The night we arrived in Southampton we had met 6 other Cruise Critic members we had been "chatting" with for months, Meg and Grant, Ann and Brian and Janet and Richard. We were all staying at the Etap and with "would you be..." introductions we met for dinner, which was a great start to the whole adventure.
Mid morning we checked out of the hotel and had the receptionist call a cab for us. When it arrived it was a big van and as Janet and Richard's cab had not arrived, we shared it to the ship. We were early for check in but once it started we were through security, photographed and in our rooms in no time. Check in was very efficient.
Our stateroom seemed larger than on our last cruise on the Sun Princess so we were pleasantly surprised. Our room steward, Efrem, introduced himself as a newbie to the ship too! As our luggage had not arrived we headed off to the Venetian Dining Room for lunch. We had a lovely surprise when we arrived in the dining room. We found the Maitre de was Rui and Head Waiter was Benito. They had both been transferred from the Sun to the Dawn! We were very pleased about that. Both Rui and Benito had looked after us wonderfully well on our last 2 cruises. This cruise was to be no exception and Cha, our table waiter was exceptional. Marius, our ever present Head Waiter could not have been more helpful.
On returning to our room we found some letters waiting for us. One was confirming the Cruise Critic meeting we had requested through Princess prior to leaving Australia. There was also a message on the phone from Bianca in Guest Services. On returning her call I found she was also confirming the meeting and offering her services if we required anything else. Over the trip we found Bianca very helpful and efficient. My first encounter with her led me to believe she was a novice but she improved enormously over the 28 days. I cannot say the same for the front desk staff who I found less than helpful for the whole trip.
As I have said we were pleasantly surprised by the size of our cabin. This is the third time we have cruised on this class of ship and realise now that these ships have small cabins. After 3 longish cruises, 76, 48 and now 28 days we have adapted to cruising in confined spaces. On the Sun and the Dawn we have learnt to use more of the ship than we would have on previous cruises. Our room steward was a pleasant man and tried to please but we felt the toiletries and laundry bags were being rationed out to us. Other CC members did not have the same problem. The pillows were dreadful even though we had requested a foam pillow when we booked the cruise. We had to ask our steward for one. Whilst he did acquire one, it disappeared after a while and was replaced with two of the dreadful pillows in the one pillowslip. Not quite what we expected.
The public rooms on the ship varied in usefulness. The Atrium Bar we found very pleasant to sit, read, socialise and have a cappuccino. We rarely went to the shows as we found you needed to get into the theatre well before the show was due to start to get a seat. We did, however, really enjoy the port lectures and found them excellent. Debbie was very informative and was able to relate her knowledge and experiences at a level we understood. The Vista lounge is quite lovely and we enjoyed one show there. Movies Under the Stars has been a great addition to the entertainment on the ship. We were not the only ones singing along to Momma Mia! Yet again, the computer room and access need to be improved. The attendant was serving out his time and was of little help. I am not overly computer savvy but I found I could help fellow cruisers where he said he could not help them. There were also times when the network claimed to have too many users. If that is the case, does Princess need to upgrade?
The scenic cruising in Anzac Cove was a memorable experience. We rose early for the dawn service and there was not a dry eye on deck by the time we sang "Morning has Broken". We also went to the main service at 10.45 where ex-servicemen read and the choir sang. The Captain took the ship in as close to shore as he could and we managed to get some good photos. The Cruise Director, Sammi Conneen-Baker acted as MC at both services. Sammi was our Cruise Director for the Pacific World Cruise and it seems to us has now grown used to Australian and New Zealand cruisers. She is very good at her job and lovely.
Over the cruise we had a wonderful time. Our ship shore excursion in Barcelona was most enjoyable. That was the only shore excursion we did with the ship. We have found over the years that we prefer to tour with a smaller group. We had an excellent tour of Rome done by Rome in Limo and guided by Manuel. Our group of 8 thought it was a great day and that Manuel could not have been more helpful. Another excellent tour we did was with Memphis Tours in Port Said. We were part of a group of 16 who toured Cairo and Giza with Memphis Tours. Our tour was very professional and informative. This tour was in sharp contrast to the Memphis Tour the same group did from Safaga to Karnak and Luxor. We were very fortunate that the Captain, Graham Goodway, waited for our tour. Without consulting us, our tour driver dropped our guide and our English speaking driver home before leaving us with a non English speaking driver to take us back to the ship at least 40 minutes late. We all came to the conclusion that Memphis had subcontracted out this tour to inexperienced drivers and guide.
Disembarkation came too soon and it was sad to leave. There were a lot of us disembarking in Dubai. It was done as efficiently as always.
In summary, we had a good cruise. The food was good as was the service. We enjoyed the activities we chose to go to. We had great weather and good ports. We visited places we didn't think we would ever go to and we transited the Suez Canal! All in all another great cruise with Princess.