This was my first cruise on one of the smaller Princess ships. I've been on all the other sizes, the Dawn, Sea, Coral, Island, Golden, Grand, Emerald, and Diamond.
I flew from SFO to Heathrow (London) on Virgin Atlantic and it was a great flight, on time and good food. I got my air through Princess so I let them deal with any flight problems if there are any. I took the Princess transfer to Dover and arrived at the ship at around 3:00pm. Getting on the ship was a breeze! Since there are only 675 passengers on the ship I felt like I was the only one there getting on the ship. The staff at the port were great, very friendly helpful.
The Tahitian Princess is one of 3 of Princesses small ships and it is completely different from any of the bigger ships. It has what the industry calls the "small ship feel" which is completely different from any other Princess ship I have been on. For most of the 18 days on board the ship it felt like there were only 50 other passengers total. There were almost no lines to anything, it was very calm and quiet almost anywhere you went on the ship and it takes almost no time to get anywhere on the ship.
Since they bought it from Radisson the dEcor throughout the ship is a lot more like a small upscale hotel with dark rose wood paneling, wrought iron and brass railings, crown molding and everything is noticeably smaller. The ceiling heights are lower, giving the ship a much more intimate feeling. Most everything was clean and shiny. I had an inside cabin on the 7th floor and it was clean and well maintained and the cabin steward was great. The public rooms are great and the ship is extremely easy to navigate and it only takes a minute or two to get anywhere on the ship. Since this is a much smaller ship there is no giant theater to watch the usual nightly shows in. What they have is a lounge called the Cabaret Lounge in the front of the ship. It has both a stage and dance floor. The stage is rather small with enough room for the band with a little left over. So for the nightly entertainment the various performers would spill out onto the dance floor and give us an up close and personal show. The production shows felt quiet different since they were out on the floor right in front of you dancing away. Again the ceiling height is low which adds to the sense of intimacy. The entertainment was great with one exception and that was the hypnotist. I've seen this sort of act on another Princess cruise and I think they are terrible. The production shows were the usual variety; we also had some great singers, comedians, a piano player and a great violin player. I used the internet cafe almost everyday and at times I had to wait for a terminal, since there were a few days where we didn't have a satellite signal when the internet came back up everyone wanted to use it.
The ship is going into dry-dock in November and the name will be changed to the Ocean Princess since it no longer is just sailing around the South Pacific. It's itinerary is all over the world, so if your up for an adventure this is the ship for you.
Since I have food allergies I eat both breakfast and lunch at the Panorama Buffet everyday. For breakfast I usually have fruit and hot cereal of which there is always an abundant supply of fruit, my favorite being the papaya of which you may have to ask for, sometimes they had it out, sometimes not. For lunch I made a huge salad of which there was always a great selection of veggies to choose from. I like to put cranberry sauce on my salad and the Panorama Buffet staff always made sure I had some everyday. One thing I have found on cruise ships is that you can ask for almost any food item and the staff will get it for you, they almost never say no! One of the great things about this style princess ship is that the Panaram Buffet is in the back of the ship with plenty of inside seating as well as on the back you can sit outside on the deck overlooking the the ocean while eating. As long as it wasn't raining or too cold I ate out there for every breakfast, lunch and snack for the whole cruise, it's wonderful and scenic. For dinner I had the second seating in the main restaurant. This way I don't have to rush to dinner and have the same waiter and table mates each night. All the dinners were great every night. I order a special salad, sautEed vegetables and a yam for each night, while choosing between the various fish, lamb and chicken items. For dessert I either had a bowl of berries, or they made me an Apple Tart Tatin. Like I said if you ask they will make it for you. The head waiter was exceptional and since there were less people on the ship the service was always fast and efficient.
I found the staff to be very helpful, it seemed every time I turned around there was someone with a name badge asking if they could get me something. Everyone from the Passenger Services Desk to the Deck Crew was willing to go the extra mile to help. My cabin steward had my cabin clean and well stocked all the time and she was always around most every time I was going to or leaving my cabin. The crew seems a lot happier, calmer and more personable than on the bigger ships.
Lotus Spa and Gym
I hit the gym almost every afternoon - I lift weights rather than do cardio so there were no real problems waiting for the machines. The equipment was enough for me to do maintenance workouts. I was there at 4-5pm and there was never any waiting for equipment. Everything was clean and worked! The locker rooms are very well done and they include a steam room. The one thing I miss on this small ship is the wrap around Promenade deck where you can walk 3 times around and it's a mile. On this ship the walking track was up on the 10th floor and it took 16 times around to get in a mile.
Excursions and Ports
I booked tours through Princess for peace of mind regarding schedules and getting back to the ship on time. If it's a Princess tour, they'll wait for you if it's late getting back to the ship. We were always right on schedule, arriving spot on time at every port. We tendered a few ports and it was a breeze, no waiting in line. We were given assembly times for our pre-booked tours and they were orderly and we got off the ship without too much delay. All in all the process was organized and smooth. We had mostly sunny weather at each port which was great!
Since this was an 18 day cruise we had a number of great ports all in Norway except one in Russia. They were as follows;
Stavanger which was sunny and beautiful, a great city to walk and enjoy the sights.
Flaam which has a great sail in thought the Fjord, the weather was great, I rented a bike from the local tourist bureau and rode up the valley following the train, lot's of great waterfalls, rivers, beautiful houses and the bike was a great way to get around.
Tromso also has a great sail in through the Fjord, the weather started out cloudy and then cleared in the afternoon. I walk over the main bridge and rode up the cable car which gives you a fantastic view of the entire area. The sail out was amazing, sunny and warm.
Magdalennfjord (scenic viewing) is on the island of Spitzbergen which is 600 miles south of the North Pole! I must have seen at least 15 huge glaciers, absolutely amazing.
Ny Alesund is a small international research town complete with Polar Bears and arctic fox (we didn't see any wild life except for a reindeer, although they do have signs warning you of the Polar Bear danger). Since this is such a small place there were no excursions, everyone just walked around the small community. There was a museum, a post office and a souvenir shop. The weather was a bit of everything, some snow flurries, some sun and some low clouds, the temperature was around 35 degrees. You really felt like you were out in the middle of nowhere!
Honningsvag is a small fishing village at the top of Norway. One of the most striking thing about the area is that there are no trees anywhere because during the winter there is no sun so the trees can't grow there. I went on a Bird Safari which was great. We boarded a boat and went out amongst the small islands in the area where thousands of birds call home. It was a great narrated tour, it was as if we were in an open air zoo with an amazing amount of nesting, flying, swimming birds.
Murmansk (Russia) The best part of this port was the sail in, we passed a number of Russian naval ships, submarines, an aircraft carrier and some nuclear powered ice breakers. The Russians like to feel important so they make the immigration process a big deal. First we had to hand in our passports, then retrieve them when we were getting off the ship and have an immigration official look at our passport and then look at us to see if pour pictures matched, then when we returned to the ship they would look at our picture again and look at us to see if we matched. Fortunaltly the officials doing the looking were attractive women so I didn't mind at all (of course I'm single so I enjoyed smiling at the women in charge and one of them smiled back, the other kept her frown going the whole time). The city itself is a typical gray depressing Russian city. Most of the buildings were built in the 50's and 60's when communism ruled. The tour guide said most of the huge apartment buildings were temporary and would be replaced in 20 years. Now it's 40 to 50 years later and the buildings are falling apart. It was like we were in a time warp from the 60's.
Gravdal is a beautiful area. I took an excursion that took us to a few of the other islands and various fishing villages. This place had some of the most beautiful scenery of the whole cruise. One of our stops was voted the most beautiful place in the world by Newsweek magazine, it was amazing.
Trondheim has a great sail in and the city is easily walkable and beautiful as well. I walked around the city with another couple enjoying the typical Norwegian buildings and colors. There is a great church that you can climb up a zillion stairs and get to the base of the steeple for some great views of the entire city. The weather was great, sunny and warm!
Geiranger has the best sail in of all. We had completely clear skies and warm temps the whole day. On the sail in the captain slowed the ship and we enjoyed at least 100 magnificent waterfalls because of the late thaw the area was having. At the 7 sisters waterfall the captain spun the shin around so everyone had a great view no matter where you were on the ship. The town was great, lot's of people enjoying the great weather. I found my way up to the Fjord center and asked an employee there about hiking up the hill for a better view of the area. I'd seen on the internet some amazing photos of people at the top of the Fjord looking down at the water. I was directed to a great trail right off the road and up I went finally getting to an over look that was breathtaking. Again the weather was warm and sunny, picture perfect! The sail out was great as well.
Bergen was warm and cloudy most of the day. It's a great city to walk and take in the sights. The fish market is great with lot's going on and some great food to be had as well. Since it was a Sunday there was a lot of live music going on in the main pedestrian walkway.
On the mornings of disembarkation I usually get up eat breakfast and find a nice lounge chair either on top deck if it's nice or down on the promenade deck and wait there for my time disembark. Princesses new disembarkation procedure works beautifully. I was off the ship and on my way back to Heathrow in about 5 minutes. Of course it helps when there are only one forth the amount of passengers getting off the ship.
As with all other Princess cruises that I have been on, this one was equally enjoyable, you know what you're going to get on a Princess cruise. The staff is always helpful and friendly, the ships are always clean and nice, the food is always great, the atmosphere is always casual and relaxed, the entertainment is always professional and varied, everything is usually always on time and the price is always competitive. I always feel well taken care of on a Princess cruise. I'm already planning my next few cruises (South Pacific in September on the Star Princess and the Caribbean on the Grand Princess in January) and yes I will definitely cruise with Princess again.