We planned this trip since sept 2010 and booked all sectors hotels flights trips independently starting with a BA direct flight to sydney via Bangkok 22 hrs but very good to arrive in the stunning socks area of Sydney harbour and stayed at the intercontinental hotel (fantastic location and facilities make sure you do manly beach on the ferry get fantastic trip through the harbour and only a few dollars) we then did a quantas walkabout pass from sydney to cairns cut very short due to cyclone yasi but qantas were fantastic evacuating us to brisbane)then continued on to melbourne then back to sydney ( idea was that we could see a bit more of australia while leaving luggage in sydney worked very well returning for 1 night before embarking the ship.
Embarkation was very good apart from all the threads that you can take as much wine as you wish WRONG we had 8 bottles only allowed 2 rest confiscated although once onboard would appear everyone "smuggling in luggage" not in carry on!!
Very pleased with our vista suite and luggage arrived in good time but put swimwear in hand luggage so you can enjoy the sun and stunning views of bridge and opera house and the sail away is something that will stay with me for ever simply fantastic!!
Unfortunately we were suffering from the after effects from cyclone yasi and weather up the coast and around to darwin was poor so unable to do anything much in port douglas or darwin (those that did barrier reef seemed very diaapponted as visabilty and weather poor) such a shame but none of us can control the elements.
Therefore gave us time to use the facilities onboard i used the gym everyday ( to try and maintain same weight as embarkation boy is that hard!!!) very busy early but if you vary times can normally find a machine although only 3 bikes and no cross trainers but plenty of other equipment.
Thermal spa nice very under used as expensive to purchase we had it included if not also would not have paid supplement as you have sauna and steam facillity in locker rooms that were fine.
Dining we were on any time worked really well for us and have to say quality of food in dining rooms and service best we have had on cruises so far ( and remember you can order signarure dishes from any restaurant in any restaurant which is very nice touch).However we felt buffet was not as good as RCI or P O not enough variation or choice espicially for 23 days!! although having tea and coffee available all day was a bonus!!
We ate in steak house very good and worth the extra cover charge only ate in sabatinis for bfast excellent did not eat in the evening but everyone said is was fantastic!!.
Formal nights most people dressed up and were fun apart from scrumming to get get a free glass of pop!! You will enjoy more buying your chosen drink getting around crooners bar a little early and people watching is was some of the best entertainment we had ( some people are just sad, greedy and rude!! and sorry to say most of them brits like myself!!)
Now on to entertainment having read plenty of reviews before we left we knew it was going to be a little older clientel!! so we were prepared!!
Most entertainment poor particularly comedians (so old jokes i could have told them)princess dancers and singers tried hard and was ok along with a couple of other acts but also if you like to stay up after 10.30 its hard luckily we met 8 other people who did youngest being 34 (honey mooners) and up to 65 and brian in skywalkers nightclub did his best to play various music for us and the other 6 people in there who wanted a dance.
retrospect the onboard band were very good but mostly had no one to play to or had to do a 2 step foxtrot or waltz!!!
Movies under the stars good but same films and concerts repeated could do with more variation as same films were also shown in cabins.
Dan Styne cruise director very amusing did a good job but very hard for him also having been on 7 day carribean cruises for a few years.
Plenty of complaints as usual about shore excursions (mainly pricing but also tendering coaches etc etc) Every one enjoyed the extremely varied ports and the only princess tour we did was bali elephants (fantastic you must do it) we did are own thing every where else Hong Kong very easy to also Taiwan and Nagasaki(buy the tram pass for a day only 1,000 yen ourchase in cruise terminal) very nice port and easy to get around.China fantastic ( make sure you get a visa before you go some people denied embarkation because did not have usual confusion over what required we had double but were with people who had single and multiple and all ok) excursions very expensive but we did shanghai with own guide and got to see everything also in dalian go out of town nothing in town.Beijing was fantastic again we had a guide email@example.com brilliant collected us from the ship (which is 200kms from beijing) allow 3 days if you can we got to see everything at our own pace and total flexibility (the wall was amazing and totally different to where the cruise ship buses go) and very affordable.We stayed in Regent hotel great location and hotel.overall great time and destinations.