We returned to cruising the Pacific after about 5 years, to go with relatives who were first time cruisers, one of whom required a wheelchair most of the time.
Brisbane is our home port so it was great not to have to fly to catch the ship.
Embarkation was speedy because of the assistance offered to people with a disability and the balcony cabins that we had were very suitable, with plenty of hanging space and hangers. Bags fitted under the beds. Generally the crew were welcoming and helpful.
We have been on both the Sun and Dawn Princesses for long cruises in the past and really love these ships. Decor-wise they are perhaps a little bit tired but their simplistic design and clean lines make it very easy to get around. The walking track is the lovely wide Promenade deck where you can walk right around. As you pass the stern, you can look over, see the wash at close range and feel the huge power of the engines. It's great too that you can look directly into the sea from balcony cabins to see flying fish, dolphins etc. Balcony cabins do not overlook others and are not overlooked....very private.
However the life boat-drill left a lot to be desired. Both I and my sister-in-law were separated from our husbands and each other because of crowd pressure resulting from poor organisation...not the situation to be in in a real emergency. I have 22 cruises and this has never happened before. My brother-in-law was very concerned about his frail wife and had difficulty finding her afterwards as neither of them knew their way around. We could not understand why Princess would allocate many more passengers to a station than the room (BAR)could hold, and then have the guy in charge of that room tell those standing to go into another area (the theatre)leaving it to them to pass the message on to all those milling uncertainly outside..where were crew members? There was one crew member (only) at each side of the theatre entrance with a device to read cruise cards, creating a huge bottle neck. It scared me that they indicated the reading of cards was part of a real emergency...the ship wouldn't want to be sinking too fast! I realise they have to know where people are, but they have never done this in the past.
Not a good start. However all memory of that faded and we were really blessed with the weather during this cruise....bright sunshine, a calm ocean and reasonable temperatures.
Port lectures are provided by the Captain's wife and she has lots of information about what to see and how to get there. It was refreshing that it wasn't just a hard sell on their tours.
The ports were ok, but Noumea and Suva get a bit boring after a few visits. In both, we didn't take the ship's trips but found we could purchase reasonable tours onshore for a couple of hours for $10 to $20pp in a bus, to see the city sites. They would take the wheel chair also. The Isle of Pines is beautiful and we had a great day there lazing around in the clear water. We were able to take the chair on the tender as my sister-in -law could walk on. In Port Denaru we paid $7.00 each to get in the open air Bulla Bus which provides a hop on/hop off service past about 7 resorts near the Port. There are plenty of these buses. The resorts do not seem to mind 'ship people' swimming in their beaches or apparently in their pools. If you go through a hotel you get to the sandy beach area where you can walk along past other hotels. We found a large Bar area and al fresco restaurant at the Sheraton on the beach and we were welcomed by staff. It was a surprise to see how many of the bathers had the Princess blue and white towels! The sea there was low surf, rather warm, and not particularly nice, but the atmosphere was very relaxing and we really enjoyed our time there. At Vila, the stalls are now out of the port area and along the road which made it a bit difficult with the chair because of the number of taxis!
On this cruise the food was absolutely excellent. They had changed their executive chef since our previous cruise to Asia in 2011 when the food was very ordinary. But wow..it was sooo good this time, particularly in the main restaurants. The formal night bubbly was better too. Restaurant waiters were very friendly and helpful, always meeting us at the door to wheel the chair. Being at elite level in the loyalty program, my husband and I were invited to the Captain's lunch where the food and wine were outstanding.
The entertainment was ok too and we saw a few shows including that by the ship's classical group who were very good.
Minor gripe....as it was in the school holiday, there were many children on board. A few of them aged about 7 to 10 were regularly playing in the lifts, causing delays. Parent's responsibility or the cruise line's? Would avoid these times again. No chance to get on the tennis court for us which was disappointing... the kids took over with basketballs and tennis wasn't scheduled. We mentioned this but nothing changed. The ship was very full and I think the crew were stretched, but they did well generally.
Happily the cruise was a great success. Our relatives had a wonderful time and plan to cruise again.