This was a spectacular cruise in nearly all respects. Service, food, entertainment, itinerary, ambiance, and fellow passengers altogether resulted in this cruise leap-frogging ahead of some of our other Princess sailings we heretofore thought would not be surpassed. This was our first Princess "boutique style" experience and left me wondering why we had waited so long to sail on one of the Princess small ships. Loved the ambiance, the proximity to performers in the theatre, and the ability to get to know more of our fellow passengers. I power-walked most mornings with a younger lady who was later identified as my "wife" by another passenger. We got a good laugh out of that incident. Also, only one flight of stairs up to the Panorama Restaurant and pools and only 3 flights down to the MDR and other venues on what is known as the promenade deck on bigger ships made getting around quite easy. We have to book more cruises on this size ship.
Check-in was quick and our luggage arrived in a timely manner.
We were surprised to see the number of folks from the previous sailing still onboard as late as 8pm. How nice of Princess to allow them to stay aboard whilst waiting for their late evening flights. If we had been in their shoes we would have done the same and that would have been appreciated.
Our first day onboard in Papeete was pretty dull as most of the town is shut down on Sunday. Princess provided excursions and privately arranged tours were readily available but as we were going to be in Papeete for 3 days post cruise we chose not to go ashore. Spent the day meeting new friends from our cruise critic roll call. What a nice group of folks.
Itinerary: Fabulous exposure to Huahine, Rangiroa, Raiatea, Bora Bora, and Moorea and all of the scenic beauty we expected to see. Snorkeled several times on both ship sponsored and privately arranged tours. The array of tropical fish, rays, eels, and sharks was breathtaking. I can't imagine snorkeling being better anywhere else.
Cabin: Had a bit of trouble with the air conditioning but the empathetic crew did their best to alleviate the trouble. Engineers came to the cabin at least 4 times trying to nail down the difficulty. Kudos for their efforts. Mother Nature's high heat and humidity at the tail end of the French Polynesian rainy season is a challenge to all mariners. We all have to realize that sometimes things break but as long as the cruiseline does what they can to fix the problem one cannot complain. Curiously noted that "Paul Gauguin" was in refit during this time which is traditionally "low tourist season" for this part of the world. Do they know something Princess doesn't know? I believe we ran into rain only once during the cruise and it was early in the morning. I recall on that morning the congenial deckhand standing by to squeegee the jogging track once the rain stopped and he was busy as soon as the rain ceased. Other than the warm temperature the cabin was wonderful. Our room steward, Seree, did a great job for us and kept the ice coming several times during the day. Enjoyed the balcony in the early morning before daybreak and before going to sleep. Thought about doing the Princess ultimate balcony dining but it was pretty warm outside even after sunset and our meals in the MDR were so good and our tablemates so interesting we couldn't give those things up.
Meals: Maitre'd Giovanni relocated us to a table for two (from table for 8) adjacent to a table for 6 and we could not have been more pleased with the location. The couple closest to us were so friendly and we frequently ended up with them for the evening entertainment. As an added bonus we lucked out and had Oana as our waitperson. Her 10 years of experience certainly showed and she made us feel as if we were her only responsibility for the evening. Our water glasses were never empty and she kept our wine glasses filled. After the first night Oana knew we did not care for any potato dish and delivered post dinner peppermint tea without our requesting it. Her recommendations helped us make the difficult decisions each evening. The starters, soups, and sorbets surrounded entree's that were cooked to perfection and offered a nice variety of tastes throughout the cruise. The crawfish etouffe (spelling?) was mouthwatering and closely rivaled the gambieri fra alla diavolo as my favorite Princess entree. Well done to the chefs and servers! Our headwaiter, Joaquin, always stopped by to ask how we were enjoying our meal and making small talk with us. We saw him at other times during the day and he was equally gracious and concerned for our satisfaction. As an aside, I witnessed Giovanni judiciously directing an inappropriately dressed man back to his cabin for more "smart casual" attire. I'm glad the dress code was enforced in the MDR but with the passengers on this cruise I don't think it had to be very often. Well done Giovanni!
Entertainment: Tom Briscoe, comedian, was a hoot and we thank him for a "clean" show. Alexander, the illusionist, was mystifying and thoroughly entertaining. Heard one passenger say, "I don't like magic shows but this guy was great!" The Princess singers and dancers were wonderful and we were so fortunate having them share their talent with us. The production shows were energetic and well performed. One show, Cinematastique, debuted on this sailing and gave all of us a thrill. The dancers also doubled as trivia hosts so we were able to see them on a day to day basis which was nice.
Captain Ravera: We had the opportunity to visit with Captain Ravera on several occasions and found him to be the most personable Captain since we met Captain Creighton 30 years ago. Captain Ravera has his fingers on the pulse of the ship making it a point to stroll the decks frequently interacting with passengers and crew. Perhaps it's the size of Ocean Princess that allows him to do this. In my Navy days we called it "management by walking around" and how effective that policy is in terms of passenger and crew satisfaction. His is a happy crew and I think they would all go to war with him! I really was refreshed to observe his leadership style.
The ship: The intimate size of Ocean Princess returns us to the earlier days of cruising and it is a pleasant change from larger vessels. I can understand why some passengers restrict themselves to this size ship exclusively. We saw many positives but won't limit ourselves to the small ships. Aside from the wraparound promenade deck that I enjoy for my morning walks I honestly did not miss anything from the "bigger" ships in the Princess fleet. Tender operations were efficient with very minimal lines and offloads were well organized and timely. The ship appeared "ship-shape" and clean. I think one would have to look quite closely to find flaws. Certainly one will see some rust spots here and there but I thought Ocean Princess was in great shape.
Miscellaneous: Jessie, the morning barista in the Panorama restaurant, made good lattes for us and started the day on a positive note. The art director was pleasant but we never made it to her auctions. The photo staff was not pushy but the passageway outside their office got clogged every evening. We steer clear of the casino but it looked like those who visited the casino were having some fun. The boutique staff, especially Emma, were very nice to speak with and helpful when picking out a gift. The staff in the buffet restaurant were nice and very attuned to cleanliness and service. Daniel and Prawat were especially congenial.
We are looking forward to our next Princess sailing. Thanks for giving us so many new memories.