23 Auckland Repositioning Cruise Reviews

I will preface this review by stating I have been on over 28 cruises. I've sailed just about every cruise line out there or sold it while I was a travel agent. I Just returned from 18 days on the Ruby Princess. We boarded in ... Read More
I will preface this review by stating I have been on over 28 cruises. I've sailed just about every cruise line out there or sold it while I was a travel agent. I Just returned from 18 days on the Ruby Princess. We boarded in Auckland, which was the last 8 night leg of the reposition cruise that started in Vancouver. We Stayed on for a continuation cruise of 10 days which did round trip Sydney. We had cruised on Princess twice in the past. Once in 2006 which was a great experience and again in 2010 which was not great! We had no idea what to expect from this experience. Unfortunately, it was a lot more not great than the one in 2010! This ship is just plain old and what I would call a rust bucket! There is no coat of paint that is going to make this sad ship up to what Princess claims it's standards are. The balconies are rusted out as well as all the sprinkler heads. Whenever I walked on the outer decks I looked up and saw rust. When we got a close up of the ships body while we were boarding the tenders, you could see just how horrible it was. There are tons of coats of paint chipping away, marks all over and just plain ugly. The cabin and deck furnishings are all very outdated and worn. There are two plugs in the entire cabin! One by the vanity and one up near the ceiling, above the corner cabinet. I heard many people complaining about the lack of places to plug phones and electronics. If you need a sleep apnea machine, be sure to bring a long extension cord because it has to travel quite a ways for a plug. The standard balcony cabin is about the smallest I've seen in the past 7 years or so. There is a vanity chair and that's it! I can't remember when I've been in a balcony cabin without a couch. This was the poorest choice I could have made for 18 days at sea. There was enough space in the closet and cabinet for all our clothes. The bathroom was the standard telephone booth size with cracked shower floors and moldy shower curtain. The shower head does not come off the wall so it made it that much more difficult to shower. We had not issues with the plumbing but many people on the Deck 12 were complaining about toilet issues and water being turned off for lengths of time. The cabin Stewards and Dining room staff were about the best I've seen at sea which is true to form for what Princess once was. They were always the most pleasant people on the ship. I will note that we did not get one towel animal which I guess is something they have stopped. Not a big deal at all, just something that surprised me. For the most part the Horizon buffet staff was also excellent. They attended to the tables and delivered drinks without ever having to ask. I did encounter a few of the food attendants that did not seem to like their jobs very well. I've been on other ships where they allow the guests to put their own toast through the toast machine so you can have hot toast. The Carnival products seem to think we are not capable of toasting our own bread so they have a person on each side of the buffet just running toast through the machine. They toast giant stacks of bread and then bring them to the warming trays. For 15 days I had rubber toast! On the 16th day I asked for hot english muffins out of the toaster. You would have thought that woman was going to have to go in the basement, bake the muffins then toast them. She kept telling me the toast in the bins was fresh and I needed to take it from there. This annoyed me more than most other issues we had. It was a simple request that I made very nicely. This is one of the main reasons I will not choose to EVER cruise on Princess again. Sounds unreasonable, but everyone has their breaking point! There was not a person that we met in the 18 days that did not agree with us that the food was terrible. Sauces were heavy and over salted. One comment I kept hearing was "there is a whole lot of brown food on that buffet!" Everything was swimming in a sauce. Many of the carving meats were over cooked and dry. They served various kinds of flat fish every day but they were prepared everyday the same way, drowned in butter or oil. The buffet breakfast was just a disgrace. The way they prepared that food was a crime. They would have trays of fried eggs on a warming dish for hours. They were dried out to the point of feeling like hockey pucks. You couldn't find one egg with a running yoke. The same thing with the eggs Benedict. They were all hard boiled....every single day! It really is a sin that they destroyed so much good food. The scrambled eggs were all chopped up so small it was like eating cottage cheese. The only saving grace was the omelet station. You needed lots of time for that though! They had no cream at all for the coffee. It was all skim or regular milk. Just about everything was so budget and you could tell. The specialty steak restaurant was a joke. If that was supposed to be like a fine steakhouse, they missed that mark by a mile. I got a steak that was less than 1/2" thick and tasted like a salt lick. I specifically asked for little to no seasoning, but that was something they just paid no attention to. The baked potato was dry and like a rock. The whole experience was horrible. The regular dining room food was hit or miss. Some nights they would have a decent amount of choices, none of which were tasted that great. Most nights there were no choices we would eat. They did NOT have a steak on the "every night" menu. I have never been on a cruise where you could not get a steak in the dining room every night if you choose. At the bottom of the menu they have choices of good food for an extra cost of between $20 to $40. That's something I've never seen before either. It's like, if you want good food, you will now have to pay extra for that. If it was anything like the steakhouse, it wouldn't be worth it anyway. I can't imagine paying extra for any of the crap they served. The entertainment was not too bad on the 8 night Auckland to Sydney part of the cruise. Once they changed over to and "Australian" cruise line (all the money went to aud) for the Sydney round trip, the entertainment went right down the tubes. It was horrible. The singers were ancient, the comedians were old and Princess dancers would have a hard time performing on the stage with the Norwegian cruise staff. The best part of any of the entertainment was the games shows, etc. put on and run by the cruise director and staff. However, they held them all in rooms that were too small so if you did not get there at least 30 minutes ahead of each even, you were not going to get a seat. Many nights our dinner ran late and we could not go to an event because we could not sit. The worst part of the entire cruise was the fact that almost all the ports in Australia are tender ports. Princess is either too cheap or too stupid to have gotten large ferries in all the ports. They had a system where you went down to a showroom at a time they announced in the morning to get a number to get off the ship on to a tender that would take you to a port. If you are an elite member, no problem. They take all elite members off first. If you have a million dollar tour that you purchased through Princess they took you off on the tenders first as well. If you just wanted to go to shore or booked your own excursions through viator or other wholesaler you were out of luck for getting off that ship in less than 2 hours. In one port we were unable to get off the ship until 11:30am. We arrived in port at 7:00am!!! It was ridiculous. One day many people never even got off the ship. By the time their number was called they felt it was too late to get off. The tenders took about 40 minutes each way on most the stops. Finally, after many angry shouting matches, there were Ferry tenders in two of the stops. It still took forever to get off, but at least we didn't miss our excursion. By the way, something we noticed was they NEVER looked at your tender number! The average shore excursion cost over $175 per person and that was for a 4hour tour. Most tours were 8 hours or more and cost in excess of $275. Princess was charging $479pp for The alpine express excursion from Christchurch to Arthur's pass. It included a bus from the port to Christchurch which was about an hours drive. The train, if purchased directly costs $149.00!! This is just robbery. Princess gets away with it because they scare the life out of everyone by telling them if you don't take a Princess cruise, you might miss the boat on the return. Many tour operators will guarantee to get you back to the ship on time or get you to the next port if you miss the boat because of them!!! Look around and compare! This cruise ship staff created so many situations where guests were made to wait in lines and get angry. They didn't even have an organized line at the guest services. Many days people started yelling and fighting because guests would just walk up to the counter and ignore the lines. I've never seen a ship run more poorly than this one. When they turned over to the Australian Dollar from US Dollars in Sydney, no one at the front desk knew how to convert the currency. I was given an amount and then called in my room to come back to the guest services because they gave me too much money.....that was after it took them over an hour to figure out what they did give me. It took over 4 days for them to get most of the casino slot machines up and working after departing from Sydney. I couldn't imagine how much money they lost because there were no machines to play. It was just crazy. I'm not sure who is responsible for most of what goes on aboard that ship, the Captain or headquarters but someone should be fired! Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
My father died during the cruise and I needed to amend my travel arrangements. The front desk staff were terrible and it took over 3 days to sort new departure arrangements. I received conflicting information from onboard Front desk staff ... Read More
My father died during the cruise and I needed to amend my travel arrangements. The front desk staff were terrible and it took over 3 days to sort new departure arrangements. I received conflicting information from onboard Front desk staff and onshore Princess staff. Princess gave no credit for existing return flight and I had to pay for a new full fare that was exchanged from Aust$ to US$ to NZ$. The air carrier advised my family that Princess as travel agent had full discretion in making no or little penalty charges to travel. No discretion was applied. I would not recommend Princess on this basis. There was relentless onboard promotion for buying jewellery (Effy) and artworks which was tedious. Food was good and plentiful, entertainment was a bit ho hum - one comedian was absolutely dreadful and the second relied on old hack and tired women-as stupid content. There were two production shows which were excellent. Musicians played similar and in a lot of cases the same songs (how many times can you listen to Hey Jude?!) Onboard activities were limited with the same things recycled through the cruise - movies (same movies returned too frequently); bingo; quizzes (I'm a quiz fan but the same format and type of questions were used across three quiz events, and the events were bumped in face of venue conflict); demonstrations such as cocktail making was view only. Cards as an activity was good (bridge; 500) as there were a fair number of people interested therefore plenty of opportunity to play. However this was organised by participants. I feel entertainment staff often opted out of organising activities, so it dependent on participants to get things going. Venues appeared to be mismanaged in that the act and or audience size wasn't appropriate to the particular venue used. Enrichment activities were limited to forensic topics (potentially good however presenter was poor and used promotional material as evidence) and others were directly linked to the sale of jewellery and artworks. Did two excursions - whole day Moorea swimming and snorkeling which was excellent and the LA Venice Beach and Santa Monica visits. Definitely wouldn't recommend Venice Beach as a destination (old; tired; dirty; broken; grotty) but Santa Monica was nice to walk around (shops; pier; beach) Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose this particular cruise as we both enjoy Sea days and the cruise experience. This particular cruise from Auckland to Vancouver had plenty of these with only six ports. Time seemed to fly by, with all the activities going on. ... Read More
We chose this particular cruise as we both enjoy Sea days and the cruise experience. This particular cruise from Auckland to Vancouver had plenty of these with only six ports. Time seemed to fly by, with all the activities going on. The crew and staff were friendly and welcoming. Activities were varied and plentiful should we wish to take part. And the food .well that was great! We chose often to go more casual dining in the horizon or indeed catch a movie and have pizza. But we also went formal to anytime dining, in the dining rooms available to us, whereby the waiters would be friendly and helpful. We had a back to back cruise so continued on to Alaska, we found that the leg from LA to Vancouver changed the dynamics of the passengers as many left in LA and others came on for a short cruise to Vancouver, then new people joint the ship for Alaska, which changed again, so this was a new experience for us. However, this did not deter from a great trip Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Here is our secret for a great cruise. Prior to embarkation and having read all the wonderful marketing material, we discount the hype by 20 per cent. Now let's be honest. Have you ever had a burger or sandwich that looked as good as ... Read More
Here is our secret for a great cruise. Prior to embarkation and having read all the wonderful marketing material, we discount the hype by 20 per cent. Now let's be honest. Have you ever had a burger or sandwich that looked as good as the one on the T.V advertisement? Of course not. The Maasdam is now the oldest ship in the fleet but all public spaces are well maintained. In fact we believe the Rotterdam dining room and the Theatre/Showroom are beautiful. The size of the ship is a plus as there are plenty of seating in quiet places. We never waited more than a a couple of minutes for the elevator. During this 24 day crossing from Auckland to San Francisco there were about 11 sea days and this was when the library was appreciated. It is a great place to read about the American founding fathers American politicians and presidents, American sportspeople, and well known American authors. I particularly appreciated the stories of the American heroes of the integration of black Americans. Well, we must understand this is an American owned company. For the same reason we gave up on Trivia. Our cabin 140 on deck 9 was a disappointment. It was past being tired, it was exhausted and it was dominated by a four seater settee in dark brown vinyl that most likely could fold out into a bed. It looked like a refugee from a Salvation Army charity shop. But get this. Its unwanted presence in our tiny space now placed us in a Vista Suite which raised our gratuities to $16.00 U.S per day per person. The redeeming feature was the large covered balcony. Our total gratuity bill was around the equivalent of $1,100 Australian dollars. To the rest of the world that pays a livable wage to all workers this is a hangover from the days of the 18th century English Poorhouse where the poor were dependent on charity to survive. Meals in the Rotterdam dining room were very good, and while we avoid the rugby scrum of the buffet we were forced there when the dining room was closed. The food was surprisingly good. staff were better than good, they were wonderful. Entertainment was soloists such as a guy playing the flute while jumping all over the stage, a magician, a girl playing the piano accordion etc etc. And get this one. One evenings entertainment was a nature movie with the ship's talented musicians playing mood music. There were lots of complaints when usually the best nights entertainment is the crew, was relegated to 11.00pm. the Cruise Director known as K.K was the best we have ever seen. So here is the bottom line. We enjoyed this cruise and we love so much about HAL. Our 20 per cent discounting of the marketing hype was about right for the ship in general, but we should have discounted the cabin by 30 per cent. ps The guest lecturers saved us from being bored to death. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
If you want a ship with a casino, climbing wall, giant water slide, etc., ignore this review and Viking Oceans. If you seek a family cruise with you and your (non-adult) children, look elsewhere. If you like cruising with thinking people ... Read More
If you want a ship with a casino, climbing wall, giant water slide, etc., ignore this review and Viking Oceans. If you seek a family cruise with you and your (non-adult) children, look elsewhere. If you like cruising with thinking people and a remarkably intelligent, attentive crew visiting an itinerary of a lifetime on an impeccable, smallish ship, read on. We are just back from Viking’s Grand Pacific Explorer cruise that traced all around the Pacific, roughly following the Ring of Fire from New Zealand through Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Russia (Siberia), across the Bering Sea, and down through Alaska to Vancouver. Portions of this 93-day itinerary were also available in smaller chunks of 15 to 23 days. As we came to realize, the guests on shorter legs were taking a cruise on the ship. We lived there. And it was fantastic. There were roughly two dozen of us who traveled the entire way and another fifteen or so who embarked in Sydney for 79 of the 93 days. All tolled, we traveled 19,919 nautical miles on the ship. Convert to statue miles and add on the air travel, and our adventure went far beyond the distance around the globe. What we learned: You can be happy on a Viking Oceans ship for a long time and still be happily married. Although our Penthouse Veranda was not the smallest stateroom, several of the Grand Voyagers were in the standard size (all veranda) staterooms, and there was at least one couple who survived and celebrated their 50th anniversary just afterward. The secret is the many varied public spaces on the ship. The Explorer’s Lounge is great 24/7, and you don’t have to order any booze to just sit and enjoy the view and read. Or converse in comfortable seating clusters. Add the quiet reading area in the deck 1 library, the exterior wings outside the Winter Garden, and various nooks and crannies. There is always somewhere to go. Crossing the equator and the International Dateline can be fun. Viking made sure we celebrated on both occasions. May 14 happened TWICE (thus 93 days, not 92)! The seas are never what you expect. Yes, the Tasman Sea can be “lively,” as can the Bass Strait above Tasmania, but even the Bering Sea is not necessarily going to be bad. If you count on good or bad seas, you won’t get them. It’ s pure luck. Siberia did kick up a ruckus for us for one day, but the Bering Sea was crazy calm! You will get to know the crew very, very well. They will bring you just about anything, anytime. Room service delivers ANYTHING on their menu for free anytime. Ask for the things you don’t see but crave. This applies to those on the ship for two short weeks or for three months. “Another latte, madame?” “A scone from tea in the Wintergarden?… sure I will get that for you.” The only cost is if you elect to drink alcohol from the bar. Those with the Silver Spirits package pay nothing. Others like us paid very reasonable prices with no added gratuities if we chose to drink. Of course, the minibar in our PV cabin had standard level booze and mixers of our choice, so we could always carry our own drinks to the lounge. If we had brought a bottle of our own on board-- no problem. They’ll even provide the glass and ice. No nickels. No dimes. There is a bar waiter, Ardel, who introduced me to an excellent formula for a top shelf margarita, now dubbed the “Ardel Margarita” by several of us who enjoyed it! The senior officers are incredible. Kudos to the general manager for most of our cruise, Joaquim Scherz, and to the restaurant manager Gerome Venon, for making our group of voyagers feel especially welcome and for preventing monotony from EVER setting in – as if that could happen with such a rich itinerary! Even the entertainment team added some new performances so we could enjoy the talents of two different Viking Bands who were onboard during our tenure and especially the excellent ensemble of four young Viking Vocalists Aoibhin, Jorgen, Dan, and Beth, whom we got to know quite well. (These four, by the way, were the first to be awarded a new contract by Viking to stay together on their next cruise in the Caribbean.) Kudos to cruise director Spencer who rose to the role on this, his first cruise in the position. When Viking says they are a family, they are serious. That includes the passengers. They know you. They figure you out within a few days, and they are all eager to make the cruise p-e-r-f-e-c-t. Your cabin steward knows when you are likely to be out and about or when you have an excursion scheduled. The ice is there every day on time. The things you store in you bathroom are arranged exactly as you like them. After a few days, people know your names. (The general manager told us he actually looks over each guest list in advance and learns names and scans for those he has met before.) We learned much about the way Viking hires, trains, and rotates its crew and senior officers. We boarded Viking Orion and saw crewmembers we had met four years ago on Viking Star, now promoted to higher positions and happy in “the family.” The family extends to all the ships. When the Viking Sky encountered rough seas off the coast of Norway (while we were in Australia), every crewmember on Viking Orion was paying attention, praying, and even helping to send a video to the crew of Viking Sky in support and thanks for all their efforts. Family goes both ways. We Voyagers truly got attached to Joaquim and gave him a Viking umbrella salute send-off as he departed for a well-earned vacation. There were tears. Viking is truly fortunate to have such amazing people, and Joaquim is one who has been with VO since its launch. If he has any say about it, the quality will not diminish as the company expands. We sincerely hope his influence will keep things as good as they are! Speaking of family, our group of “Voyagers” definitely became one. People who take Viking cruises are fascinating folks with endless interests and stories. When you meet new people at home, you may see them once a week or a couple of times a month. When you make new friends on a ship, you see each other as often as three meals a day plus an excursion. Yes, we could avoid seeing them, but we enjoyed getting to know each other—really well! We avoided talking politics -- which was a refreshing change for over 90 days! We compared notes about our days (what excursion did you take?), drank a LOT of free wine (opened and closed the World Café many times), and watched out for each other when someone was “solo” on an excursion. These friendships will last for sure. We learned about the tons and tons of food they bring on board and when. We noticed that the chef went into town to pick up a few things while we were out on excursions – but only if he can find provisions that met Viking’s strict quality and safety standards. Within a couple of days, the cook at the breakfast fruit and yogurt bar handed me a bowl as I walked in each day and several times kept a few strawberries aside when the stock was dwindling before the next provisioning. He found the plain Greek yogurt that I like if it is not out on display. He was genuinely apologetic when the strawberries ran out in Siberia! If it wasn’t perfect, all we had to do was ask. Just when I was muttering to myself that there weren’t any chocolate options on the desert bar in the World Café, one of the supervisors offered to go down and get a chocolate mousse from the sit-down Restaurant downstairs…. “And where are you sitting, madame?” Or if the buffet choices were not exactly what we wanted, the chef custom-prepared a strip steak (“Medium? Four minutes, please.”) and delivered it to our table, with a potato and sour cream if that was what we wanted. All this in the “buffet” style World Café, our favorite venue for every day. Manfredi’s, the Italian specialty restaurant, is a gem. People seem to figure this out quickly, so be sure to book reservations as soon as you can. Book before you embark, as we did or stop by the laptop at the entrance to the world café to add more or make changes. We also learned that they will make every effort to change your numbers as you meet people and want a larger table. (Thank you, Ian!) Yes, we also ate in the Chef’s Table, but after trying each of the (mostly delicious) menus, we found we preferred the less formal and more flexible options elsewhere. We aren’t “The Restaurant” type people, though many of our friends were and enjoyed it just as much as we enjoyed the free-ranging exploration of the world Café – the same food, but you can graze and get up from your table at will. (Just hide your fork…. They clear TOO quickly!) The only nights I personally did not enjoy as much were the Indian Buffet theme nights, but my husband loved them. I just ordered a strip steak and tasted a few other things. I made the suggestion that perhaps not EVERYTHING had to be Indian… like the weird gelato flavors. We learned SO MUCH. The itinerary was loaded with places we had always wanted to see, and Viking offered many ways to learn about each one. The guest lecturers were great, and word gets out about which ones are REALLY good. The naturalist in the north Pacific and Alaska, the historian in Southest Asia, the archaeologist in New Zealand, the reef pilot on the Great Barrier Reef, and many others were terrific. If they can keep you awake in a darkened theater on a gently rocking sea, they must be good! The video replays on demand in the cabins were a MUST to keep up with the many things to learn. What we saw: It is a challenge to summarize forty-seven ports, but there were recurring themes: wildlife, history, religions, World Heritage sites, gardens, wine/beer/whiskey. We chose to take many optional excursions, mostly because we don’t like touring on buses much. A bus to GET somewhere is fine. We tend to like walking tours better. When we compared notes with our fellow travelers, we learned that by skipping some of the included excursions, we missed some good stuff. Some of the descriptions did not make it clear just how much time would be spent on or OFF the bus. As my husband says, the descriptions are a bit like real estate ads. Example: “Enjoy a panoramic tour.” Translate: bus ride. As Viking continues in these ports, we are sure the excursions will be refined and the descriptions edited for a better match to what is actually there. In the first season of a new itinerary, this is tough. We took this cruise knowing that would happen. Our priorities for tours may not be yours. My husband is a photo buff—both wildlife and street scenes, and I tend to enjoy culture, art, crafts, and people. Sometimes we split up to see what we liked best. We did not need to stay together every day of a 93 day cruise! Don’t miss the onboard cultural visitors. There were local groups who came on board in several countries to perform music and dance. ALL were amazing. Sometimes we did not find out about them until the day before or the day of. READ the Viking Daily! Port/excursion highlights: (Unless otherwise stated, all excursions/tours were VIKING offerings) Everything in New Zealand. Lots of wildlife and Maori culture options. We especially enjoyed visiting a sheep farm outside Napier, a foodie tour I did in Wellington, a seal watch my husband did outside Wellington, and wildlife cruises outside Christchurch and Dunedin. Others went to interior locations such as the Hobbiton tour. This may not be the best way to see interior New Zealand. I wish I’d had more time at Rotorua at the native (Maori) center there. Australia: Hobart, Tasmania. This port is right in town and we wish we had stayed MUCH longer. Just walk off the ship, and you were in a pedestrian area filled with shops and history. (Think Viking River Cruises.) We took a tour outside of town and visited a winery and the charming town of Richmond. Wish we could have done BOTH. We’d like to go back to Tasmania. The koala and kangaroo sanctuary outside Melbourne. Unlike many “sanctuaries” where the animals are caged or restricted, this one has animals on their own in the wild and shows visitors how to find and follow them respectfully. No koala cuddling, but fantastic naturalists who teach and let you participate in finding the animals. Sydney: Did a pub crawl in The Rocks on a HOT day. Saw lots of local color: weddings, crazy young professionals out having fun, and of course the Opera House right at Circular Quay. Since Viking Orion is small enough to pass under the Harbor Bridge, we were docked a short shuttle FERRY ride from Circular Quay. This could have been a pain, but it’s much more fun than a shuttle bus! We had a day on our own while others disembarked and embarked. Viking did offer an excursion for the in-transit passengers, but we elected to spend time with some new friends from Sydney whom we “met” here on CC. (They joined our cruise later in Hong Kong.) Great city. Almost anything you can do would be fun. Whitsunday Islands and Cairns: both are portals to the Great Barrier Reef. We went on a smaller catamaran out to snorkel in the Whitsundays and a very large one (but well managed) in Cairns. We are not experienced snorkelers and have never seen the reef before, so we enjoyed these. Experienced GBR visitors might like more private or selective tours, but these are hard to find and schedule within port time limits. Viking did managed the tendering in Cid Harbor (Whitsundays) very well. Thursday Island--- skipped because of an incoming cyclone! Darwin: wildlife options again. We saw Jumping Crocs, which we thought would be really touristy. It actually was fun. The Territory Wildlife Park was also good, though VERY warm. Take lots of water with you! Be sure to visit the aviary. Weaker Australia ports: Newcastle, Townsville. These are perhaps good ports for their access to other places inland, but we did not find the actual towns as interesting. Maybe with time? Indonesia: In general, Indonesia has bad traffic, hot weather, and lots of temples. The blend of religions is fascinating and varies from island to island. Get a taste by seeing some of everything. Komodo: The national park is going to be closed for 2020. We were lucky to see the dragons. Very hot, and the most aggressive vendors we saw on the entire cruise were in the tent as we left the park. Be prepared to be tough and to haggle. Otherwise just duck and keep on walking! TAKE WATER. Viking did an outstanding job of managing the tendering and keeping guests hydrated and safe. They were on the dock with COLD towels and drinks as we finished the tour. The really wanted everyone to drink and stay safe. Bali: another disembarkation/embarkation port. On the day on our own, we traveled by cab into Denpasar to visit the fabric street—a MUST for any quilter or sewing enthusiast. We did an evening dinner and performance that evening which was fun, though touristy. We enjoyed seeing Batiks being made and wood carvers in action on a Viking excursion the next day. Surabaya: We visited a temple that is actually within an amusement park. Though it looked like we were entering Wally World, the temple, right next to the water, was interesting. The seafood lunch served on the way was excellent though a bit crowded. Our highlight was a stop at a T-shirt place that had graphically bold shirts at very low (fixed) prices. Thanks to a good tour guide. We’ve gotten compliments on those shirts everywhere. Semarang: Entre to a daylong trip to Borobudur, a must-see. Don’t do the included tour. Not much there. The Rainbow Village is not as enthralling as they say. Those who went to Borobudur said the long ride was definitely worth it, especially with the police escort that accompanied the bus caravan, stopping the challenging traffic. Think presidential motorcade. Viking managed an unfortunate bus accident between two buses that were following too closely pretty well. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. Jakarta: Interesting but not worth two days? Went on a tour that included an inside visit to a large mosque and Catholic cathedral and a walk through Chinatown Had some time on the second day to go into town on the Viking shuttle to a shopping mall that offered great shopping for authentic batik shirts and much more. I think half the ship bought batik shirts. Weaker ports in Indonesia: Lombok? We actually did not go into this tender port. Those who did said we did not miss much. We really should not judge. Singapore One day, and not enough. Unfortunately, immigration stole over 90 minutes of our day—through no fault of Viking. If there were way for the ship to stay two days and not have to do this each day, it would be worth it. We did a walking “Odyssey” tour and saw little India, Chinatown, and an area called Arab Street. I’d do that tour again. We had time to explore on our own, which we always like. I’d like to have seen the gardens at Singapore Marina Bay, but we did not have time. I’d REALLY like to swim in the world’s largest infinity pool on the rooftop there, but you have to stay in the hotel to do that… unless Viking has connections? Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) Our one day was a quick stop. My husband and I did separate tours. He enjoyed the Batu Caves and Pewter factory tour, managing to avoid having his hat stolen by the monkeys. I did the Blue Mosque tour, which was a misnomer. We saw a view of the mosque at a GREAT distance. We did enjoy a tour of several sites in the city and a FANTASTIC lunch at the Renaissance Hotel. Of course, the last thing we needed was more good food! We honestly cannot say whether Kuala Lumpur is worth more time. Thailand Bangkok: The port is VERY, very far from the city, at least two hours drive if traffic is not bad. We had three days in Bangkok, the middle one a disembarkation/embarkation day for other passengers. We did Viking’s Bangkok After Dark tour, which was twelve hours long! The heat was oppressive, and the guide kept a pace that was a bit too enthusiastic for the heat. It did take us to great things and included a much appreciated foot massage after a lot of walking. We had a local dinner of SPICY pad thai and time shopping in the iconic night market. The tour is good, but plan on being totally soaked with sweat. Pace yourself and carry water. We took a private tour on the ship’s changeover day, and that was smart. We had a small van with great A/C and endless water. We could get back into the cool van often. We split the tour cost with three other friends, so it was quite reasonable. We visited locations our first tour did not include. Day 3 took my husband on the Viking tour out to the Summer Palace and Ayutthaya. He declared that tour to be excellent, including the golf carts! (I rested and did much-needed laundry out of the heat.) Cambodia Sihanoukville: This is the toughest port to talk about. It is not pretty, and the people lack hope. This port sparked great debate among our friends onboard. In my opinion, Viking needs to be honest about what you will see (poverty, loads of trash, hopelessness). The contrasts of the hotel where Jackie Kennedy stayed (a claim to fame in this miserable town) and the life in a local fishing village are painful. The Cambodian Cuisine tour we took involved riding in tuktuks through dusty, dirty streets. I did not initially appreciate the mask they gave me to wear, as I have never had respiratory issues. In the end, I actually needed it. The market offered a realistic view of what people buy and eat. The beachfront barbecue food attracted too many flies for us to taste it. Then we went to the Jackie hotel and had delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks while feeling hollowly fortunate. The second day we took the included tour, but we were warned by our friends to expect very sad scenes and sickening smells. They were right. The little children who should have been in school -- but had never even been REGISTERED to attend -- bore witness to the lack of hope of the Cambodian people. Yes, Viking should let us all see the realities, but the descriptions also need to be accurate. This port is a place to learn and think, not to enjoy. If the corrupt government is benefitting from Viking’s visits, perhaps this is not a good idea? Sadly, the countryside beyond the city has exceptional natural beauty, and the guides were very honest about their plight. Vietnam What a contrast to Cambodia. There is hope, and education is highly valued in this rapidly-growing economy. VERY. VERY. HOT. Ho Chi Minh City (known to the locals as Saigon): Three days. A fair distance from the port -- about an hour. Fantastic city to visit! We did the Saigon Cooking Class, which was excellent in both organization and fun. We shopped in the market, cooked, learned a lot, and enjoyed our own cooking. The next day we enjoyed a special visit to the Hotel Reverie with our fellow Voyagers (NOT an excursion) for high tea. This was arranged by the general manager and restaurant manager just for our group. WOW. If you have a chance to do this high tea on your own, DO IT. We’ve never, ever seen anything like it! Try the iced Vietnamese coffee. It’s addictive. The third day we did Viking’s “Iconic Ben Thanh Market” tour which was disappointing. We spent more time being served food than exploring the market (allowing NO time for this). I expect Viking will be clarifying expectations with the tour operator on this, as several of us spoke to the ship about it. Chan May (near Danang): Excursion to Ancient Hoi An. This city was swamped with tourists, and the tour was too commercialized for us. We had hoped for an interesting walking tour. We were herded into places to buy things, stopped ever so briefly amid the crowds to take pictures of landmarks with said crowds. Little to no time on our own as was advertised. Other guides were apparently more flexible, and our friends enjoyed their tours. Ha Long Bay (overnight): Wow. This place is drop dead gorgeous. Even the included tour is amazing. We did a longer, slightly different boat tour of the bay, including a stop at a floating village. Great tour! We also went outside the city to the mountains and Yen Tu Monastery. What a wonderful change of pace. We meditated and talked with the leader of the monastery, a man with remarkable charisma. The tour also included a delicious dinner at a resort hotel in the mountains. A winner! Hong Kong (3 days) Another changeover port. The included tour was good- Victoria Peak (in clouds), sampan ride in Aberdeen, and Stanley Market with free time. Spent our “off day” on our own with a friend who lives nearby then did more exploring on the third day with some fellow travelers. We then did the Hong Kong by Night tour which was OK but went back to some places we had already seen on our own. It would be great for people just starting out in HK. Taipei (Keelung port)- one day We did the tour to Yehliu Geopark with its amazing rock formations. Great photo op if you can go early enough for smaller crowds. Then went to mountain village of Jiufen. Cute, though filled with tourists. There were some nice places to have tea with a great view. The Taiwan landscape is very pretty! JAPAN! Japan was perhaps the biggest “surprise” of our trip. We had heard that it was beautiful, but it was MORE beautiful than we thought. We had also heard about the crowds during Golden Week—extended this year due to the installation of a new emperor. It was more crowded in some places than we could ever imagine. AVOID Golden Week. This was Viking’s first visit to the Japanese ports, so ALL of them did something special at the port: bands, dancers, etc.! Lots of fun. Japanese weather was a welcome relief from the heat in previous ports. Kagoshima: Great tour to Kamikaze museum and Chimai samurai historic district with classic Japanese gardens. Terrific intro to just some of the subtleties of Japanese culture. Nagasaki: (separate excursions). Imari and Arita pottery tour was outstanding. Learned a LOT about the aesthetic, the history, and the processes. Beautiful scenery en route. Husband did Historic Nagasaki tour for the atomic bomb story and more. Korea (a one day stop in Busan in the midst of Japan ports): Beomosa Temple and Fish Market tour was good. Lots of walking up hill. Fish Market is a true cultural experience, especially on the weekend! More Japan Hiroshima (2 days): Sobering as you would expect. The included tour to the Peace Park is good at hitting highlights on foot, though it was pouring rain. The museum would have been interesting, but the line stretched around a half mile! Optional tour to Itsukushima Shrine was great. Crowded because of Golden week. Go as early in the day as you can. We were on the 7 am ferry. Great photo ops of the floating torii gate you always see on brochures. Be sure to try some maple leaf shaped cakes. Osaka (Kyoto): We took the tour that traveled to Ancient Kyoto. Worst crowds we have ever seen. Heel to toe and shoulder to shoulder in a mob. Easy to lose the guide. (Others shared pictures taken by friends on “regular” weekdays showing NO crowds.) DO NOT GO during Golden Week. Very long path of thousands of torii gates, but too packed to enter. Scary crowded! The Golden Palace late in the day was less crowded and saved the day for us. Shimizu: (day and a half): Nice city with very friendly people. They had quite a welcome for us at the port since this was Viking’s first visit there. Amazing views of Fuji that cleared off for us. I went to Hiroshige Utagawa Museum. Speechless how good it was. Included tour also good… good photo ops. Tokyo ( 3 days): Port is immediately next to the Olympic Village they are building for 2020! This was our last disembarkation/embarkation port getting hundreds of new passengers onboard. Kamakuri tour to three shrine and temples very good but again crowded. 43 foot Buddha! Took Viking’s shuttle to downtown on the middle day, a Sunday, and discovered that NO ONE was in town during Golden Week. Walked to Iperial Palace Grdens (beautiful) and around the area near Nihonbaski Mitsubishi. The department store is worthy of a visit on its own, very old school and filled with amazing things, including a full basement are of food. See where people custom order their $50K silk kimonos! Third day took Edo-Tokyo Museum and City Tower tour. City tower not that great. The sky tower is better, I think, if you like that sort of thing. Museum and smaller local garden were nice. Tokyo is a gorgeous city, and SOOO clean! Be sure to try every Japanese bathroom. After Indonesia and others, they are a delight! Sapporo/Otaru: Beautiful location on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. We took the optional tour to Nikko whiskey. Lots of fun. It SMELLED of whiskey when you walked onto the grounds. Friend told us the included tour was also very good. Much cooler here. The cherry blossoms were out, as this part of Japan is weeks behind the more southern areas. Russia (Siberia) Koraskov: Did the included tour. Damp, cold, and cloudy/drizzly. Not much here, and quite sad after Japan. The people are clearly longing for the good old days of the USSR. The performance was fun, and the vendors selling crafts there were very genuine. Most are happy to take USD, though they may cheat a bit on exchange rates! Petrapavlosk-Kamchatsky: This city benefits from the large Navy base (out of sight from the port). Volcanoes abound. We did the military history tour. Too much talking at you. Choose a different one, perhaps just the included. Orthodox cathedral is less than ten years old! Someone showed us video from the helicopter tour over the volcano, and it was amazing. (But I don’t think I’d go with a Russian pilot in a Russian-maintained helicopter! Very pricey, too.) USA Dutch Harbor, AK: No tours offered, but there was a shuttle (school) bus into town. The locals are VERY friendly and talk on the buses. Go to the Alaska Ship Supply for fun, and perhaps to Safeway just to see how the locals live. Bald eagles everywhere—like pigeons! Take a hike or a walk. If you’re an American who’s been away for a long time, stop in a local bar for American bar food… nachos or a cheeseburger? If you watch Deadliest Catch, you’ll recognize many locations. Kodiak, AK: Nature photo cruise was a real highlight. Small boat with only 6 guests and a very knowledgeable couple guiding it. WELL worth it! Small town with simple self-guided (walking) tour and a shuttle bus. Very genuine. Seward, AK: Kenai Fiords cruise was incredible. Whales, dolphins, eagles, and a glacier thrown in. Entire pods of orcas! This was a MUST MUST MUST DO, even on a drizzly day. Stay in town for a visit to the Sea Life Center or some shopping, A regular shuttle goes back to the ship. Icy Strait Point (Hoonah), AK: This small town with its native tribe of 760 people owns the port through a small corporation that benefits the tribe. They market it well, with many activities and tours. The whale watch cruise we took was actually done by a separate company that cooperates with the corporation. It was excellent. Great photos of humpbacks, including mama and baby. Sea lions, and more. Another keeper! Warning: the bridge you walk across into the port area is COLD because of the wind, but the temps are much nicer around the corner and out of the wind. Wear layers. Friend did the zipline and loved it. Sitka, AK: Busier port with another ship in port at same time. Cute, smallish town. Walking tour went 5+ miles to see historic sites, totem area, and Raptor Center. All are worth seeing. Wish we’d had longer in totems and Raptor Center. People who took included tour said it was good, too. Note: if you are looking for the post office, you have to go outside of town, They closed the location right next to the port! Ketchikan: VERY, very touristy. We saw a total of FIVE other ships in one day, one of whom was waiting for us to pull out. Downtown is all shops, some owned by other cruise companies. We went out of town to a Fishing lodge for a crab feast. It was fun, including the boat ride out to the island. Good wildlife and newspapers-in-the-picnic-table crab boil. Dress for the weather because you are on an outdoor deck. You also get a walk in a temperate rainforest at the lodge. If you want nothing but shopping, stay in town and walk off the ship. Some ships dock a bit outside of town. Vancouver, Canada: Kudos to Viking for handling the challenge of disembarking over 900 passengers by tender! It went quite well. We were off the ship and on our way to the airport ahead of schedule. We hope everyone’s bags went to the right place. Ours did. Viking, you made a difficult good-bye palatable by keeping it smooth and easy. Suggestions for Viking: Consider changing the itinerary for Jakarta and Singapore. Maybe steal a day from Jakarta and add it to Singapore? You could play with some of Indonesia, perhaps. What about Lombok? Semarang is not great, though you need it for Borobodur. Think about solving that? Think about how you want to “sell” your port call in Cambodia Continue to refine the excursions. We know you do this because of wise changes that were made after Viking Ocean’s first summer in the Baltic. Suggestions for future Grand Voyagers: Plan for HOT weather and extreme high humidity on this itinerary of traveling Feb-May as we did. We live in the southeast US and know humidity, but this is FAR worse. Plan to change your clothes from the skin out 2-3 times a day in many of these ports. Take enough clothing so you can do that. If you are on a long cruise with people getting on and off for various shorter :legs, “ ask the management to gather the “voyagers’ for cocktails and /or dinner and get everyone’s first names and cabin number while they are at that first gathering, That way you will know where to find each other! Emails help, too, if you want to be able to contact everyone. The ship management cannot give you this info. Thanks to TL from our group who spearheaded this! A long cruise is a marathon, not a sprint. If one excursions or day is lousy, just look to the next one. Share your feedback in a constructive manner. It goes much further, and the crew will always want to help you. Vary your excursions. Don’t book too many temples, street market visits, or anything else. You’ll get tired of it! READ the Viking Daily—before you go to bed! Get accustomed to giving laundry advice in Viking’s free launderettes. You know how they work, and you don’t want the newbies to break the machines! Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
Chose the cruise because of its Itinerary. Celebrity Sandards have fallen very quickly if this ship is an indication of Fleet wide. Library had no more than 200 books most of which were in German. Food Quality and Quantity have also ... Read More
Chose the cruise because of its Itinerary. Celebrity Sandards have fallen very quickly if this ship is an indication of Fleet wide. Library had no more than 200 books most of which were in German. Food Quality and Quantity have also fallen. Where we used to receive 6 shrimp in a shrimp cocktail there are now 4. One night I ordered a steak Diane and it appeared on my plate less than one quarter of an inch thick. Likewise a Salmon filet with no more than 3 bites in total. My biggest complaint however is the use of the atrium area on deck 3 and 4 for very loud activities like dance classes/exercise classes and general dance sessions. This excessive nois affects people seeking quiet enjoyment to read play games, work on the internet or just have a coffee or a drink in one of the bars. Despite numerous complaints to Cruise direcrtor staff and Celebrity Captains Club hostess it continued unabated throughout the cruise. The Observation lounge is the proper place for dancing and dance l;essons while the Gymnasium needs to be used for exxercise classes. This is the first time I have not taken advantage of the Future cruise program as I could not find anything with sufficient incentive for booking on board and after this cruise I am not sure i will be sailing Celeberity in the future. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
We stayed 3 days in Auckland before embarking after our flight from Manila. The embarkation was easy and smooth. the ship docks in the middle of Auckland, so its easy and very cheap to reach by public transportation. Being members of ... Read More
We stayed 3 days in Auckland before embarking after our flight from Manila. The embarkation was easy and smooth. the ship docks in the middle of Auckland, so its easy and very cheap to reach by public transportation. Being members of the European Union we didn't need any Visa or ETA. in New Zealand. The friendliness of the people of New Zealand and Australia has to be mentioned specially. No arrogance or security phobia by the embarkation in Auckland OR disembarkation in Sydney as experienced in an other big English speaking country! The cleanliness on board and on land is remarkable. On board were many citizen of not English countries.We would like to have a little less US american shows and more other main languages oriented activities, even subtitled! The songs of the entertainment group of the ship were purely sung in us american..even if they are of Italian, German or French origin. . The service in the lido by the Filipino cooks and Indonesian waitresses and waiters is remarkable. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
This was our third cruise with P&O and our our 13th in total. There were four of us on the trip (a 4 day comedy themed cruise from Auckland to Sydney), my wife and I and my sister and brother-in-law who were taking their first ... Read More
This was our third cruise with P&O and our our 13th in total. There were four of us on the trip (a 4 day comedy themed cruise from Auckland to Sydney), my wife and I and my sister and brother-in-law who were taking their first cruise. Our overall impressions were not great. Whilst the entertainment provided by the five “resident” comedians was good and a couple of the chances to discuss comedy were excellent, the rest of the cruise was disappointing, the service was patchy and the crew weren’t particularly engaging or seeming to enjoy themselves. Dining The food was a particular issue, the pantry is very poor quality, my brother in law described it by saying you’d be very disappointed if you received similar at the food court in your local shopping mall. Some of it was almost inedible (I had an oatmeal for breakfast one morning that had clearly been made by someone who had never seen oatmeal before, it was cold and had a soup like consistency). The dining room was of better quality but only slightly and the amount of selection available had diminished significantly from our two previous P&O voyages. We dined there for dinner twice and lunch once and the organisation of the groups turning up was pretty shambolic especially on the first night when although we had booked a dining time it was just chaos trying to get in. We dined once at Salt and that was of a really good standard although at an additional $49 pp you would hope so! Accommodation We had both booked ocean view cabins on level 9 which were fine and the Jewel (along with the Dawn) have some of the best designed showers at sea with plenty of room in them. Entertainment Staff I was interested to note that P&O had changed the title of the cruise director (which sort of makes sense actually) to entertainment director. It’s a bit of a damning indictment that just a few days after the cruise I can’t recall her name and she was practically invisible the entire trip apart from introducing the evening show. One of her offsides (Steven) was far more visible and if I hadn’t known better would have assumed he was the cruise director. Misc The constant charging for every minor addition was pretty annoying and although I get that it is at the budget end of the scale, it felt like you were being nickel and dimed at every point, even the wellness lectures were a thinly disguised chance to sell over priced orthotics. I was disappointed for my sister and brother in law who had really been looking forward to the trip especially as we had been bugging them to come on a cruise with us for years but left feeling like they had a really low budget experience. On the up side the boarding and departures were very well organised and for once boarding times were actually enforced by the shore staff in Auckland resulting in manageable queues and an easy boarding experience. Even as an entry level cruise I struggle to give this more than two stars and that will unfortunately be our last P&O (Australia) cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
I chose the option of a cruise so I didn't have to negotiate the tedious rigors of airport security and the daily pains of finding a place to eat and another to visit to fill in my holiday. I work long hours normally and get very ... Read More
I chose the option of a cruise so I didn't have to negotiate the tedious rigors of airport security and the daily pains of finding a place to eat and another to visit to fill in my holiday. I work long hours normally and get very little time off so the wife and I wanted a holiday that was out of NZ and stress free. The Vanuatu Explorer certainly achieved this. While the ship itself is a bit tired, they do well with what they have. Service and staff were excellent. Atmosphere of the ship itself fantastic and we finally got the rest we deserved meeting a lot of good Kiwis in the process. It is true that you need to be careful as there are cash traps, once on the ship you are tied to the boat and reliant on the prices there in which are a bit excessive. On the whole however our first cruise a success. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
This was a cheap 4 day jaunt across the Tasma from Auckland to Sydney. We had travelled on the Golden 2 years ago and enjoyed ourselves so was keen to see what it was like again. Overall the cruise was good with great service and still ... Read More
This was a cheap 4 day jaunt across the Tasma from Auckland to Sydney. We had travelled on the Golden 2 years ago and enjoyed ourselves so was keen to see what it was like again. Overall the cruise was good with great service and still a reasonably good standard of food throughout the ship. The entertainment particularly the production show was very good and very professional. We went up to the drinks for elite passengers the first night and was bitterly dissappointed with the level of service as the bar was very quiet but we waited 15 mins for a drink and then sat for a good 30 mins again with dirty plates and empty glasses on our tables before we had to get up and find a waiter to serve us and even then when they brought our drinks back we had to ask them to clear the table as they were about to walk away. We took it up with the bar manager later that evening and had much better service from then on, We all thought considering we were elite passengers they would have made sure we were looked after right from day one. Also the cabin steward stuck his head in the door on the first evening and we never saw him again for the rest of the cruise and didn't bring us any bathrobes which was difficult when room service breakfast arrived. Only a few niggles but overall Princess are great value for money and far better than a lot of the other mid range products. Our friends we were travelling with had not travelled with princess before and also booked a obstructed view cabin but got upgraded to a mini suite which we thought lucky them but at The same time thinking that princess would upgrade their elite passengers first as it makes you wonder why the loyalty program is there. Our cabin E517 had almost a full ocean view so would reccomend. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
We decided to do this small cruise as a perfect relax to break what has been a very busy year. Embarkation was a breeze as this was a stop on a longer cruise so only about 200 got on at the same time. From Customs to the ship in under 10 ... Read More
We decided to do this small cruise as a perfect relax to break what has been a very busy year. Embarkation was a breeze as this was a stop on a longer cruise so only about 200 got on at the same time. From Customs to the ship in under 10 mins. We took a cruise on the Emerald earlier in the year and although the ships were approx. the same size, the Golden seemed to have far more space and felt perfectly limited for a great passenger experience. Did not really go to any of the entertainment save the daily trivia, but did venture out and sadly went to the Blues Brothers show which was pretty average. Friendly staff and definitely the best food we have encountered on a Princess ship. I would highly recommend this ship and will be looking out for another adventure on her in the near future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
We chose this cruise for the port of call at Komodo Island. Our boarding experience was good, cabin (ocean view) was larger than most modern cruise ships but in a very poor state of repair. The floor gave underneath you when you walked ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the port of call at Komodo Island. Our boarding experience was good, cabin (ocean view) was larger than most modern cruise ships but in a very poor state of repair. The floor gave underneath you when you walked near dressing table and had a large nail/screw sticking out of the carpet. These concerns were addressed to a certain extent but as this was the last cruise for the Pacific Pearl under the P&O banner staff not really interested. Cabin steward was excellent. The food onboard was very disappointing. Dining room staff was very good but food was not. If you wanted anything decent to eat like a steak, plate of prawns or lobster it was available every day but you had to pay an extra charge. To me this was appalling. People go on a cruise for an all inclusive holiday not to be ripped off for anything decent to eat. The deserts were tasteless in fact they all seemed to taste the same. If you had a cup of expresso type coffee, which you paid for, the pastries were charged for at $4 each. They were very tasty and the lemon meringue pie was a proper desert not like what was served one evening in the Horizon Court one evening which was a blob of yellow flavored goo with a smudge of meringue on top which was blow torched brown. The entertainment was ok but not much of it during the days at sea e.g., 7 or 8 times sessions by Spa Staff trying to promote their services or selling something. Very crude Australian woman comedian she was disgusting. This cruise has left me feeling very disillusioned with cruising but one thing for sure we will never cruise P&O Australia again. Our impression of them is that they try to gouge as much as they can from you. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
Repositioning cruises are a wonderful way to avoid tedious air travel. Noordam had a great itinerary and the timing was perfect. Noordam was scheduled for a refit in 2015 but it still hasn't happened and its looking a bit tired. ... Read More
Repositioning cruises are a wonderful way to avoid tedious air travel. Noordam had a great itinerary and the timing was perfect. Noordam was scheduled for a refit in 2015 but it still hasn't happened and its looking a bit tired. The soft furnishings are worn in the staterooms and some public areas. Although the colors in the bathroom are dismal, the size of the bathroom is good with a lovely sitting size tub. Dining on Deck 3 in the Vista dining Room was fine, good food and a wonderful waiter on table 71, but breakfasts and lunches on Deck 2 were inconsistent due to insufficient staffing. Wait staff worked hard and were pleasant but they were stretched too thin. Room stewards were lovely and particularly thoughtful. HAL has cut back on entertainment staff, no sports staff, no poolside activities, no sailaway parties at each port. There are fitness classes (fee) and staff in the gym. I enjoyed the thermal spa a great deal and found the spa staff very welcoming and friendly. There were no enrichment lectures for the seadays between Auckland and Sydney. We have been told enrichment lectures may not be continued at all. After Sydney, they had 3 lectures most seadays and these were generally worthy. Evening entertainment was hampered by a dreadful sound system, and inability to turn down the recorded background music so the singers could be heard. In general music was TOO LOUD unless unamplifed. In general we loved the itinerary but are not likely to do this one again and certainly NOT on Noordam. Communication from staff over changed/missed ports was slow or absent, and when information needed to be timely it wasn't. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
A repositioning cruise that took us 36 nights from Auckland/Sydney/Honolulu/Vancouver with no ship problems...so that is a very good and great thing! But service overall ('anytime' main dining) was a big hit & miss for the ... Read More
A repositioning cruise that took us 36 nights from Auckland/Sydney/Honolulu/Vancouver with no ship problems...so that is a very good and great thing! But service overall ('anytime' main dining) was a big hit & miss for the whole cruise - often 3-4 hr dinner service, cold coffee (both breakfast & dinner service), orders not taken right or forgotten, lots of cold and unappealing food served, dry and overcooked food - including fish, cold eggs benny (or solid eggs benny). More often than not dinner entree plates had been sitting 1/2 made up for some time with lumped, cold & glutinized rice or starch on the plate waiting for the meat portion. I never did get a caesar salad that did not have some problem like wilted warmed lettuce. By the end of the cruise nearly everyone was talking and experiencing the same problems in anytime dining....so much so that I've never cruised where so many people stated they'd removed their gratuities. Five star mariners were complaining and writing pages to the front office. Also people were saying never another Holland cruise and some couples cancelled a future cruise they were so upset. By mid cruise we figured out it was better to eat in the Lido...except so many were doing that, it was crowded all the time and you were always walking around looking for seating (breakfast and lunch too)....but at least the food was hot and you could pick and choose what you wanted. All over the ship there were many very cold common areas. And there were many areas where water constantly dripped from the ceilings above - interior Lido area, the spa area, Sports Bar, etc. Seating in the sports bar had pails on them, the Lido walkways had yellow cones where water was on the floor. Carpets in the spa area were sopping wet (and not from pool water, but water from above). And as well seating in the thermal spa area was soaking wet from above.The staff kept the interior shone and very clean, but many areas were in need of repair, carpet replacement, many seat cushions need repadding, etc. No librarian or bridge master anymore. The cruise director - Jeromy Whitehead was lack luster to say the least and his side kick - Marshall, not any better. Usually a cruise director can liven things up...change or set the tone of a cruise...but not this one...he was pretty much not seen and boring when he was...in a suit with a "talking" orange tie is about all. Ship board life got quite boring real fast for the lack of things to do of any real interest. Holland needs to greatly improve in this area - I blame the cruise director. The Neptune party at the equator crossing was put on with no great effort, nor thought compared to others I've experienced. The Crowe's Nest - a great venue onboard - sat empty EVERY night but one of the 36 night cruise!!! - nothing going on. Except for the nightly Vista Lounge entertainment, there was little of to do after dinner after you'd spent a night or two with the Adagio classical duo, or the piano guy, or covered your ears to look in at the BB Blues Band who were way to loud to be enjoyed or anywhere near for long. Even the casino was dead! The passengers who only went from Auckland to Sydney got short changed during the day with presenters as the Vista Lounge was not utilized during the daytime, instead the Queen's Lounge was used - ill-suited for the number of people wanting to attend...so people stood and listened, could not see and left. Even the Maori team were complaining about the wrong venue...but it was not changed. It was terribly crowded - seating/chairs all wrong and uncomfortable. This included using the venue for movies too...nearly unworkable, or any comfortable seating to see anything. The cultural groups aboard (Maori & Hawaiian) were very good and well received....were of great interest and variety...but the 3-4 lecturers were not that great after listening to them more than once. Their topics were just boring and dry...it just became a place to go and sit, kill some time for the most part. They seemed to be 'old hacks' with 'worn' material who were on a 'free' cruise. Holland needs to bring on people who are current, new and not so so boring. I sat at dinner with one of the them as he explained how he was selected (from his agent) and what little work he had to do to change up his presentation to meet some relevancy, but it really was a free cruise and his wife was already looking at choosing and sending another cruise request to his agent. The one thing that Holland does very well is embarkation and disembarkation as well as tendering - on time, smoothly organized. The ship's office is on their game with proper information to your cabin and it runs smoothly and that includes passport and visa work also. And how can I forget to mention the "GIFT" that the Noordam gave nearly all its passengers - a cold/flu virus that morphed to a terrible chest congestion and cough that spread like wildfire. At times in the Vista Lounge all you could hear was coughing...this continued the whole cruise. While I can't entirely blame staff, I can blame quite a few passengers for not remaining in their cabins for a few days and for coughing and sneezing directly into their hands while in the Lido - then proceeding to touch chair arms, serving spoons, etc and spreading it throughout the boat. Also, I saw Lido staff wipe down table after table with the same (now) dirty cloth, then proceed to place clean water glasses upside down onto a wet table top. I also greatly fault Holland for not making any mention of the situation...or for not asking to passengers take and adhere to better precautions. My 2 cents worth. While it was not a cruise from Hell, it was not the cruise I had longingly looked forward to either....despite the good port calls. It will be some time before I cruise with Holland again....from my experience Celebrity or Princess do it so much better. This was my 2nd more than 30-day Holland cruise. Perhaps it was just this cruise, this ship - Noordam, but after reading many other negative reports from Noordam passengers, I know the experiences I had first hand and agree with the negative comments many, many others have also written....so beware!!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
Chose it because it went where we wanted to go but didn't ant to go all the way to Vancouver but we were told we couldn't get off in Honolulu unless we paid for entire leg to Canada. That being said the reasons we were terribly ... Read More
Chose it because it went where we wanted to go but didn't ant to go all the way to Vancouver but we were told we couldn't get off in Honolulu unless we paid for entire leg to Canada. That being said the reasons we were terribly disappointed are many. I got food poisoning in the formal dining room and was treated like a criminal for even suggesting that the escargot was bad. The front desk told me to go to my room and stay there until they released me. No one in the medical staff saw me, took my temperature or helped me at all. When I wanted food while in my room no one answered the phone in room service or the front desk for at least an hour. When I finally went to the front desk (yes, I left my room!) they had room service call me.15 ins later they called and took an order for me and my husband they said it would be there in 30 mins. which ended up being an hour and a half later. I called the medical staff to find out when I would be able to leave my room, she told me she would let me know sometime the next day after 9 a.m. and then hung up on me before I could saying anything more. Before they released me they came to "sanitize" our room. Which included wiping down a few surfaces but NOT the phone, door handles or bathroom door or the arm chairs. After they supposedly had sanitized the bathroom, I took a wad of TP and wiped under the rim of the toilet seat. It was filled with brown slime and black mold!!!! I let the front desk know this and they said they would mention it to the proper staff, but it never got cleaned. At least 70-80% of passengers were sick with a cold for the entire 36 days. There weren't any waste cans to dispose of used tissues so people were putting them on their used plates, behind curtains next to the tables etc. on Lido deck. I never saw anyone wipe off the chair arms (sticky, oily film covered the arms) I did see them wipe off the handrails but nothing else. The excursions were pretty lame in some cases very good in a few cases. Orcas were touted on the ship as being plentiful on the Orca Whale watch in Victoria but were nonexistent after 3 hours in the cod and rain. To be honest they should call it a wildlife tour since they said while we were on the tour that they hadn't seen or heard of any Orcas being seen for a long time. There was no more to do on sea days than on in port days but much more crowded of course. No games or entertainment around the pool on sea days. In fact one day they took most of the pool chairs away and had a "big sale" on stuff they hadn't been able to get rid of in the last 30 something days. Service in the Lido dining room was the best thing we experienced. The service people were friendly and hard working. Many times though on sea days we had to bus our own tables and get our own beverages because the help was over worked, not enough help. Roasting the same meats is not my idea of cooking. Pretty much roast pork leg and fried chicken every day. Lots of mashed potatoes and carrots. The salad bar was wonderful and was the saving grace for the food department. Finally the last day was the crowning insult. We paid (through the excursions department) $58 for the 2 of us to be transported to the airport to catch our flight. The whole process was chaos both the ship and the bus company were to blame. There was no sense of urgency through the whole chaotic ordeal and culminated in many of us on our bus missing our flights which of course incurred even more fees and getting home 8 hours later than our original flight. Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
This cruise was for the New Zealand Destinations... with a lot of great port stops along the way. Noordam is our fifth HA ship, and much the same facilities as the others. It seemed that the temperature control was much better than some ... Read More
This cruise was for the New Zealand Destinations... with a lot of great port stops along the way. Noordam is our fifth HA ship, and much the same facilities as the others. It seemed that the temperature control was much better than some of the other HA ships we have been on, so we were not freezing in some venues this trip. We opted for a cabin with the steel balcony near the bow, and it proved to be great... only minor problems with some exterior panels rattling in the wind, which were quickly attended to by the staff. We enjoyed the trivia, Windows 10 courses, daily devotions, Piano bar, and all of the special sessions keyed to the locations on route, like learning the "Haaka" before arriving in New Zealand. The evening entertainment was mostly good, with a couple of weaker evenings with entertainers that were not of our tastes. The HAL players were good, but of course started to repeat as we did a double length cruise. The service was good on open dining, except some tables near the back farthest from the kitchen seemed to take much longer between courses. The choices in the Lido buffet were good and never more than a few in the lineups in front of us. Had to ask for lactose free sorbet, but it was available on request, just not on the signs. We did all independent touring supported by the cruise critic forum, and made many friends through the meet and greets and activities organized on the forum. We really enjoyed the Noordam, and are planning to book another HA cruise in the future. .. and 43 days was about the right length, and 5 sea days at a time is not too many!. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
This is a cruise to connect with the dawn princess coming from sydney on the 9/02/17 .embarkation was no problem because there were only 430 new passengers in auckland . We had a shore tour before we got on the ship . It was a bus trip to ... Read More
This is a cruise to connect with the dawn princess coming from sydney on the 9/02/17 .embarkation was no problem because there were only 430 new passengers in auckland . We had a shore tour before we got on the ship . It was a bus trip to davenport with a ferry trip back to the ship on your own ,all in all a very good tour . This was our first cruise with golden princess to test the ship for the future . We just had 11 fantastic days on the dawn princess !! we had fixed dining ,and staff working in the dining room were excellent ,but the meals were not the same standard as on the dawn . Horizon court was fine . The general layout of the ship not very passenger friendly on a short cruise.. 90 % of staff very friendly 10% did not want to be there . disembarkation was a shambels . When things went well they told you so every opportunity , when things did not go to plan they did not tell you untill after the event . We had people passing out in congested hallways leading to the meeting areas. As we got to the luggage pick up area one small peace of luggage was missing , having booked seats on the airport shuttle we had to go and catch that bus . On the bus we talked to several people that had luggage missing ,all the same color and number tag. i contacted princess the next day ,they knew nothing about it . Left all the information required to contact me as soon as they had news of what happened . At this stage 48 hours no news . Overall not a nice experience !! Will we Sail on Golden again "Not likely Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
As we live in Auckland New Zealand and the cruise left from there we were very excited about taking this cruise. The ship is fairly old (we heard that it is to be taken out of HAL's service in 2018) and it is showing its age. Our room ... Read More
As we live in Auckland New Zealand and the cruise left from there we were very excited about taking this cruise. The ship is fairly old (we heard that it is to be taken out of HAL's service in 2018) and it is showing its age. Our room was on one of the higher decks and the juddering when the ship was travelling fast, was quite unpleasant. Amongst the most talked about issues on board involved the beverage department. Five days out from Auckland, there was no more Grolsch or Boddington's beer, and the only beers on offer were American, which to non-Americans are lacking in flavour and not an acceptable substitute. HAL offers wine packages, with a selection from a list: many of the wines on the list were not available and what should be a simple matter of choosing became "well, what can you offer?" There were essential ingredients missing in the cocktail bars too, and these issues persisted for the whole cruise. More beer was taken on board in Honolulu, but supplies ran out before we reached San Diego. The food on board was generally of good quality. We ate lunch in the Lido, as we enjoy the wide choice, and dinner in the dining room, and found little to complain about in either case, although the selection seems smaller than in previous years for the dinner menu. Overall there is too much evidence of the bean counters in Seattle at work, with many areas declining in quality. Not the crew, happily: our cabin stewards work very hard to service more rooms these days. The only HAL shore excursion we took was to the Haleakala National Park, and it was very good value for money. The enrichment lectures were of limited interest, only because of their subject matter - one was a series on WWII battles in the Pacific which I understand was well attended, but not my thing - and after going to 2 lectures by another lecturer I decided that was enough waffle for me. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We have never been to New Zealand and Australia before, and figured out that a cruise could be a good way to get a glimpe of this part of the world. The result exceeded our expectations. We had a great cruise and visited new, interesting ... Read More
We have never been to New Zealand and Australia before, and figured out that a cruise could be a good way to get a glimpe of this part of the world. The result exceeded our expectations. We had a great cruise and visited new, interesting places. We found the route to be beautiful. The ship was nice, the cabin very comfortable, the food was excellent. We liked the informal dinning at the buffets, however we tried the dinning room as well. Both served gourmet food. The main entertainment show performed twice every evening was weak in compare to other cruises, yet the ship's artists were good. The gym was good and well equipped. The service was terrific. The staff, mainly Indonesian, has been very friendly, efficient, ready to help and fluent in English. All other ships's facilities were good, clean and well maintained. Embarkation and disembarkation were short and easy. Shore excursions were unreasonably expensive. We hated to be "captive customers" so we organized our own tours once off the ship. Whenever we docked there was a tourists office with lots of tour suggestions. Holland America should seriously reconsider its tour exursions prices. Yet another constructive comment: The channel selection in the cabin TV is poor and should be augmented. Summary: A great cruise with a great company. We will certainly go again with Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
This was the first half of 2 back-to-back cruises on Golden Princess. The embarkation process in Auckland was very quick (although there were only about 100 passengers joining). Our cabin on Deck 6 was "Partially Obstructed ... Read More
This was the first half of 2 back-to-back cruises on Golden Princess. The embarkation process in Auckland was very quick (although there were only about 100 passengers joining). Our cabin on Deck 6 was "Partially Obstructed View" but there was a good view of the sea through some steel framework for the life-rafts. The cabin was generally good, although the bathrooms are a bit tired, and the showers about as small as you could imagine (with clingy plastic shower curtains that were a bit short and kept depositing water outside if knocked). The food was as good as I've had on 20+ cruises with excellent variety and choice. I don't recall one disappointing dish on the cruise. The entertainment was OK, although the 'rock' band were a bit mixed depending on what they were playing. The only problem we had was getting clarity from Customer Relations on the process when we were continuing on the following cruise, but this was tempered by the fact that they had upgraded us to a balcony cabin four decks up! Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
Thankfully we only did a short 6 day crossing from Auckland to Brisbane which was the end of the world cruise. On a positive note the food was acceptable and the shows were of a good standard with a couple of good comediennes and the ... Read More
Thankfully we only did a short 6 day crossing from Auckland to Brisbane which was the end of the world cruise. On a positive note the food was acceptable and the shows were of a good standard with a couple of good comediennes and the one production show had good vocal and music but no sets and very poor costume selection ( what has happened to the big productions and lavish costumes?). The ship itself is very tired with a lot of the lounge seating in the crooners bar where the springs had gone in all the fitted lounge settees which mad for very uncomfortable cocktail times and the arms on the armchairs were worn and almost threadbare. The cocktails were very weak and almost seemed to be watered down even thought they were $13.95 each ,after a couple of nights we decided not to waste our money on sugar water! The waiting staff in the bars and restaurant were very efficient and friendly and made an effort to please the customers. Our cabin was very tired and not the cleanest with us finding old soaps still in the shower box from the previous passengers and dirty shower curtains and a rusty drain hole, tissues not replaced when empty and hand smudges on the prints on the walls and mirror. In the men's bathrooms there were also no tissues for blowing your nose and they all smelt badly of urine. If we had paid to have been on the world cruise we would have been very disappointed but being only a short cruise it wasn't worth making a fuss over . We are elite passengers but more and more are getting dissatisfied with what ships Princess send down for the Australian and NZ market. We are off next week to join the Golden Princess from San Fran to Auckland and hope that being an Americam based ship the standard will be better if not it may be our last Princess cruise and spend our money on HAL or Crystal. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
Holland America by all accounts have dropped the service level and as we normally use Princess, this was our first encounter with Holland America The cruise companies continual pressure to sell, sell, sell, became very annoying, it ... Read More
Holland America by all accounts have dropped the service level and as we normally use Princess, this was our first encounter with Holland America The cruise companies continual pressure to sell, sell, sell, became very annoying, it happened at the bar, at the shops, at the unprofessional art auctions, and on the tours. The company is obviously hurting and the general view at our eight table dining was not to cruise with Holland America again for many and various reasons. Naturally many will think the cruise line a fine example and had some policies of Holland America been more subtle and less in your face then maybe our view might have been different. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
This cruise I travelled solo, as I was cruising just to surprise some friends/coworkers who were on the ship. My regular job is as a Musician in the entertainment department. I flew from Adelaide to Auckland via Melbourne with Qantas and ... Read More
This cruise I travelled solo, as I was cruising just to surprise some friends/coworkers who were on the ship. My regular job is as a Musician in the entertainment department. I flew from Adelaide to Auckland via Melbourne with Qantas and Jetstar. I thought the combined Qantas booking, and Jetstar being a subsidiary of Qantas, would have let my baggage be checked through, but it wasn't, I had to re-checkin at Melbourne. No big deal, just not what I'm used to. My hotel in Auckland was the Heritage, on Hobson Street, about 5 blocks back from the Princes Wharf where embarkation was to happen. I organized a later checkout (12pm) which the hotel was fine with, in fact they were very friendly and amenable, I can't fault the hotel at all, with the exception being the towels provided in the bathroom. Small and thin. The rest of the room was super, complete with small kitchenette, big bathroom, comfortable beds, lots of storage, just the small towels which seemed unusual. Embarkation was a breeze, I rocked up about 1:30pm, dropped my bag pierside, checking in took maybe 15-20 minutes. No long lines and it was all just nicely organized. I proceeded straight to my room (didn't hear any announcements if it was ready yet, but thought I'd have a look, sure enough it was all set. Since we were doing sea days straight to Sydney I headed back off the ship to the local shops and stocked up on some junkfood and Pepsi for the cabin. The first thing I noticed about this ship was the cleanliness. Definitely one of the cleanest ships I have been on! This is my first time on an R-class ship, having spent most of my time on S-, Vista- and Jewel-class ships. Returned about 3:30, my bag was already delivered, so I unpacked what I needed and then headed outside for boatdrill at 4pm. Was a reasonably quick one, and the weather was just comfortable no sweating or shivering which helped people keep quiet and get us out of the quicker. Headed upstairs to the sail away party for a few minutes, the HalCats were playing and were sounding good, and a good crowd was enjoying the view of Auckland harbour as we left. I went downstairs to the office and introduced myself to the Cruise Director Michelle and Hotel Manager Robert (I worked with Robert last year on the Statendam) and let them know I was aboard and was asked if I could play keyboard in the band since the replacement hadn't shown up. Shamefully, I had to admit my keyboard playing isn't as good as my real instruments (Sax/Percussion), and besides I was on vacation :) That aside, the band still sounded quite good. I ate in the Dining Room 2 nights, and the Pinnacle 1 night. It was enjoyable meeting different people at dinner (was seated at tables for 10-12) and although the majority of cruisers were of an "advanced" age, there were a surprising number of sub-30s as well - but I think most were there for the 3 days as opposed to the longer offerings of this cruise. Entertainment was the expected fare of HAL - George Kowalski was in the Ocean Bar (another flashback to last year's ship) for his 38th year on ships, playing ballroom dance music. Those who were there were enjoying it, I saw some serious dance couples. The String quartet in the Explorers lounge were great, playing from memory and taking requests. Marisha & the HalCats were all over the ship, and sounded great, but their hours in the crows nest were largely to small/non-existent crowds. A shame, as this particular HalCat band is tight, has fun, and is well-led by their bandleader James. Surprisingly I only attended one show in the Frans Hals lounge - the cast production show "Gold" (yet another flashback to a previous ship). The cast was talented but was let down by the audience - a lot of B2B passengers had seen it the previous week, so hadn't come back. I just wish Holland America used LIVE musicians to play the shows, as the midi backing track can't compare. The other two showtime offerings were the welcome aboard show - which was too cheesy for me to stay for, and Martin Lass - a great violinist whose show I have played on a few occasions. In the Piano Bar there was always a large and enthusiastic crowd to have fun with Randall Powell (yet another flashback to previous ships). I did not take part in any activities, but the event staff were all great and we all hung out at various times. Nightlife on the ship was very quiet after about 11pm. The Stateroom was great, looking out over the Lower Promenade deck, but luckily I had a direct view to the sea, and didn't notice people walking past so it wasn't an issue for me. The 2nd morning there was some loud noise (similar to a circular saw) which lasted for about 10 minutes at 930am, but I was able to return to sleep without hassle. Due to a problem with one of the turbos, combined with a head swell, we were 2 hours late arriving into Sydney, but this allowed more people to experience the sail-in through the Heads, past HMAS Sydney's Mast, the Opera House, the Bridge, and into Circular Quay. Disembarkation began approximately 1030am, my group was called off just after 12. It was not that huge a dilemma since the disembarking passengers were a small number compared to the in-transit passengers, however it would mean the embarking passengers may have had to wait longer than usual. Sorry about that. I walked myself up to the Swissotel on Market street, just around the corner from Pitt Street Mall and the Centrepoint Tower, checked in about 1pm, and relaxed. All in all, it was a great way to see the ship from the "other" side of the coin. Having worked from the service end of the industry I knew what to expect, and how to make life easier for all involved. I would love to cruise for longer next time. I hope this review has been enlightening for some at least. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009

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