We last sailed on Emerald in January, in the Caribbean. This time - seven nights out of Southampton to the north-west tip of Spain.
The ship holds well over three thousand people and, as far as we could gather (Princess are cagy here) was fairly full. But it absorbs passengers like a sponge and you do not realise the numbers- apart from lifeboat drill. Main lounges could do with more lighting and less badgering from bar staff always eager to make another sale, but entertainments are good and varied and the production shows in the main theatre well worth another visit even if you have seen them on previous cruises.
Service - excellent. Nothing too much from the friendly staff.
We drove to Southampton and parked our car with (prebooked) CPS, very smooth. Boarding over three thousand people in three hours did cause queues, but once in your cabin you relax. We had a compact balcony cabin on Baja deck with an excellent steward.
Meals: most people breakfast in the buffer restaurant but it can be a scrum with tables full so on most mornings we went to a 'downstairs' restaurant with waiter service. Lunch - no idea, we deliberately missed it to leave room for afternoon tea. Dinners had plenty of choice but do remember they're cooking for thousands of people. IF you're still hungry at a time the ice cream place and pizza bar and hamburger stall are closed, the café on deck 5 is open 24 hours (but it charges for coffee. Boo hoo.)
Casino, art auctions, spa treatments - we spend our money on more cruises instead.
Ports. Corunna, means Santiago de Compostella, one of the mediaeval big three pilgrimage sites. The devout still walk the month long route over the mountains from France. T here's no way my titanium knee would withstand that. Instead, Princess bussed us there in three-quarters of an houjr in a Mercedes coach. (The other two sites are the Vatican in Rome and the Holy Land)
Bilbao = museum of contemporary arts. Once over the shock of finding there are virtually no paintings, the exhibits overwhelm. My knee loved all the titanium wall panels.
Bordaeux - actually a container port at the tip of the left hand side of the estuary, two hours by bus from the city which the energetic mayor has had turned into something really spectacular. We were there for three days on a river cruise a month earlier, so this time we stayed on the ship.
Guernsey, we tendered ashore to find it was liberation day (from Germany in 1945.) The island is very much sit down, switch off, and enjoy. We toured a well worth visiting manor house.
Disembarkation - organised and smooth. Wait for your 'colour' to be called, a few minutes more, short walk to the car park, and away. Fort Lauderdale please please try to copy.
Overall, this cruise struck us as a good one for people who have never cruised before. Not too long if they do find they don't like cruising, plenty to interest for those who do, a nice ship with excellent staff in a warm friendly informal atmosphere, and if you live in the UK - no airports. .