give it a chance to recover and sent my granddaughter out on her own to do the loop around where the dingoes and Tasmanian devils were. She came running back because there was a rain shower. We basically hung around the entrance from then on until time for the bus to leave. We took some iguana photos there.
The bus took us up into the mountains to a place called Montville to have lunch and shop. my granddaughter's friend Arden and her grandmother were on the tour too so we had lunch with them and did some more shopping. Everyone bought some fudge. Then we came back on the bus to the ship.