Sailing dates: Fri. Jan. 17 - Mon. Feb. 3, 2014 (15 days)
Travel company: Interline
Overall experience: Good
- Horizon Court brighter, nicer than past cruises (A.K.A.: Lido Deck Buffet)
- Warm cookies and milk served in the afternoon by attendants
- Abundance of deck chairs available on Sun Deck
- Wine tasting classes
- Shampoo & shower gel dispensers in stateroom bathroom shower
- Cruise directors Dave & Chris (hilarious duo!)
- Pub-style lunches at Crown Grill
- Cool face towels handed out upon arriving back on ship at ports of call
- All pools and hot tubs opened/closed on random days
- Promenade Deck (outdoor deck) closed for several consecutive days
- Weak hot tub jets, water not that hot
- Severe lack of 2-man tables @ Lido buffet
- The library
- Attendants during embarkation (check-in hall) were VERY controlling
- Paper towel dispensers in public washrooms
- Longer than average wait times for ALL elevators
To date, this was my 5th cruise altogether and my second time sailing with Princess Cruises. I will admit, the cruise itself was very relaxing and enjoyable. Unfortunately, the weather could have been much better for the second week of the cruise (VERY LITTLE sun and lots of high winds). Of course, as we all know, this is an aspect of the trip that the cruise line has no have control over. As a result, our stop in Honolulu was rainy and our following port of call, Lahaina, was cancelled (deep swells, too dangerous to be tendered in). As always, the crew members were very friendly and the food was excellent all around. As for the entertainment on board, the guest performers were excellent. I really enjoyed the stand up comedians, JeROME & Derrick Cameron, as well as the magician/comedian Jean Boucher. We also had a Hypnotist, who was very entertaining as well. The Princess Dancers were good, although I found some of their choreography in their shows slightly off-key (out of sync with each other). And unlike past cruises, finding a deck chair was never a problem when it came to sun bathing on the Sun Deck. The audio track during Movies Under The Stars at night was better than past Princess cruises.
The embarkation process at the port of Los Angeles (San Pedro) was long, but that was only due to the fact that we got there a little early. For some unknown reason, the embarkation attendants would not allow us to check in as a group (I was traveling with my Father, his Sister and Mother). We could only check in separately. Myself, along with my Dad at one counter, and my Aunt and Grandmother somewhere else. We got separated for a long time, due to the fact that my Grandmother uses a walker and required special assistance. I found certain attendants very pushy and rude at times. At one point, I got separated from my Father just after clearing security. I wanted to sit in the waiting area and by accident, I was making my way towards the "Wheelchair only waiting area" (which, as you may have guessed, was piss poorly indicated). Instead of acting professional and being kind, the attendant 'guarding' that area, barked at me to, "just stand over there..." pointing to a vending machine. The least she could have done was point me in the right direction to an area where I could sit down. I was extremely irate at this point and quickly loosing my patience. I understand this is a CONTROLLED process (with assigned groups being called). However, the system is flawed when you loose or forget your group number or letter and because we were separated, my Father was the one carrying our group number. At one point, my Father lost his wind breaker somewhere between the hotel we were staying at and the cruise terminal. However, there was one attendant who went to great lengths in helping us find the jacket, sadly to no avail. We thanked her for the trouble she went through.
The only one area of the ship that I found deplorable was The Internet Cafe & Library. Both shared the same area of the ship, which wasn't very big to begin with. To add insult to injury, there were VERY few books to choose from, practically NOWHRE to sit (just 3 chairs) and the area was constantly busy with people, making it hard to manoeuvre. Princess Cruises needs to address this issue in future ship designs (HINT: Take a page from Holland America Line, no pun intended). On the MS Eurodam by HAL, for example, the library had many, many places to sit and read (comfortable couches and several sofa chairs. They even had attendants periodically offering you something to drink. This library had none of that. On the upside, I did find a very interesting book, which I did manage to read elsewhere on the ship.
I liked the fact that Horizon Court was very well lit up and had a very clean look to it. I found the food at the Lido Buffet to be very good, as always. The pre-made sandwiches and pastas were the best The only downside to the Lido buffet were the seating arrangements. There was a significant lack of 2-man only tables. This was extremely irritating, considering that most of the tables were 4-man tables, and only 2 people would be occupying them during peak hours. Princess Cruises needs to address this: Get more 2-man tables! That way, your party of 3 or 4 can simply push the two tables together to make a 4-man table. Why not?
The size of the pools and the temperature of the waters were decent. I will admit, for several days at sea (especially heading to Hawaii), they were closed. When I inquired at the front desk why this was the case, the woman said it was due to "bad weather" (it was sunny that day, and I even mentioned that to her). I wasn't impressed with the answer she gave me. We were at sea that day and there was SOME movement to the ship, but I've had worse in the past (and yes, ALL pools were open during those past cruises).
As for the hot tubs, the water wasn't all that hot (at least for one of them at the Lotus Spa). Again, half the hot tubs on the ship would be open, the remaining ones would be closed (again, on random days at sea and at ports of call). The pressure in the jets were very weak. Only on a few days, you'd be lucky to see ALL hot tubs open and fully operational.
The restrooms were nicely designed. The pressure in ALL water faucets were not consistent with each other (the water would come out as a small trickle at half the faucets). The paper towel dispensers need to be improved. Most of the time, because your hands are still wet from washing them, the paper would shred as you attempted to pull the paper out (I blame the dispenser, and not the quality of the paper). As for the dispensers themselves, some of them were placed in bad locations (out of view and hard to see). And lastly, half the time I would be washing my hands, there was NO SOAP. The crew members tending to the soap dispensers need to be more vigilant.
Ports of call/Excursions
I liked the fact that Princess Cruises now offers cold face towels upon re-boarding the ship after visiting a port of call. I will admit, the face towel was a bit dry, but this is still a nice feature to have. This feature was non existent on the last Princess Cruise I was on.
My Father and I went on an excursion in Hilo (Pana'ewa Rainforest/Akaka Falls and the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory). It was very well done! Our tour guide, Nicole, didn't speak too fast and her knowledge of Hawaii was very extensive (she even gave us a quiz at the end - only as a joke). She was very friendly! The only downside was the Macadamia Nut factory itself was closed (we were there on a Saturday, and they were usually closed on weekends). But we did get to see inside the factory through the windows, and the visitor centre was open (to buy gifts and receive free samples). Keep this in mind when booking your excursions.
Like past cruises, the wait times for the elevators were long. On this particular cruise, the wait times felt even longer (sometimes up to 3-4 minutes, no joke). As an extra annoyance, at each bank of elevators, there was ALWAYS one elevator that was out of service. I had zero patience for this non-sense and took the stairs 95% of the time. After all, I got to where I was going faster and I got plenty of exercise out it. The other 5% of the time, I took the elevator, but this was only due to the fact that I was with my Grandmother who, as I mentioned earlier, uses a walker to get around.
Pub Style Lunch
I love the Fish 'n Chips at the Crown Grill! Also, to my grand surprise, there was a wide variety of beers to choose from (Heinekin, Bottingtons, Bass, Guinness just to name a few). There was a long wait time to be seated during the first pub lunch and the service was slow (especially ordering beers, since they had to be shuttled in from another bar elsewhere on the ship). However, the following 2 pub lunches I went to was much better. I got a table right away and was served almost immediately (I got my order in a matter of no time). I can't understand why the cruise industry insists on using the old school Heinz Ketchup glass bottles (I HATE THOES THINGS!!). During the first pub lunch when I used one, no ketchup came out at all. This was the only downside. Tip: If you get the Fish 'n Chips, get extra tartar sauce, if you like that stuff (the one they give you is small and simply not enough). The desserts were also very good.
Advice to those going:
- The weather out on the Pacific Ocean at any given time of year can be very unpredictable (as I mentioned before, we were very un-lucky with the weather)
- To all the smokers: Even though the smoking laws on board the ship have gotten more strict, just look out for the groups of smokers, all huddled together (usually this was on the Sun Deck, mid ship next to the bar, opposite the "Movies Under The Stars" screen). Smoking is also permitted in Shooters Bar and the Casino. The Casino had "non-smoking" days, in consideration for the other passengers.
- Don't bother getting an Internet package. The connection is excessively slow and the rates are over-priced. I never used the Internet on board (this is what I heard from others who have used Internet on board). Save your surfing needs for the free Wi-Fi hotspots off the ship at the ports of call, where available.
- The retractable roof over the second pool was ALWAYS closed. Don't ever expect it to be open (it's meant to be an indoor pool)
- If you drink a lot of wine at dinner (like we did) or drink soft drinks, get a program card at the beginning of the trip. You'll save some money. You're also allowed to bring a bottle of wine with you upon embarkation.