Having done a "Trip of A Lifetime" on the Dawn in 2011, we found ourselves hooked/addicted and this was our third long cruise on this ship. We all know it isn't the most modern ship in the fleet, nor the largest or smallest and therein lies its charm. With just under 2,000 passengers it is neither too large nor too small.
Going from Sydney to Venice and back via the Suez Canal, with many ports - particularly in the Med, was a great attraction, aided considerably by a reunion of our table of 10 from 2011!
We hooked into the Cruise Critic roll call early and it wasn't long before friends from cruises past were in too, and I cannot stress too highly that with a good 'leader', the Cruise Critic group (Dawn Nomads this time) added a lot to the trip, especially with runs of sea days. Princess acknowledged the group and were very supportive on board.
With the political unrest in Egypt a given, well before we left Sydney, it was no surprise whatever to find the Egyptian port calls cancelled. Needless to say, some passengers were somewhat upset by this, but from my perspective, I wasn't at all upset, as I am not too keen on 45 degrees in a desert anyway. History isn't my thing either and by the time we left the Med, many were stating that they were 'rubbled out' anyway.
The itinerary is for anyone to see and is self explanatory. Greece or more specifically, the Greek islands and our visits to Split, Koper and Dubrovnik are places we'd happily return to, whereas Lombok and Male we'd happily do without and even Naples city gets less attractive with each visit .
On board, we had a fantastic staff (as always) and even though we had seen the production shows before, we still went to most.
Many of the entertainers were new to us and apart from one so called comedian who totally bombed and another whose second show had several people walking out, most were pretty good. Star turns (for us) were David Copperfield (NOT the illusionist - Google the other one...), impressionist Danny McMaster, violinist Vov Dylan and a British ventriloquist Steve Hewlett. Illusionist Phil Cass managed to cut a tie in half and we still cannot work out how it got back together. One or two other entertainers need to update their acts as two years down the track and some entertainers we have now had 5 times, but are still telling the same jokes and playing the same pieces. Not good enough.
As always on the Dawn, the food was excellent, with the singular exception of the dining room vegetables.
Coffee was good and the friendly bar waiters superb. We have had better table waiters in the past bug the room steward was fantastic.
Entertainment staff were friendly and their last night cruise show doing their version of the Royal Princess dancing waters display was a knockout.
The only contentious part of the cruise was the Indian Visa saga. According to Princess, an India visa was mandatory, even if staying on board during the originally planned 6 hour visit. As we are on UK passports, we objected to the discrimination, being subjected to a $300NZ fee each, (up from $110 in 2011) when other nationalities pay $100. We refused to get a visa and signed a disclaimer when checking in just in case the rules changed and we would be put off at Salalah. Others paid out for a visa and didn't get off and were very miffed to find that about 100 people refused to get visas!
Lotus Spa prices are way off the scale in the massage area (at least three times our regular land prices) and although we did have one or two massages, we would have had many more had prices been more sensible.
As with any longer cruise, the passenger dynamics are important and with a mainly Australian and Kiwi contingent, there was a lot of good natured banter and humour - and no snobbishness.
We have booked two more Princess cruises as we are now at the top of their loyalty system, the free laundry and plenty of free internet minutes keeps our costs down.
If there was one major disappointment, it was not having Alan an Alana playing in the atrium at night for their fun quizzes and the dancing. The pianist/singer seemed to be playing for his own amusement and had zero following late at night, in sharp contrast to our previous cruises on the Dawn when we were up dancing and chatting until 11:30pm just about every night.
Disembarkation, we took a ships Sydney tour en route for the airport and this was probably the best coach sound system we had for the whole trip and a good guide too. A great way to get to the airport if your flight is after 3pm.
By contrast, the Columbo stop could have been better, had the tour guide not been on the payroll of a jewellery company and who got us back two and a half hours later than our schedule. After a written complaint to Princess, they eventually refunded 30% of our tour fee.
Overall, a great cruise and yes, we are booked on a long one next year...