We booked this cruise having seen the price drop last spring and didn't think too much more about the trip while we got on with our very busy lives. Much later we stumbled upon the reviews from the same June 6th cruise -- and our hearts stopped. To see so many consistently terrible reviews almost made us cancel the trip. I believe that everyone who wrote in genuinely had a very unpleasant time -- it was Delorean Girl's summary that made us give the trip a try. We were hoping that things might have improved by the time our trip came around -- and indeed they had. The trip was a dream -- everything was ideal and I suspect that the criticism of the June 6th passengers was heard loud and clear by Princess.
There were no delays in boarding the ship as others experienced earlier. There was a short queue but it moved very quickly. No one was called by deck number -- we simply boarded as we arrived. Our bags were already in our stateroom when we got there. We had packed everything inside the bags in garbage bags after reading about the waterlogged suitcases that some people experienced on arrival on that ill-fated June 6th trip. Ours were dry. Next we checked out the mattresses -- we had seen the lumpy mattresses in photos and heard how awful they were. Ours appeared to be new. Hmmmmm -- we thought -- did Princess get the message???
The stateroom was great -B618- and the balcony was totally worth the money. Each time we woke up we opened the curtains to find staggeringly beautiful landscapes before us. We had wine in the evenings there and waved goodbye at sailaways from there -- my husband was constantly out there taking pictures.
On the trip we did what is called "The Ultimate Ship's Tour" -- again based on Delorean Girl's experience. (Her "thesis" is worth reading and we are indebted to her -- her name came up many times on the cruise! ? ) It is an expensive tour - $150 each -- but they give you four or five photos, terry towel robes, chef's jackets and a champagne reception with the Captain so it turns out to be worth the money just for the goodies. During this tour we had a sense that the crew were aware of mechanical issues with the ship in the past -- direct questions about mechanical failures were answered with lines like "I really couldn't say" and then wry smiles. We know from the June 6th reports that this ship was held in port for 24 hours and the itinerary was subsequently spoiled for many people. Mechanical failure and a failed inspection seemed to be the problem. The situation was made worse when no information was released about what was going on. On our trip, there was a new captain -- hmmmmmm, again. He was making announcements about any slight delay any time they occurred and when we met him on the tour, he struck us as forthright and a man sent in to rectify problems. He oversaw the emergency evacuation of a crew member by an Irish Search and Rescue helicopter and passengers knew what was happening every step of the way. We watched the whole event from our balcony and could see the Captain on the glass-walled bridge with his hands on his hips -- his body language that of a man completely in charge. He was making announcements as he went -- we were completely impressed by the professionalism we saw.
We signed up for tours with Princess for every day they were available -- every tour was terrific. Highlights for us were Glamis castle, the Glendalough monastery and Dunrobin Castle -- but honestly, we could do this trip again with all different tours and I'm sure they would be equally wonderful. The guides were great and the buses were comfortable. The weather was picture-perfect. We were braced for rain and wind and yet I used my rainjacket only once while we had some drizzle at Blarney Castle. (The lines were so long there that we opted not to go up to kiss the Blarney Stone, two hours to wait and even then no guarantee of getting to the top of the castle) so we walked around and got lovely pictures and shopped at the Woolen Mill -- a must-do if you're there. We had blue skies and lovely temperatures just about every day -- an incredible bit of luck in a summer which everyone told us was the worst for rain in over a hundred years.
Food on the ship was superb in the dining room. We had the 5:30 seating and that let us do other things in the evening and get to bed early for early rises the next day. Dining room staff were outstanding -- when you pay so much money for the trip it seems like a no-brainer to take advantage of the wonderful cuisine in the dining room. Yet, many people, for their own reasons, eat mostly in Horizon Court. We had breakfast there every morning -- and it was good -- but on a couple of occasions we tried supper there when our tours ended past our seating time in the dining room. The food was truly terrible -- like bad cafeteria food - overcooked, dried out, overly salty, and just inedible. I was so grateful to get back to the dining room! We tried the Crown Grill one night - $25 extra per person -- and it was okay but the portions are gigantic and they were not as tasty as in the dining room. I had, for example, the filet mignon in both places and the dining room version was far superior.
Disembarkation was easy and relaxed. We were told to put our bags outside our staterooms before supper on the last night and we did -- many people didn't until later and that was fine since the bags didn't get picked up until ten o'clock or so. In the morning we had breakfast, waited for our group to be called to disembark and picked up our bags onshore with no trouble. There were lots of trolleys and we were directed to our transfer bus. The trip to the airport took about an hour and a half and we were dropped off at the door.
Overall the trip was outstanding -- I would highly recommend it, especially at the prices currently available. The ship is getting a bit worn but all was in good shape. We heard people say that they had heard the ship would be refitted next year. This may be the answer to the mechanical problems others experienced before us. We were lucky -- but I think a lot of that luck (beyond the ridiculously great weather) had to do with an attempt to address problems. We really saw a change -- and our hearts went out to people who had paid so much money before us only to have such a miserable time. We may have benefited from their complaints.