Thanks to BVM49 for their comprehensive review of Fijian Jewels cruise which left Brisbane on 16th Feb. 2014. Please refer to their review as I am adding our experiences without repeating most of BVM49's review. Thanks again to BVM49 for organising the Roll Call for this cruise and particularly the Cabin Crawl, which I would recommend organising for all cruises. For those who don't know the Cabin Crawl allows Roll Call members to visit many types of cabins with the help of those passengers consenting to show their 'home away from home'.
We concur with nearly everything BVM49 wrote. This was an excellent cruise with at least half of it in smooth as seas. The Coral Sea was at times like a lake. The maximum swell we experienced was 3 metres. For those 'newbies' intending to cruise, I can thoroughly recommend a South Pacific cruise as this was our second such cruise, which also featured very smooth seas with minimal swells. I would caution 'newbies' about the cyclone season from November to March, but we never experienced a cyclone. Princess does take steps to reorganise the itinerary if a cyclone is threatening.
Princess organisation is excellent. The only complaint I heard more than once was the use of Tenders at Port Denarau. Apparently passengers were left too long in the tender in very humid conditions. In addition, there is not enough ventilation and mixed with the exhaust fumes in the tender, some passengers, (the demographic was quite senior in age), became distressed.
My only personal criticism was about entertainment. One of the few differences between the Sun class ships being the Dawn and Sun as well, is that on the Sea Princess, the Princess Theatre is only one level,therefore, I assume it holds less people. Anyhow, Princess have now introduced 'anytime entertainment', which means 3 shows per night in the Theatre and the Vista Lounge. We believe they have sacrificed quality for quantity. The shows with a couple of exceptions were not up to the standard of our previous cruises with Princess. I realise the main motivation for more and shorter shows was so less passengers miss out. But we believe the shows lose quality in reducing them to 30 minutes. We would rather see fewer shows of a higher quality. I have mentioned this on our Princess Feedback Form.
I must, however, commend the shows featuring the brilliant David Moore and Flamenco guitarist Ron Steta who was a jewel on the Fijian Jewels.
The food was excellent as was the service, particularly in the Dining Room with our head waiter Jo Jo and his assistant Remir. Hats off also to Edgar their superior. For those trying to avoid gaining weight, weight gain is probably inevitable. However, on my last 3 cruises, I have gained 1 kg, 0 kg, and 1.5 kg respectively. I have to be careful as I am a diabetic (type 2). By rationing your food choices, one can sample many of the food choices in small quantities. For diabetics, there are many healthy choices including many sugar free desserts which were delicious, plenty of fruit and healthy bread, many low GI options and vegetables. I also visited the excellent gym regularly. I would recommend extra fans in the gym, but Princess did introduce a refrigerated blower which assisted.
With respect to Princess shore excursions, I was of the opinion of BVM49 as value for money appears unfavourable. However, upon reflection and following a bad experience with our own organised tour, we believe paying the extra is worth it. We would recommend Princess tours as our experiences have been good and you know they are using reputable companies.
Beware of Port Vila. We were disappointed this time. The taxi/van drivers at the port are completely unregulated and they swarm around you shouting out differing prices. We found it most intimidating. We found a van driver, negotiated a fair price, only to be hassled for half the trip in an attempt to change the arrangement. We would strongly recommend a Princess tour in Port Vila, whose inhabitants are not nearly as friendly as the Fijians.
Fiji is beautiful as are the people. Port Denarau was an eye opener and a likely destination for a holiday. It is full of luxury resorts. We did a Princess tour of one of the islands. It was like a paradise Island, just like 'Gilligans Island'. We can thoroughly recommend the snorkeling adventure. Amazingly well organised!! We also enjoyed Suva. Market day was bustling and so colourful. People are so willing to help and given enough time, shopping is a plenty. This was my second visit to Fiji, the first in 1973 aboard the old Oriana. Fijian hospitality has not changed, brilliant.
Noumea was not quite as clean as on our previous visit. It is very picturesque and quite serene and worth a tour. Last time we did the 'Sites' tour which was excellent. Princess tours do give you many options varying in degrees of difficulty. We really appreciate the thought and planning that goes into these tours, particularly as some passengers have physical limitations like myself with the dodgy knees.
Well done Princess on another great cruise!