North Atlantic - via the Arctic Circle: Ocean Princess Cruise Review by Canuker
Overall Member Rating
North Atlantic - via the Arctic Circle
We are an early-retired professional couple from Toronto.
Ocean Princess is "small" (30,000 tons) and is "old" (1999). Please don't let that put you off. On the contrary, the ship was in fine fettle and reminiscent of bygone days of grand shipping lines with opulent interiors, refined service, with little nickel & diming. Princess went up in our estimation after this cruise.
This is not your cookie cutter cruise. Destinations: Dover - Newcastle - Edinburgh - Faeroes - Iceland (2 locations) - Greenland (2 locations) - St. John NF - St. Pierre & Miquelon - New York. A huge East to West arc across the North Atlantic over 18 days in June/July. Confession: I'd long wanted to go to Iceland. To see what this planet was like billions of years ago. As with so many aspects of this cruise, our More expectations were well-exceeded. I'd go back to Iceland at the drop of a hat. Like nothing else (including Hawaii - it's different) I've ever seen. I'm not going to bore you with ports of call, except to say we made our own plans at each one and, with the exception of St. Pierre & Miquelon (a bit of a yawn), we loved every stop. This itinerary and ship is for those who want to linger on an above-average cruise ship and experience places and things they've only read about but would like to see. It's not for beach bums. Did we get a suntan? Yep! Although en route into NY we caught some nasty sea fog, which put the damper (pun intended) on outside deck activities, but on occasion, if you were up on the top deck, you'd be in sunshine while the lower decks were shrouded in mist!
Food was very good. Lots of seafood. Service at our table was perhaps a little stiff & impersonal for our tastes. A word with the head waiter and the passage of a day or 2 changed that. Onboard entertainment was poor to good and was not thrust down our throats by over-enthusiastic yet unskilled cruise director's staff. The production show (there were 3) about Motown music was very enjoyable. "Poor" related to a stand-up comic who gets a lot of his inspiration from the bathroom.
The high spot (other than Iceland for me) was cruising through fjords of Greenland that took most of the day. My photographs, with no signs of habitation or trees in them to give an idea of scale, simply do not do justice to the colossal magnitude of this raw part of the planet. Full marks to the captain for firstly, making this section (many had gone before and not succeeded due to poor weather) so special. He would stop the ship and turn it 360 degrees so that everyone could get their best view of, say, a glacier. He sounded the ship's horn and, on cue, the glacier "calved" (i.e. a chunk fell off) into the water with a big splash!
We made every port of call per the itinerary. If that sounds an odd statement to make, there were many on board who had taken this (or similar) cruises before and had not made all landfalls due to weather/icebergs etc. We count ourselves fortunate in that respect. For animal lovers, we did not see that much from the ship, directly (occasional porpoises, whales, the odd seal, etc). But there were several shore excursions for sea life and birds that we were told were OK.
Everywhere port we went, people were friendly or curious. No problems with the "locals" that might be an issue in, say, some parts of the Caribbean basin.
In conclusion: if you are at least a little adventurous and you're looking for something different from the mass cruising market, you could do a lot worse than this one. Needless to say, few cruise ships do this type of run. But if this sounds like your kind of vacation, go ahead and check it out. We are so glad we did.
Oh, in case you're wondering about - small ship - sea sick? Well it did get a bit "pitchy" one night and I can't say that no-one felt queasy. But we never saw or heard any evidence of anyone being seasick the whole voyage. For the most time, we weren't aware we were on the high seas.
One more point: the cruise was 18 days. Pace yourself with all that gorgeous food! Less
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