This could have been a wonderful cruise with an itinerary which was fantastic and met expectations. Unfortunately there were too many things wrong with the ship to be as perfect as it might have been.
First, the positives:-
Embarkation was wonderful. As Platinum members we were onboard and in our cabin within 20 minutes of arriving - very well organised and great that the cabin was available so early.
Afternoon tea was served every day and was excellent - as good as on any ship we have used. The food was lovely and it was excellently organised with staff constantly offering you a big variety of food and teas.
The staff were always helpful and friendly and, if you had an issue, genuinely concerned to put it right. For example, we were unwell with bad colds and had little appetite at some meals. The waiters were indefatigable in offering us things to tempt us and very kind in their whole approach. Every staff member in the corridors said hello and seemed pleased to see us and be working there.
One of the lecturers was superb - he was an astronomy professor from Belfast and was knowledgeable, witty and enthusiastic both in the lectures and when you encountered him on the ship. He was willing to give endless help and advice to people about the Northern Lights and astronomy generally.
The itinerary was superb - all the ports fabulous - interesting and picturesque. I would strongly recommend a visit to this area.
The food in the dining rooms was generally OK to good while not outstanding. It was usually served quickly and hot - in fact the service was nearly always excellent even when the staff were really overstretched.
The cabin was OK - lots of hanging space and all you needed. The bathroom was small, as was the shower, but it was adequate.
Now, the negatives:-
Stained sheets on our bed - we had to ask twice for these to be changed. Even a 2 star hotel would do better. It is not enough that they were changed on request - this should not happen. The bathrobes provided were shrunken so badly they were about a size 8. It took the cabin steward 3 attempts to provide a robe which even my slim husband could fasten!!! The very antithesis to luxury!!!!
Lines for everything. The ship was full and could not cope so we had to queue for everything - for almost every meal in the dining room, for tables in the buffet area, for the theatre, for disembarkation even when we were docked. To see a show or hear the lecturers you had to be 15 - 45 minutes in advance to get 2 seats together!!! The dining room was a particular problem at lunchtime and sometimes at breakfast - as the buffet area was so crowded and disorganized, more and more people used the dining room which just made the lines worse and worse!! I would recommend never to travel on this ship when it is full.
Poor condition of much of the ship - it needs refurbishment. Examples - the elevators were often out of service and slow, slow, slow - it became a standing joke among many passengers. The sun deck has carpet which are soaked nearly all the time because of leaking jacuzzis, I think. This meant you had to wear trainers or boots if you were standing there for any length of time e.g. at sail in or to see the Norther Lights, or get cold wet feet (the outside temperature was low much of the time!). Our shower cubicle was surrounded by mould. The carpets in corridors looked in need of a good clean.
The itinerary included the Shetland Isles and Faroe Isles but these were cancelled because of a storm. I understand the need for this - safety comes first. But the decision was made to stay a second day in Bergen where there is really only enough to do for one day or part of one day. Why didn't they visit one of the Fjords very near to Bergen (several to choose from) or at least another town in Norway? I think Bergen was the easy cheap option - no need to use fuel or go to any effort!! (Also, it seems that many tours offer these islands but don't manage to land there - why don't the cruise company warn this is likely?)
Expensive drinks and wine - we noted that at dinner hardly anyone drank anything but water - I assume that, like us, they didn't want to be ripped off by the high prices charged.
Horizon Court Buffet - disorganised and chaotic area. Very badly designed and executed. No-one we met had a good word to say for it. Nowhere to sit even out of normal eating hours.
Disembarkation was a disaster - we were 45 minutes late in disembarking because of long lines in the terminal (do Princess not know after all this time what New York is like for disembarkation???) Then our luggage, marked Pink 1, was stored among Yellow 8. When we couldn't find it, we were told to look round the huge area ourselves. Only when I protested forcefully, did anyone from Princess agree to help look!!! As a result, we were at least 90 minutes late through Immigration. Luckily, we had advised an earlier flight time than was accurate as we did not (with reason) trust Princess to get us to the airport in time