The Cruise last year, to New Zealand, was very good in nearly all aspects. The boarding process was smooth with a warm welcome from Brisbane shoreside and onboard. The weather was near perfect, except for Milford Sound, which was a little difficult to navigate and caused a slight delay. However, generally speaking the Cruise, the Crew and the Ports were excellent. Princess however is falling behind the past and more recent competition. I have been cruising now for more than 35 years, mainly with P&O and over the past 7 years with Princess. Like all Princess ships cruising Australian waters, (on a regular basis), The Sun Princess is showing her age, both with the fixtures and fittings and also with the various facilities onboard. The guest entertainment has dropped in standard and is generally not of great value. The inhouse entertainers do a very good job and should be applauded, their show is normally the pick. With my wife and I being in the over 60's Brigade, we find the pace onboard to our liking. The Cruise Director and Staff normally have been able to keep us entertained during the days at sea and I have even found a liking for bingo and Trivia. The food and service has always been of a high standard, however, I believe more could be done in the way of speciality Restaurants with the Sterling Grill becoming a little boring after so many visits. The competition Cruise Lines have many more options available and Princess needs to catch up. The Sea, Sun and Dawn Princess are all showing their age and it is a disgrace that we in Australia seem to be given the recycled ships from the Northern Hemisphere. Each is now more than 13 years old. Although my wife and I are regulars with Princess, it is only due to our frequent cruiser Profile that keeps us coming back. If things do not improve very soon we will be looking further afield. On our cruises, we mainly take an interior cabin as we only sleep, shower and dress in a cabin., ergo we save money and are able to cruise more often. When we step outside the door, all the facilities are available and we can spend our money on other things.
Our cabin on this cruise was R321, Riviera Deck Fwd. It is a small cabin with little space left over. What is in the cabin is all we need and have always survived in some comfort. Hanging space is o.k., under the bed space helps and we manage with the bathroom facilities. Postion was excellent with us walking out our door and virtually onto the pool deck and Bar. Bearing in mind this room/section is under the Buffet/Kitchen area and there is on occasion some cleaning noise at night. Having said that, we have booked our next cruise in the same area. We dined in the Main Dining Room mainly, for both Lunch and Dinner on a table of 8. The service was 1st Class and I didn't have one complaint in that area during the length of the cruise. Ships shore excursions are very expensive compared to booking various itineraries via the internet. In saying that, you do not have the surety of getting back onboard if something goes wrong and you are running late. I say, "weight up the pros and cons and make a call." We haven't missed a departure, yet. In closing, we still cruise with Princess, for how long will depend on their attitude towards the Australian public and what ships we are dealt in the future. As I said earlier, there are many options available and loyalty only goes so far.
IN Auckland, as in all the NZ Ports the welcome was warm, friendly and there were many people shoreside to assit with any questions about the City. One experience that I will suggest is the "Hop On, Hop Off Bus." It is located close to the ship and is very reasonable priced. It will take you to many of the sites and attractions around the City and as the name suggestes, if you like something, hop off and catch it next time round. It circulates at a very acceptable pace and timing.
Loveley Art Deco style township. Pleasant coach trip from the ship to the Town and return. Virtually destroyed by an Earthquake in the "30's, it was mainly rebuilt in the period style and maintains that feel and "quirkyness" to this day. There are many quaint shops, with friendly and happy staff to asssit in the purchase of worhtwhile memorabilia of the Town and the period. After our tour of the Town we caught a Cab to the Mission Winery for Lunch. This was a very pleasant experience and the meal was superb. Wines are available for tasting and sale and should be bought, taken back on board and enjoyed. There are also restored vehicles from the period, driven by locals dressed in costume that are available for trips. All in all, a very interesting Port with many various oportunities.