This was our 2nd Princess cruise. Last year did the Grand Mediterranean on the Ruby and loved it, so I had high expectations. I was a little nervous as I knew the Emerald is due for dry dock in a few months. The Emerald Princess exceeded my expectations.
We arrived at the ship about 2:00pm and were in our cabins by 2:15pm. We had 2 balcony rooms with adjoining balconies. I was pleased with the size of the rooms and pleasantly surprised to see that the closet and storage areas were just as large as in a mini-suite.
Relatively painless, done on the 1st evening in various lounges or restaurants and it lasted about 30 minutes.
We dined the 1st night in Sabitini's as it was a gift from our travel agent. The food and service were excellent. There is a lovely view out the back of the ship. All of our other dinners were anytime dining in the Michelangelo Dining Room. We had the same wait staff (Edwin and Yulia) every night but one, and had an outstanding experience. One of our party is a vegetarian and a little picky. Every night the head waiter (Martins) came to our table to go over the choices for the next evening. Several nights they served her veggie burgers from the Trident Grill near the pool! We thought that most of the food was great. The only exception was probably the steak entrees which we thought were good, but not great. We also did the Chef's dinner for the second time which is really special and well worth the money. They really make you feel like a VIP.
Most mornings we did not have time for breakfast and grabbed a muffin or yogurt parfait from the International Cafe. Good quick food, and my husband loves the cappuccino and brewed coffee. They had 3 pub lunches on our 11 day cruise and we ate at all 3 of them. My 18 year old son LOVES Princess's fish and chip and bread pudding! I love the pizza but only managed to eat it once.
We generally do not do a lot of shows, but even with our busy itinerary managed to see a few. The variety show with ventriloquist Steve Hewlett was funny and entertaining. It was not Vegas show quality, but I wasn't really expecting that type of show. I would say the same for the magician, Luca Volpe. He was not Houdini or David Copperfield, but I would not expect someone world class to be on a cruise ship. We enjoyed the short show. The farewell shoe with Pianist Liam Stewart and juggler Tibor Szobo was excellent. We also enjoyed Liam (this was his 1st cruise!) most night in Crooners and Tibor in the Piazza. Our favorite show in the Princess theater was the International Crew talent and variety show. It was really fun to see the young lady who served us coffee in the International Cafe perform a traditional Indonesian dance and the bartender from Crooners belly dance.
We did not use Princess's shore excursions, we did all ports on our own except for St. Petersburg where we did a private tour for the 4 of us. The Emerald's port lecturer, John Lawrence was excellent and we had preordered his DVD on the Baltic ports. (johnlawrencecd dot com) I felt that this and cruise critic more than prepared us to do our ports on our own.
I love the flow of the Emerald and for having over 3000 passengers it almost never seemed crowded. There were 2 exceptions. 1.) Some port days everyone tried to disembark at the same time and this was not pleasant. Security did do a good job of moving the crowd quickly. and 2.) On sea days and some evenings the shops would set up tables in the halls outside of the shops. Even though almost all of the merchandise could be found in the shops for the same price, it tended to create a shopping frenzy with the passengers.
We were supposed to meet in Michelangelo restaurant at 7:50am and wait to be called. We had a nice breakfast in Da Vinci dining room at 7:15am and by the time we got to Michelangelo at 7:53am a lady told us our group had already been called and to proceed to the ramp on deck 4. We had our luggage and were in a mini-van taxi by 8:05am. We heard a lot of stories about a lack of taxis, but there were plenty there when we disembarked. The taxi from the port back to the Marriott was 162.58 DKK or approx. $26.97.
A few final thoughts:
I would definitely recommend both the Emerald Princes and this itinerary! Almost everyplace we went took credit cards and we had no trouble with businesses accepting our sign and swipe card. I researched credit cards to make sure that I would not be charged conversion fees. I used a Capital One Master Card. I used local ATMs to get a small amount of currency in each country. I only used cash for tipping, and a few small businesses that did not accept credit cards. I researched ATM cards and used one that does not charge any fees and returns all other bank fees to the user. I used Capital One and Charles Schwab bank ATM cards. Don't forget to ask for a signed tax free form to get you 18-25% VAT tax returned to you. The amount you need to spend varies in each country, but it is usually anything greater than $20-$45. You take your receipt and the signed tax free form to the global tax free desk in the airport when you leave Europe and they will either give you cash or put the money back on your credit card. This took us about 20 minutes at the airport.