Another wonderful cruise for our second Trans-Atlantic! This 15-day Trans-Atlantic paired six amazing European ports with nine relaxing sea days. Not surprisingly, the passengers were almost all Princess platinum or elite sailors - most everyone was standing in the priority check-in line! My fellow sailors were nearly all retirement age or older. This itinerary was quite popular - and the ship was nearly all booked.
What to know about the Emerald Princess: If you want to walk outside for exercise, the Promenade Deck straddles both Deck 7 and 8, making it tough. Instead, go to the track on Deck 18 - although you walk 16 times around for a mile!
Activities included port lectures by Carla (pretty awesome...) and first-run movies - my favorites. Lectures on the nautical and technical aspects of the ship were popular. Several arts and crafts were available but tended to conflict with port lectures. Trivia was held multiple times each day and vigilantly attended by its fans. There were presentations on finance and retirement planning which were very elementary.
New shows were presented each night, sometimes several. There was usually plenty of room in the Princess Theater, but space in the Explorers Lounge was limited. Our cabin (E214) was just above the Princess Theater so we could hear all three nightly shows whether we attended or not.
Booked an interior about nine months and crossed our fingers for an upgrade. No luck. Paid for our own upgrade to Oceanview a few weeks before sailing! The room had plenty of space and we could see well over the life boat - but it wasn't as plush as the mini-suite we paid for during our previous ocean crossing.
Cabin service was quite average. The room stayed clean, but nothing extra - not even a towel animal.
We opted for traditional dining at first seating (5:30 p.m.) with a table for six. Two of our tablemates never came to dinner, but we enjoyed nightly conversation the other couple. Our dining staff was amazing! Husband always had his Diet Coke ready and waiting. My dessert coffee was delivered without fail. Our waitress could tell if something needed a fix by watching our faces! Her boss, the head waiter, made routine rounds to each table, filling drinks, if needed.
The excursion desk was a bit lacking. There was always a line of people - only 2-3 staff members were available at a given time and desk hours were short (three in the morning and three in the afternoon.) Excursions were not always what the online description read and changes were not communicated.
Our excursion guides were informative and helpful. Fellow passengers who failed to return on time made us so frustrated. In Dublin, the guide had to drag people out of the shops after they were 25 minutes late - cutting short our own visiting time!!
Cohb, Ireland and our excursion to the Blarney Stone was the very best excursion of the trip. The scenery was beautiful, weather clear and the people were so welcoming. Our guide and bus driver were the very best - and ensured that we had the opportunity to kiss the Blarney Stone even when we were not scheduled to do so.
Disembarkation went smoothly because UK customs officials visited the ship on a sea day. However, it took more than an hour to leave the pier on our Princess-arranged bus.
Hotels: We stayed at Harbor Beach Inn in Fort Lauderdale. Next time, we will return to our favorite: Bahai Mar (Hilton Doubletree).
In London, we stayed at the Grange Tower Hotel (it is one of the Princess hotels but I made my own arrangements) and we were very pleased. It is within walking distance of the Tower Bridge and Tower of London. Nearby, there are so many restaurants (check our the one across the street) and shops (two grocery stores on the block.) The accommodations were quite luxurious.
Spent two days in London - used the Hop On Hop Off to see the sights. Buy tickets at any stop (we booked online and had to go to Trafalgar Square to get the voucher validated. Probably cost us more that way!) Took a cab to the airport - cost was a fixed 69 Pounds. One can get there via public transportation but we did not want to drag four suitcases.
It was well worth the money ($109 per person) to upgrade our eight-hour Heathrow to Washington DC-Dulles air fare from Economy to Economy Plus (more seat room, plus we reserved the row with only two seats. Fortunately, the plane was rather empty in that class and we were able to spread out!! The Dulles to Phoenix flight was full and the five hours onboard seemed longer than our trans-Atlantic!