This was our third cruise on the Emerald, first being Venice/Greek Isles, second voyage. Nothing is like it was on the first cruise anymore. Princess continues to be the only line that does not take contagious/infectious control seriously, thus the blast of Norovirus on the ship. Granted, the staff worked diligently attempting to serve at the Horizon, but there is, on any day, such lack of control, food arrangement, and direction in Horizon, it is utter chaos. Anger and frustration on the part of passengers did not help.
This is the only line we cruise that does not have someone at every door insisting on hand cleaner prior to entering any common areas.
FOOD: The food was so poor, we stuck to mostly fruit, salad bar vegetables; grain bread and butter, wherever it was hidden. It appeared more people opted for Anytime dining, and lines were staggeringly long waiting to get inside. Service was very slow, and no one ever came back to ask if your meal was OK. Thus, we ate at the Horizon, among dirty plates and no service for even water.
Getting past the poor selections, tough meats, uncooked fish, and service, the biggest problem - and one most anyone over 55 hopes not to experience - was the inedible varieties of foods overwhelmed with salt. Everything had far too much salt in it to taste like anything but salt.
CROWDS: The ship sleeps more than 3000 people; but there just is not enough room in the common areas, the lounges, nor in the theatre when everyone is out and about. To see a show, you needed to be in a seat an hour prior.
Since the ship is so large, you can only get into cargo ports - away from the towns. Shuttles were provided, at a cost each way. Again, we often have shuttles on other lines, but they are provided as a "service" for free.
BEDS: We knew the beds were not great from the first cruise, and made phone arrangements prior to cruising. Sadly, one bed tilted toward the floor; the other sank so deeply in the middle we asked for pillows (6) to fill the gap and sleep on. Minimal response from the ship. Our cabin steward was phenominal in assisting and continually apologizing for the situation.
SMOKE: Hallways were reaking from smoke coming out of cabins. Why they don't designate one side of the ship for smoking makes one wonder. It is not possible to eliminate the odor of smoke by washing down a cabin "when needed".
We were part of 290 CC's, with four M&G with invitations sent to the Captain, etc. We never saw the captain or co-captain; they (unlike other lines for CC) never served appetizers or drinks. Very disappointing as it was obvious we were part of the "masses" and not important as cruisers.
PORTS: The TransAtlantic and ports were the best. The Baltic ports were crunched into short port times, and inability to see as much as desired. St. Petersburg was a delight. Can't say enough about our private tours booked through members of CC, and all the organizing that went into the M&G. The one tour we did with Shore Excursions was simply OK; as usual, huge busloads and wasted time getting on and off for a "photo op".
This 27 day was chosen for the itinerary, not the ship. Those of us who enjoy much longer cruises, and know it is possible to have much more for your money than what we experienced will look elsewhere. For us, three times and we're out.