I have been on a number of cruises and I was interested to try Princess Cruises so my mother and I and four friends took a 13 day Dawn Princess cruise from Melbourne on 29 March 2014. It called at number of New Zealand ports (plus a day in Fiordland) and returned to Melbourne.
Embarkation was easy taking about half an hour. I have always booked an inside room, as I get seasick and would rather not look at the ocean, however we booked a balcony room for the experience. The balcony room we had was comfortable, however was quite small compared to the inside rooms, maybe the extra room was taken up by the balcony. It was a nice experience having the balcony going into and leaving the ports and the day in the Fiordland. During the sea days it was too windy and cold to sit outside. On a cruise to the islands where the weather is warmer it would be a very nice experience. However I can't seem to justify the price of a balcony cabin when you can sit up on the deck and only sleep in it.
The weather in this part of the world is changeable, and there were two days suitable for sun-baking. In all the weather was very good, compared to other reports on cruises in this region. Of course as we headed south the weather was cooler with a few rainy patches. The sea was quite calm and just a tiny bit rocky at night.
The ship itself was clean and well-maintained, however really needed a good upgrade. . Most people were Australian in the 'senior' age category and as it wasn't school holidays, so there weren't many children. Our cabin steward was lovely and we always had a laugh.
The service in the dining room and the food aboard you couldn’t fault and our head waiter Ongard was lovely however, we went to the dining room at breakfast and the Horizon Court at lunch time and there was some grumpy and uncooperative waiters.
I found some of the elderly people quite rude, thinking that because they are old they can be demanding and don't have to wait their turn. As there was an outbreak of norovirus on the ship and the Horizon Court was quite busy with the waitstaff having to serve everybody rather than self service which took twice as long with queues, particularly at breakfast and lunchtime. Some people just sat there after they had eaten staring at the view, rather than offering people with plates of food somewhere to sit.
The Princess Theatre entertainment was geared around the older passengers, music from the 40/50's era and some 60's music. When is someone going to add some music from the 70/80/90's era. I am 59 and enjoy music a bit more modern. I went to the Jammers nightclub because they had a Michael Jackson tribute; there were only 6 people in the night club. I must admit the band on the pool deck were quite good and played some modern music.
The sea days were a bit boring as you couldnt swim the pool as it was too cold, and the heated spa pools were always overcrowded. If you have cruised before there is the usual vegetable carving, bingo, trivia etc. Maybe the event people can up with some new ideas. Zumba, linedancing and the movies were very good.
We only took one of the organised excursions, but at each port there were plenty of private tours to take at a fraction of the cost. I loved all the ports we visited, particularly Akaroa which was a quaint little town.
Overall, I wouldn’t cruise with Princess again, much prefer 'Royal Caribbean'. I think it was a shame so many got sick and were confined to their cabins for 3 days, with no compensation.