Emerald Princess Cruise Review by Esprit: A hot cruise in some cool places!
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A hot cruise in some cool places!
This was our 4th time on Emerald Princess but our first time cruising in the Baltic Sea.
Knowing the ship well we booked again a Caribe deck cabin as the balconies are just the best for the cabin category.
I’m not keen on Southampton embarkations and prefer to fly, but this cruise was so keenly priced for a 14 night cruise I wasn’t going to let it put me off. In fact the sailaway from Southampton was actually good with warm sunshine a first compared with previous August sailings.
Having sailed on Emerald when it was brand new in 2007 I did notice some tired areas but no real signs of neglect. One thing I did miss though was the disappearance of the golf driving range on deck 19.
We chose second sitting on a table of eight. This was ideal as it meant we could enjoy the late sunshine. It was odd to be dining with the sun still up at 10 pm. It also rose really early too which took some getting used to. The fact that we saw so much sunshine More was a pleasant surprise too. The weather was excellent with temperatures well into the 80’s most days hitting 90 in Stockholm. There were one or two rogue showers in Tallinn, St Petersburg and Zeebrugge but they didn’t last long.
As well as the ports just mentioned our itinerary also included Oslo, Guttenberg, Helsinki, and Copenhagen. All were worth visiting but the highlights for me were Stockholm and Copenhagen. Whilst many would claim St Petersburg was their highlight I thought it was over rated, but with our tour starting at 7 am and losing an hours sleep with the clocks going forward I perhaps wasn’t feeling in the best mood for sightseeing. However, getting up early for the sail into Stockholm was well worth the loss of sleep. Stunning scenery and still waters. If you miss the sail in I would recommend you eat in the evening in Horizon Court and see the islands pass by within spitting distance of the ship.
Having sailed with Celebrity a few times there is not much to separate the two brands. Their Solstice class ships are beautiful but I give Princess the edge for their variety of entertainment. They still have a full activities team unlike Celebrity now and Ryan the ubiquitous assistant CD was excellent (unlike the CD who you only ever saw introducing theatre acts and telling poor jobs). If you like Ballroom/Latin dancing there are far more opportunities on Princess compared with Celebrity. Our favourite venues for this being the Wheelhouse bar and Explorers lounge. The guest entertainers were just OK with the exception of David Copperfield who was quite poor (repeating his act I saw 5 years ago on IOTS). Once again MUTS did not disappoint and I watched 5 films whilst basking in the afternoon sunshine.
We didn’t try Sabatini’s or the Crown Grill as the food was pretty good mostly in the MDR. The Botticelli restaurant being the best of all the MDR’s. Food in the Horizon court however was just not hot enough for me so I had mostly burgers, pizzas and pub lunches on sea days in the Wheelhouse bar. For a dessert fix the International café is the place to go 24/7.
Having had a premium alcohol drinks package on a Celebrity cruise I decided against it this time, instead opting for the silver wine package. Well worth it as you simply paid the difference on any bottles costing more than $29. Generally the drinks prices seem fair. A draught pint of Stella was $7.76 (inc grat’s) and a Harvey Wallbanger was $10.06 (inc grat’s).
Overall, this cruise was really good, perhaps because we had great weather, and I would definitely recommend it. Stockholm is worth visiting time and time again despite being very expensive. Also expensive were the shuttle buses. Four times Princess provided port buses and charged $16 each for return tickets! Less
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