My wife and I have sailed with Princess Cruises 3 times before organising this cruise on Dawn Princess. Previously it was 2 Melbourne-Sydney, Sydney-Melbourne repositioning 2 nighters on the D.P. And a 2 week cruise on Crown Princess and the "Mediterranean Medley" in May 2013.
So, it was with much pleasure that we were able to take our daughter, her husband and their 3 children on this 6 night cruise from Melbourne down around Tasmania stopping at Burnie, Hobart and Port Arthur.
Due to budgetary constraints we were stuck with 3 inside cabins between us. Dawn has no family cabins, staterooms, mini-suites or suites that will accomodate more than 2 adults and 2 kids. Therefore we had to spread the family across a number of staterooms.
The rooms themselves are clean, but small. They all have the usual features such as TV, a bar fridge, shower/toilet. But as there is no natural light it's so easy to sleep in every day, and it's difficult to wake up.
Facilities throughout the ship are great. We had poor weather so the pools and spas weren't fully taken advantage of. But they were great when we did.
The people who run the Port Arthur venue are trying to encourage more cruise ships to visit there. That would be great for the place but they need to be able to accomodate 2,000 passengers who have to go ashore using the ships' tenders. If you have say, 1,000 pax who want to go ashore and the tenders only seat 100 people at a time, you're looking at a fair bit of time getting them ashore and back again, particularly if they only have 3 tenders doing the work.
The other constraint is that there is but one jetty and our tenders had to fight for berthing slots with a regular passenger ferry service. It took us over an hour waiting to board our tender to shore and similar time queueing up to return to the ship. As a result our time ashore was limited. And the last tender was due to leave PA at 4pm. It arrived at the ship just before 5pm.
So, note to Port Arthur authorities, regarding new jettys, build them and they will come. Note to Princess, run more tenders.
That was the only blight on the cruise, other than the weather.
Food-wise, you can pig out on carb laden foods as one Cruise Critic mentioned, or you can eat fresh salads, cold cuts and so on up in the Horizon Court buffet. Or you can dine at one of the two dining rooms where restaurant quality food is served.
My wife said that people were criticising cruise lines because they've stopped serving exotic foods such as lobster tails. Thing is, for what we paid, we got a week's worth of hotel service, free food, free entertainment, access to all facilities including the Pelican Club where our grandchildren were looked after by professional child carers during those times that the parents want to have some adult time together.
The music on offer was by a duo called "Domino Duo" which were OK but not for my tastes. A 5 piece band, "Epithani" (note the spelling, folks), played a wide range of music, stuff that we could dance to. I just wish that we had more of them, is all.
The in-cabin entertainment via the TV was OK, with plenty of channels to choose from showing movies, TV shows and the like. But we wish that they had Australia's version of Sky News or the ABC news network (it had mainly BBC and US sourced sports channels). As the DP is now based in Oz, we'd hope that it would have more Aussie content.
Refreshments - well, there was plenty of that. A wide range of beers was on hand including VB on tap for the Aussies that refuse to drink anything else. Personally, I loved the Euro beers. And for $5 for say, a Cascade Premium Light or a Carlton Cold stubby, it was good value. Grolsch came in a 500ml stubby and was $8. Still good value for a non-domestic beer. Heinekens were similarly priced to the Australian beers and is a much nicer drop.
If you're into the top shelf stuff, again, well priced and a good range.
One thing that could do with improvement is the operating hours of the Future Cruises office. Every day we went there to book another cruise there was a long line of people wanting to do the same thing. We gave up in the end, and will book online or through our travel agent.
As expected, the service levels from the staff was nothing but exceptional. These guys work their butts off and it shows. So, any gratuities that they got they definately earned, especially the Pelican Club people who did a fantastic job with the grandkids.
The only rudeness came from fellow passengers, particularly the older ones (yep, older than me, even) who seem to have this sense of entitlement that they're now "senior citizens" and therefore expect to be allowed to push in anywhere that they go. Some of the younger ones were like this, too. The politest pax were, ironically enough, the Gen Y'ers who were on the cruise with their parents that we encountered.
On the Crown Princess we had a lot of problems trying to get somewhere to sit to have our meals as the grannies on that tour tended to araldite themselves to their seats, get out the knitting or cards, thus forcing people with food getting cold to wander around looking for somewhere to sit, often outside on deck where it was cold. Same thing on this cruise. The staff need to encourage people to move on once they've eaten, I feel. Certainly, we never hung around once we ate. Too many other things to do or to go, than to sit up in the Horizon Court all day.
But, our goals for the cruise were achieved and that was for our daughter, her husband and most importantly, that the grandchildren to have an unforgettable time aboard a cruise ship. For them out of ten they scored it a fifteen...
Finally, I've read critiques from people that the Dawn Princess is "old", or "tired" and needs renovating, facelifting, upgrading or whatever. Me personally, I had no problems with this side of things. The ship was clean, comfortable, decor pleasant enough. From a technical perspective it handled the Bass Strait crossing easily. Anyone who'se sailed down the east coast of Australia and across Bass Strait know how rough these waters can get. At one point we had 2m swells and some chop. The DP handled it with ease. Me, I'd have to leave my 7m Haynes Hunter at home rather than cop those sorts of seas if I wanted to go off shore fishing or diving.
Now, as I type my wife is scouring the Princess website (and RCI) looking for our next cruise.