This was my first cruise and I chose Princess after a lot of research, specifically regarding facilities for disabled guests, as I have to use a wheelchair full time. My family party consisted of ages ranging between 11 and 73.
We travelled from Yorkshire, 250 miles to Southampton by private taxi on the morning of the cruise, arriving just in time for our specified check-in. There was a lot of traffic nearing Southampton and at the dock gates, as to be expected on a Saturday in July. Next time, if travelling down the same day, I would allow extra time (even though we had left quite early) just to be on the safe side of any unforeseen traffic hold ups and queues at the terminals.
As the taxi pulled into the QE2 Terminal and then parked, our luggage was immediately taken, in a very quick and efficient manner. However, you need to be prepared for a quick exit from your taxi, grab your hand luggage, and get across to the terminal building, as this is a very busy area and they need to keep the flow of taxis moving to prevent congestion.
We were then split up as a family group for check-in. Myself and one other family member were directed to accessible desk and asked if we required any assistance to board. A very quick check-in. Again, you need to have your passport and boarding card ready and be prepared to go through security quickly. Less hand luggage next time!
A photo was taken for each of our pass cards before boarding the ship. We were directed to our staterooms on Baja Deck 11. Our luggage was already waiting outside and our very pleasant Cabin Steward was there to greet us and explain the facilities. I was delighted with our accessible stateroom - B303. It was very spacious, with comfortable beds and plenty of room for manoeuvring the wheelchair in both bedroom and bathroom. My only complaint would be that the ramp to the balcony was too steep for me to get in and out on my own. An improvement on this would have made my cabin rating 5. The cabins were very clean and this was maintained daily to a good standard.
There was conflicting advice about the life-jacket and safety drill which was at 3.00 pm. I was told by our Cabin Steward that I, being in a wheelchair, could stay in my cabin and watch the drill on the T.V. ship channel. This wasn't the case, as when other crew members saw me in my cabin at 3.00 pm they said I must go to the Muster Station, so I had a frantic rush to get there in time.
As this was our first cruise we were all a bit bewildered on the first day, but pleasantly so, and we soon found our way around. The majority of the crew were incredibly helpful, polite and friendly. The dining service we experienced was excellent at all times. We chose "Anytime Dining" and found the flexibility it gave suited our plans. We did not have to wait for a table at any mealtimes. Dining staff were very attentive, friendly and efficient. We found the choice of food wide ranging and varied with pleasant and comfortable dining areas.
The ship's information service was good for the daily on board activities, as a newsletter was delivered every evening with the next day's itinerary. However, I found hardly any details were provided regarding excursions and port accessibility for wheelchair users. The staff at the Excursion Desk seemed unaware of what options were available and suitable. There were shuttle buses with ramps at the Port of Bergen, we just had to wait ten minutes longer for one. It would be a great improvement if information on the accessibility to Ports of Call for wheelchair users was readily available and more precise.
The entertainment we saw was enjoyable and varied. We missed some of the shows as we were still in the dining room when they started. Again, next time, I would plan to eat and finish in time to make for the shows we particularly want to see. Considering all that is included in the price, together with the high standard of service and efficiency, I would rate the value for money for this cruise very good. The cruise destination, the Norwegian Fjords,was a delightful and very memorable holiday for the whole family, which I would highly recommend. As this was my first cruise I have no experience with another company to compare with. I was generally very satisfied with Princess and have therefore booked with them again this year.