My sister's & my first cruise on Princess was this past April to Hawaii on the Golden Princess and I crucified Princess on Cruise Critic. After that cruise I swore I would never sail Princess again but we had already booked another cruise with Princess on the Emerald Princess and would have cancelled it if it were not that we had already paid for the cruise and the air and we would have lost a lot of money if we were to cancel.
Well, I am glad we got a second chance with the Emerald Princess. Everything that was awful and wrong on the Golden Princess didn't exist or was improved and we had a wonderful time.
All of the theaters on Princess ships are too small to handle the crowd and on the Golden if you weren't in your seat an hour ahead of show time you were turned away. On Emerald the theater is still too small but they fixed the problem by having 3 shows per night instead of 2 and no one was turned away. On the Emerald they also added an extra Caribe Court to the buffet dining so there was more buffet area and more seating and people didn't have to stand in line to get into the buffet area which is also too small but it was a great improvement. The Production shows on the Emerald were excellent and we had 4 of them; the other entertainment was also very good and a big improvement over the Golden. The daily activities on the Golden were terrible and people were bored but on the Emerald we had 3 different very good lecturers and many other activities that appealed to the greater number of passengers rather than to just a few special interest groups. The food was also a great improvement. We had lobster twice and everything we had was excellent and cooked to perfection. We found the service on the Golden to be very good and the Emerald was also excellent.
While on board we took advantage of the future cruise offer where you can make a $100 deposit on any future cruise you decide on and you have 4 years to do it. The deposit is fully refundable and if you don't select a cruise after 4 years your deposit is fully refunded back to you. We haven't selected a cruise yet but we probably will within the time allotted but I will be careful which ship I choose and it won't be the Golden.
The Emerald Princess is a larger ship than the Golden but the Golden is not small. I don't know if that made any difference or not but I wouldn't think that it would. Anyway, I am glad to re-evaluate my opinion of Princess and if you sail on the Emerald Princess I think you will be very pleased.
We had to skip 2 of our scheduled ports; Kristiansand, Norway and Qaqortoq, Greenland due to really bad weather in the area but we had 2 unscheduled ports of Saint John's, Newfoundland and St. John, New Brunswick and we really enjoyed both. We were not disappointed at missing the ports as the Captain made the right decision for the ship and the passengers.
A note of warning for shore excursions for Reykjavik, Iceland and Saint John's, Newfoundland that we purchased from the ship. In Reykjavik we bought the Thingvellir National Park & Gllfoss Waterfall for $179. The main thing we wanted to see was the National Park where it is one of the only places in the world where you can see the American and European tectonic plates meet above ground. We were supposed to go there first but our guide took us in the opposite direction and we visited a geothermal plant first and by the time we reached the National Park it was 9:30PM and you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. Our tour of the city and The Pearl were also in total darkness. If you want to do this tour I would suggest you either go to www.toursbylocals.com and book a private tour or get a taxi and go straight to the park. We found out about these two options from other passengers after we returned from our tour. We did see the waterfall during daylight and it was spectacular.
Newfoundland is known for its heavy fog. Because this was an unscheduled port our shore excursions were not available until the day before we docked. We wanted to go on the Explore the First City tour which took you to Signal Hill where Marconi received the first wireless transatlantic signal and where you can see the ocean and the best place to see icebergs and to Cape Spear which is the most easterly point in North America. Two tours were offered but by 9:30AM the afternoon tour was sold out and we ended up booking the morning tour - big mistake. The fog was so thick you couldn't see a thing. Again, I suggest you either book the tour through tours by locals or get a taxi to take you in the afternoon. Several people we talked to did this and by afternoon it was crystal clear. Live and learn.