Overall we thoroughly enjoyed this voyage, especially as we had old friends from the USA who joined us on board to help celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary..
Comments; Itinerary was very good and visited all the islands one would expect. We were very impressed with the way Capt.Todd McBain handled the vessel and some very close-in cruise-bys were very good.
Embarkation and Disembarkation; at Wharf 8 in Sydney and easily handled ; we did have priority being Platinum members but certainly very easy and straightforward.
Accommodation; our cabin A 312 was fine and could not have wished for better. Cabin steward Saki from Thailand was very good, always there, always pleasant and friendly and never a problem with timing of cleaning etc. We did feel that although the ship had ostensibly been "refurbished " in 2009 the cabin furnishings were looking quite tired and could have done with replacing. The "refurbishing " seemed to consist, as far as we could see, of fitting the "Movies under the Stars " screen which was quite obtrusive and tended to put us off using the sun decks because of the noise; the "Sanctuary " was the other "new " area and to us was a total waste of money, especially as extra payment was needed to use its limited facilities.
Dining ; was entirely adequate; we had opted for the first seating but on finding it was at 5.30 we changed to second seating at 7.45 and found this fitted our requirements perfectly. Food standard was adequate without being exceptional, and dining room service ( table 74 ) was good for the first half until a crew change in Honolulu when it took a noticeable dive. Alternative venues were fine, Horizon Court for breakfast and lunch had the usual choices with " theme "lunches on about every second or third day. Pizzeria was good and we had a good couple of evenings there. Sterling Steak house we used once and it is a pity it is not a dedicated area, but for what it is ( a curtained off part of Horizon Court ) was not too bad. Service was good. Arrangements for our "Anniversary" went awry, but having said that, the Maitre D' did go out of his way to make it up to us on David's birthday later in the voyage which was much appreciated.
Entertainment was generally good; the "production" shows were fine, although a couple re-cycled from Sun Princess Round Australia last year,;we did appreciate the way the show times had been tuned to be user friendly after Sun Princess last year which was a shambles; the idea of having the Theatre shows 2 nights running at 8 and 10 and the Vista also 2 nights running at 7.45 and 9.45 fitted in well with most people's expectations. Other entertainers varied from excellent to barely average but overall not too bad. Cruise director Gavin Chandler was excellent, always willing to have a chat as were his staff, a good job well done. Trivia is one of our particular interests and timing was generally good although in the latter part of the voyage the times were tinkered around with to accommodate extra Bingo, the money maker ! One gripe we had was that the printed answer sheets kept running out, surely easy to print, especially when so much paper is wasted on promoting the Spa ,Casino and Photo Gallery.
In-cabin entertainment was all over the show for the first week with no relation to the TV Guide times shown in the printed booklet. After complaining this more or less came right but surely is an easy enough thing to get right. The programme content in the Australia section was abominable ,surely the Love Boat, Gavin Mcleod, Norman Gunston,and Andrew Denton have seen far better days and can be replaced by something worthwhile ?? Film selection was generally very good.
Captain's parties were sparse to say the least and we felt that Captain's Circle members were short changed if they left in Honolulu as it was not till after that port that one was arranged.
Port visits were generally good; we took ships shore excursions at Vavau, Rarotonga, Moorea, Kona ,Pago Pago and Suva and made our own arrangements at others. Vavau was nice although our tour guides were a bit short on information as to where we were; however, when the they found out that one of our reasons for wanting to visit Tonga was to see where my wife's father was stationed in WW2 they went out of their way to take us to the area on Vavau where they were largely based, so that was much appreciated . Unfortunately we missed out on Rarotonga due to anchorage problems which were quite understandable. We did a very good and close "drive-by "instead which was as good as it got. Moorea was another nice tour , a bit rushed early on but overall good. Kona we enjoyed and found it a very good tour. The tour on Pago Pago was very nice although marred by the fact that our "guide" on our bus never spoke and had no idea where we were; in fact after the 3rd stop he disappeared and was never seen again We took this up with the tours office and it was resolved satisfactorily, but a pity at the time as Pago Pago was much nicer than we had expected. In Suva we took the day trip out to Pearl resort and enjoyed that very much. We were very pleased with the " drive -bys" at Christmas Island and Tin Can Island, which were actually very interesting and thanks to Capt McBain very close viewing. Our thanks to the tender crews who did an excellent job in helping passengers on and off, at the several tender ports ; there was never a thought of any unsafe possibilities. One comment; please have a good look at the Port Info Sheets put out before each port; they are full of dis-information, loaded with poorly produced and irrelevant photos and the maps are absolutely useless; can do a lot better !
Other Ports; as noted we did our own thing at most places Nukualofa we arranged our own tour in advance, unfortunately it was one wet day on the whole trip and while we did not see it at its best we were not really impressed by Tonga as a destination. Papeete was as expected as was Bora Bora and we enjoyed our time there. Hilo we did our own thing and spent most of our time at the excellent shopping centre available by free shuttle bus. Lahaina ( Maui )was the archetypal Hawaiian town and a very pleasant place to wander around. Honolulu was , as always , Honolulu and we took the bus along to Waikiki to renew old memories and then spent the rest of the time shopping. Always a pleasant place to visit ; unfortunately the ship was berthed at Pier 2 which is not the handiest of places as "Carnival Spirit " was at the Aloha Tower but this not did detract from our day. Apia we had hired a car in advance and visited the South Shore to see how the re-building was going on post-tsunami; a very pleasant day; we have never seen so many taxis at the wharf, in fact it made finding our rental very difficult ! Port Denarau we found interesting as our families had visited there late last year, so we just took the free shuttle around and looked at the resorts etc. Overall there were adequate facilities at virtually every port for setting up private tours if you wished, at reasonable prices .
Front Office( Pursers) ,Future Cruise consultant, Tours office and Captains Circle rep were all very pleasant and very helpful. We hope that these comments will be helpful and all of them can be rectified at very little cost to enhance the cruise experience.
So altogether a very pleasant vacation, helped in no small part by the excellent weather we had for 95% of the time. We hope our next booked cruise on Sun Princess to the East on August 15 will reflect the changes made on Dawn in respect to dining and show times, and that the current re-furbishment of Sun will show up some more obvious changes.
Pam and David Collman A 312. " Dawn Princess " D 008 Round Pacific