We embarked on a wet day at Barangaroo Wharf. Our check-in was speedy and efficient with no hassles. The porters were pleasant and co operative, lending us a stapler so we could attach our new self printed luggage tags. We were efficiently guided to our cabin and our luggage was delivered in good time. Our cabin was as expected and we made ourselves comfortable. As we have sailed on the Dawn princess previously so it took us no time to familiarise ourselves with the ship.
As I was the organiser of the Meet and Greet for the Cruise Critic group I was disappointed to find that no invitations had been sent to the members for the meet and greet and there was nothing in the Patter for the next day. Angus Wilkinson, the 1st Purser solved this problem admirably. Over the whole 104 day trip, Angus proved to be most helpful and a pleasure to know. We found the staff on the front desk to be willing to help and reliable in following up on any matter. A big thank you to them all.
We were very disappointed that one of the ships generators failed and so we had to miss ports or have them changed. I recognise we were give some compensation but I feel Princess could pay a lot more attention to the state of the ship both mechanically and in its' furniture and fittings. The Dawn Princess is not a young ship and I have accepted that the Australian/New Zealand market will not be provided with new ships. I think the loyalty this market has given to Princess(we were told at Captain's Circle drinks that there were more Elite on this ship than had ever been experienced on any ship previously) could be rewarded with at least reliable and well maintained ships. The mattress on my husband's bed was visibly sagging from day 1. Our room steward boosted it by placing old pillows under the sag but a new mattress was unavailable. After Dover the mattress was replaced by a "new" second hand mattress. We were amazed there were no spare mattresses available. The upholstery on the sofas in the Atrium was shabby and worn out in parts. The support in most of the sofas on both deck 7 and 5 in the Atrium was non-existent. I am fairly confident the American market would not be expected to tolerate nor would they accept a ship in such a dilapidated state. On the first leg of the cruise we had an excellent waiter in the Atrium on deck 7. Daniel, from Argentina, was an energetic, friendly and delightful waiter.
We had Captain Todd McBain for the majority of our world cruise. He was fabulous. He kept us informed throughout about the repairs as well as any weather or port issues. We heard from him on a daily basis. He was a sharp contrast to his replacement. From Los Angeles we rarely heard from the new captain.
The Cruise Director, Warren, seemed to be burned out. Dave, the assistant cruise director was much more active and visible. Bex and Barbara were always pleasant and energetic. Without Dave, Bex and Barbara this aspect of the cruise would have been dismal.
We did little shopping on board, although I did buy a new top for dinner in the boutique and in the process won the prize draw! It was a bit of a non event as the prize was the choice of one of two size 8 dresses. As I haven't been a size 8 for some years it was a prize of no value to me and consequently disappointing. Future cruisers should be wary of the prizes in the boutiques.
Our dining experience was enjoyable.
The food was always good and we were pleased at the variety over the 104 days. We had a marvellous crew who repeatedly looked after us really well. Songkran, as our waiter was a joy to have any morning we had breakfast in his section. He was accurate, efficient and very pleasant. Aldrin, whose job it was to deliver the jams and vegemite, never failed to find us (once he realised we were vegemite addicts) and deliver our vegemite with a smile and even top up our coffee if needed without being asked. Miguel, the pastry man, found us every morning and took our refusal to have a pastry with a smile and some friendly banter. These 3 men gave us a good start to every day on board. Rui, Paulo, Mauricio and Antoine all looked after us really well at their level. Paulo and Antoine during dinner and Rui and Mauricio during breakfast and lunch. Rui and Mauricio made having our CC lunches a real pleasure. We had some delicious lunches from the grill although the staff there needed to be better organised. We had limited exposure to the buffet as we don't enjoy buffets. The pizzeria was a good place to meet friends for a meal and we had some good pizzas there. The head waiter was below average but Jason and Arlene where definitely above average waiters. We had a couple of dinners at the steak house. There is as good an ambiance as you can get in an area curtained off from the buffet but the steaks were good and the prawn cocktail was fabulous and made the dinner an enjoyable experience. The steakhouse was moved out to near the grill on warm nights but we did not experience "eating under the stars". The concept seems to be good and we look forward to eating "al fresco" on a later cruise.
The choice of activities was varied and numerous. We had card players in the casino as well as the card room. Tables in the pizzeria were used of a morning for scrabble and the majong players shared the card room. We had a choice of Thai Chi or Zumba, competitive putting in various versions, deck shuffle board or beading. We had a range of lecturers who changed after each sector but Debbie Shields was on for the whole cruise as port lecturer and was her usual informative self. We really appreciated Debbie's efforts. As we are avid readers we did not join in many of the activities although we did enjoy the afternoon quiz and the friendly competition that went with it.
The entertainment was varied in nature. We had some fabulous entertainers and some not so fabulous ones. We enjoyed most of the shows we went to although there were some performers who we have seen on previous cruises and their shows have not changed in years. We were disappointed that some of the more attractive shows were on for 3 sessions but for us to enjoy the 3rd session we had to miss dinner as all the 3rd shows were scheduled during the late sitting dinner time. We do not understand why the shows are not scheduled so the 2nd sitting goes to their show when the 1st sitting is dining and the 1st sitting sees their show when the 2nd sitting is dining.
We only did a few of the ship's tours opting to go on mostly independent tours as we prefer the smaller groups with people we know. We had some very active CC members, Joanne, Ros, Brian and Sue, who organised independent tours for most of our ports. They were fabulous. We did enjoy the ship's tours we went on. Our tour of Cinque Terre was most enjoyable and would have been very difficult to do independently. Our most memorable reception in any port was at Cobh in Ireland. It was Sunday and they had Australia Day with flags, streamers and a band. The whole town came out to join us and farewell the ship and we were only there for about 5 hours! This day in port should have been longer. The brief stay in Auckland was disappointing and we thought Princess should have been able to organise longer stays in ports. A brief 4 to 6 hours is never long enough.
Our special thanks to Captain Todd McBain, Angus, Rui, Paulo, Mauricio, Songkran, Aldrin and Miguel who in their own way contributed to making our world cruise memorable.