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7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
Probably the best ship in P&O's fleet, having sailed on her, around the world and elsewhere, several times since 2007. Sadly her recent refit has removed one of her most loved features - The Bordeaux Restaurant, and replaced it ... Read More
Probably the best ship in P&O's fleet, having sailed on her, around the world and elsewhere, several times since 2007. Sadly her recent refit has removed one of her most loved features - The Bordeaux Restaurant, and replaced it with The Glasshouse which was noticably deserted for most of our cruise. Her well stocked Library is now crammed into the Cyber Cafe (dont think of sitting there quietly with a good book). The Sindhu restaurant has replaced the Library - OK for those who want a particular style of Indian food. Clealy the new features are centered around profit generation, but I doubt they will realise significant revenue as they are not in keeping with the British style of cruising. The change from the Pennant Grill to the Beach House does offer an alternative dining experience on the back of deck 12 which is recommended in the warmer climbs, possibly not so appealing on the Atlantic routes. The newly installed bulkhead which now divides the Vanderbilt room to provide a kitchen for the Sindhu restaurant lacks the original build quality, evidenced by the creaking whenever the ship gets into a lively sea - something which both Aurora and Oriana have not suffered previously. The multi million pound refit could have benifitted from removing the flaking paint and rust which is particularly evident around Deck 7 and elsewhere. On a more positive note Aurora still rides very well in rough seas - Coming through the Tasmin Sea in a Force 11 she remained very stable - so if your sea legs are not the greatest, this is the ship to choose. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2014
Arcadia world cruise 2014 Auckland to Southampton We returned to UK from a month touring in NZ by 51 days on Arcadia. This was our first time on P and O and we chose this cruise because of the port calls which seemed to us a wish list of ... Read More
Arcadia world cruise 2014 Auckland to Southampton We returned to UK from a month touring in NZ by 51 days on Arcadia. This was our first time on P and O and we chose this cruise because of the port calls which seemed to us a wish list of many places in the world we wanted to see and we were not disappointed. Sadly, the planned calls to Egypt could not take place because of the security situation; P and O substituted Sallalah in Muscat which was a waste of time as the majority of passengers did not get off the ship, and also Aqaba, which gave us an excursion to Petra and was the high point of the trip. We liked: our cabin (E deck next to midships gangway), the promenade deck, some of the lectures and entertainment, the art tutor, the Captain who is outstandingly good, reception staff, the port presentations, the excursions we took. The entertainments staff worked hard but there is a great reliance on quizzes. Headliners theatre company are very good, but on a long trip you eventually get repeats of the same show. The ship is modern and comfortable but not glitzy. Disembarkation was rapid and efficient. We disliked: the food, quality was very variable. In particular, preparation and cooking of vegetables and selection was poor (‘not peas again’). For vegetarians it was difficult. Meridian restaurant menus became somewhat predictable. Belvedere self service was often over busy and with bizarre choices, some days lots of curries, other days none at all, some days plenty of non meat choices, other days none at all. The beauty salon is over priced and not very good, I had a poor experience myself and heard many unhappy stories from other women passengers. We would have liked: better lecture choices, (there was rather a lot of history of the second world war), an experienced choir leader and I was surprised that the ship does not carry a chaplain. A lot of passengers seemed to be ill towards the end of the cruise. While P and O do have some hygiene procedures in place, they do not enforce rigorously, nor remind people as often as they need to. I think there is specific problem on a world cruise, where new groups of passengers, up to 600 at a time, are embarking for a particular sector, and bring with them a lovely selection of winter infections which they then fail to keep to themselves. Those of us who had been away from the UK since January did not stand a chance. Overall this was a successful cruise which met our expectations but we would probably not travel with P and O again, as we now know that we prefer smaller ships with fewer passengers.   Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2013
I have cruised since 2002, previously with Holland America (excellent experience & after Cunard regard them as much better value for money),Princess (very good, would choose them again) & P&O Australia (probably not again - ... Read More
I have cruised since 2002, previously with Holland America (excellent experience & after Cunard regard them as much better value for money),Princess (very good, would choose them again) & P&O Australia (probably not again - well, enough said). Embarked in great expectation, but found as the cruise progressed, pre cruise publicity not very accurate. The disappointments came fro a lot of little things. I will fill you in in 'dot point' fashion. I would probably think hard about going with Cunard again as the value is not there when compared with other cruises I have experienced. * Embarkation & De-embarkation - very smooth & easy (looked like P&O ground crew being used) * Found stateroom quickly (A lot smaller than other ships of same vintage & older) but not cleaned or prepared for 3 of us. * Went to Kings Court for a 'cuppa' ( & experienced our first taste of unhappy crew - sniping at each other) * Dined in Britannia Restaurant that evening (& most evenings), stewards and Maitre D welcomed us - great, but meal was good but not special. Our table stewards' service was excellent but took some time to warm up (again suffering from unhappy crew syndrome, may be because of many & varied cultural backgrounds)I must add that our table steward proved excellent. * Speciality Restaurants were booked out in a very short time after boarding. * Afternoon tea was a disappointment with soggy sandwiches and often stale cakes, &, often cold tea. * Ship ambiance, excellent but looking close at the timber panelling etc. showed how clever people are with the artificial. * Meals followed our first meal experience of being mostly good but not great. * We partook in the formal night activities and enjoyed them (your choice). * Kings Court, the few times we went, the food was pretty ordinary but always quick & easy. * Stage shows typical of cruising, not a lot of variation from other lines shows. * Illuminations would have been OK if special reclining seats were repaired or replaced. * Cunard Enrichment activities were good, informative & worthwhile - Library & Bookshop worth visiting. ( Commodore Rynd was available for book signing one day but I think was overwhelmed with response with many passengers turned away). * It was good not to feel overcrowded - on board passenger/space ratio excellent * Room Service excellent (better than buffet for quality) * Cabin Steward very obliging * reception staff very good. * Overall ship appearance - at just under 10 years old and following previous maintenance & upgrades, the ship is showing some lack of regular/ongoing maintenance (tired looking, bad rust in some areas) * We had 2 tender ports which was good but some new crew had difficulties with tenders (got to learn sometime somewhere I guess). * Entertainment throughout the ship was excellent * Guest entertainers ( mixed quality) * Ports were all good particularly Akaroa and Fiordland - bonus at Milford Sound where Cunard had arrange some publicity shots allowing us extra time in that beautiful place, even maneuvering/navigating within a few metres of a waterfall. * To repeat it was a lot of little things including some unhappy crew that let the ship down. Overall enjoyable cruise to a lovely area but not quite as publicity generated expectations. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2013
An interesting cruise for less than US$100 per night for 34 nights (obstructed view cabin). Ft. Lauderdale-Panama Canal-Limon (Puerto Rico)-Guajaquil (Ecuador) - Lima (Peru) - Easter Island (Chile) - Pitcairn (British) - Papeete (Tahiti) - ... Read More
An interesting cruise for less than US$100 per night for 34 nights (obstructed view cabin). Ft. Lauderdale-Panama Canal-Limon (Puerto Rico)-Guajaquil (Ecuador) - Lima (Peru) - Easter Island (Chile) - Pitcairn (British) - Papeete (Tahiti) - Auckland (N.Z.) - Burnie (Tasmania) - Sydney (Australia). Taxi from Fort Lauderdale airport to ship is US$20. The only problem is the free shuttle dumps you at a different terminal to yours. A clean ship built for 700 pax. max. and because of the low number of passengers on board a friendly atmosphere develops and one gets to know the different nationalities and passengers meet on the same tables in the restaurants and get to know one another. The itinerary mentions equator and dateline crossings, which hides the fact of many days at sea and which are not really destinations but at least the King Neptune party breaks up the days at sea. Pitcairn was not a destination but was truthfully advertised as a cruise past and islanders came on board to sell honey, souvenirs and stamps and one could meet relatives of the mutineer Fletcher Christian. But what nearly led to mutiny amongst the passengers was the disaster of not getting off the ship at the mysterious Easter Islands. This led to far too many days at sea between Lima and Papeete (Tahiti). One must assume many bookings on this Pacific Princess world cruise were due to the magic that Easter Island evokes. But it is a fact that only one in four ships can berth due to swell (Source: National Geographic) and had that fact been made available in the Princess literature, then passengers would have been more understanding of the possibility of disappointment. A suggestion would be to nominate an alternative, like Bora Bora to break the many sea days. Those of us craning our necks to see the Moais (stone statues) of Easter Island at the railings on deck 9 also missed the commentary from the bridge, which apparently pointed out the locations and names of the various platforms (Ahus). As compensation the ship steamed around the island. There must have been communication problems with the outside speakers close to the railings. And to add salt to the wounds we all missed out on the Tapati Rapa Nui festival, which lasts for 14 days on the island at the beginning of February when we were there. If one does not mind non-working air-conditioning and older busses, then independent travel can make the excursion costs drop by half compared to what Princess charges and shuttle busses from Princess from the ship sometimes drop passengers off nowhere near tourist bureaus, where further excursions can be booked. The entertainment on Pacific Princess was commendable, the library well-stocked, the staff courteous and helpful, cooking and dancing classes, trivia challenges, films, lectures by experts, like the talk about the Concorde by a retired Concorde pilot Captain Les Evans filled the sea days. Every interest is catered for and Christian and Jewish mass is conducted. The food was simply overwhelming in its variety, especially during Sunday brunch at sea. Prepared by internationally well-known chefs the food included all known sea foods plus escargot, pheasant, etc. and international themes ensured every nationality did not have to miss out on their favourite foods. The patisserie section with its specialities like Sacher Torte and Linzer Torte was just too tempting. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2012
I want to express our experience to you about P&O Aurora World Cruise 2012 as follows. Besides that I also have to mention that the crew and especially the cleaning staff, waiters and assistance at reception did extraordinary jobs. ... Read More
I want to express our experience to you about P&O Aurora World Cruise 2012 as follows. Besides that I also have to mention that the crew and especially the cleaning staff, waiters and assistance at reception did extraordinary jobs. The cruise started for us with asking P&O office for assistance or at least the right information in case of a lacking India Visa. We were told by P&O office that without the Indian Visa we are not allowed to enter the ship which later on at the departure date turned out as not being the correct information that was given to us. Because of that we needed to change flight schedules for several hundred's of dollars and phone calls for over a 100,00 Euros because of being forwarded from one department to the other without not getting helpful information. Finally the result was that all these expenses were not necessary but because of non sufficient information given from P&O office and Visa department in Southampton. An employee from P&O at Southampton Port allowed us to enter the ship but informed us that if we didn't have this Visa we would be unable to board but would have to disembark in a port prior to India. So I would say there is a lack of information from one office to another with P&O employees. At the same time we received the information that the port in Acapulco/Mexico was canceled because of safety issues without replacement nor any compensation. Shortly after we got announced that also Cochin as the second Indian port was canceled, but later on replaced with Muscat/Oman. We were told because of problems with landing slot's in Cochin!? The day as we entered the ship we were told that the so called "Noro virus" (vomiting and diarrhea) was on the ship. The rumors in between the passengers was that the virus was already on board before embarkation. Aurora's captain told it was brought by the passengers. From the first day we were bothered with several daily announcements about this issue and got "forced" to hand sanitizing around every corner of the ship until the rest of the cruise even that it was told later the situation was solved before the port of San Francisco. The next change was made in Colombo/Sri Lanka (regular scheduled inbetween 6 am. and 16:30 h) because of the tide in Mumbai. The stay at this port of call from finally 8 am. To 12:30 h was reduced by another 5 1/2 hours. After Madeira the ship started leaking in certain sections through broken and corroded water pipes. There were buckets placed all over the ship so that later on officials made jokes "that is for providing drinking water to the drug sniffing dogs". Towards the end of the cruise more buckets got added because the problem got worse. I am talking about having buckets on the ship, in the theatre, hallways and staircases over more than 90 days! We were just lucky that we did not sit down in the "Curzon" theater as a pipe broke there and caused lots of damage and flooded the place that there was no entertainment for almost 2 weeks available. There was a drug bust starting in San Francisco which caused inconvenience for lots of passengers including us who were not even involved. Drugs were found on the ship which is of course not a problem of P&O but to keep going with their standards and comforts as well as the promised itinerary for us passengers I will count P&O cruise line responsible for it. We were just lucky that our cabin (might!) not have been searched by officials getting under common suspicion and having drug dogs sniffing through our personal stuff. The next complication out of that was another cancellation of the port of call in "Yorkey's knob" Australia without replacement nor compensation. This because of demands from the authorities having again drug searching facilities available on the landing site. Because the new allocated landing spot was too far to reach by the tender boats the port was canceled entirely with the single replacement of another 5 hours in Abu Dabi. Further on at least on 23 ports of call (including Singapore) we had no proper cruise terminal. It was either a container port or tender boat operation for disembarkation within all it's inconvenience that it takes. I know that the landing fee's for those proper cruise ports are probably high 5 digit if not 6 digits amounts for those like Singapore and Sydney! Because of "security issues" the stay in the port of Istanbul was also reduced by approx. 12 hours not allowing us to leave the ship again at night on the first day and on the second day like the itinerary stated. Then early in the morning at 6:45 am a short term announcement was made that the ship will leave at 7:00 am. We were expecting to have a breakfast and coffee outside the port at the same day and having had left some Turkish currency for that reason besides the general inconvenience being involved in another change or reduction while expecting the presence of the scheduled itinerary until 11 am. for the 4 th of april. Passengers were not allowed to leave the ship anymore after 10:30 pm the 3rd of April. As the ship was leaving the port of Istanbul another big cruise liner came in and it was looking like we were almost "pushed out" of the pier. The above mentioned problems I would call general organization and maintenance matters as well as not taking care or not feeling responsible for advertised itineraries like promoted prior to booking. Now I want to mention the following situation on our stateroom on C-deck. The cabin was making noise all day and night due to the location above the engine section. The subdivision and ceiling panels of the cabin were vibrating on a high frequency so that I needed to get up almost every night to press or shake the panels to just interrupt it for a while. After complaining we were told that there is a ventilation unit behind the cabin and offered to move to another cabin. Because the shown cabin was far from the convenient aft deck and was also making noise we decided to stay in our crackling cabin. The toilet flush in our cabin was malfunctioning at least once every other week so that sometimes bad smelling sewage was drafting back from the entire system because we were the last cabin on this deck. Sometimes the bad smell remained for hours in the cabin because of that problem. And it was a repeating problem. Also one night the bathroom was flooded by water back drafting out of the toilet. Of course it is P&O's decision to do major maintenance on railings during a 3 month world cruise but I have never seen before that the entire wooden railings got taken off step by step and got sanded and varnished and replaced during regular cruise business as well as paint jobs. For more than 2 month there were signs "wet varnish" sticking on the railings and floors upfront one after the other day telling you not to touch them. Those inconvenient procedures were nor mentioned nor expected when booking the cruise and they seem to be very strange to us. By the way we believe it's wise to mention in P&O world cruise advertisement that the promenade deck will be shut from 6 pm until 6 am. because of probable piracy attacks. The promenade deck including illumination was shut down for approx. 2 weeks of the cruise and not available at these times inbetween Mumbai and Port Suez. Of course all this in consideration of safety concerns!? During several tender boat operations the engines broke down at least 3 times as far as we know and caused huge delays for all passengers besides our booked Cairo excursion at 3:30 am that day as they started fueling the tender boat before we could get on board. We were sitting 45 min. in the boat because of an actually 10 min. boat ride that morning as the engine of a tender boat broke down in front of us. The peak of it all was our "wake up call" at 1:30 am on the 9th of April as a waterfall caused by a corroded pipe was running down the cabin door and started pouring in our room. The water was pouring in huge amounts for almost an hour and flooded inside the cabin as well. To minimize damage we had to put towels in front of the door and lift up certain things and gather personnel items at 2:30 in the morning before getting relocated to another cabin on deck 10 with a tooth brush, wet jeans and flip flops. Putting our impression and experience of this P&O world cruise together even though comparing an average daily price we paid for this trip towards former cruises we have taken in the past by receiving higher quality standards regarding the ship itself and level of entertainment to a way lower average rate for instance with Cunard, Holland America and Celebrity. We must say that we were far from our own expectation and far from P&O promised and advertised standards which made it an unforgetable experience of vacation which of course it was but in the opposite way. We were also far from almost every scheduled itinerary and the amount of ports of call which was an important fact for booking this cruise on the Aurora. P&O never responded to any complaint If I put it together in one short term: forget about P&O! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
Background This was our 10th cruise, 2nd with Princess. Our previous Princess cruise was on Sun Princess (sister ship) in the Mexican Riviera. Back then the Sun & Dawn Princesses were run as American ships but as they now sail ... Read More
Background This was our 10th cruise, 2nd with Princess. Our previous Princess cruise was on Sun Princess (sister ship) in the Mexican Riviera. Back then the Sun & Dawn Princesses were run as American ships but as they now sail full time from Australia they have been adapted to Australian tastes both in food & entertainment. Embarkation Very slow. We arrived about 1pm hoping to get onboard for lunch but when we arrived they were still disembarking passengers. Inside the makeshift terminal (we embarked at Barangaroo) it was a big mess. Very crowded with too few seats & the check in process was running pretty slow. We had to wait a long time for our number to be called before we could even line up to checked in & then we had to wait again for the number to be called to embark the ship. Ship The ship is still in pretty good condition. In looks she is pretty much the same as the Sun Princess. A bit awkward to get around as the aft lifts only go down to deck 7 & the glass lifts in the centre only go between deck 5 & 8. So going to dinner from our cabins aft on deck 10 we had to take the lift to deck 7, walk through to the glass lifts in the centre & go down another 2 floors to get to our dining room, which is located in the area between the aft & glass lifts. Cabin Had an inside JJ cabin. A bit small (no sofa like RCCL cabins) but fine as I had the room to myself & there was plenty of space in the closets. The bathroom was a good size overall but the shower stall was tiny and a strange half diamond shape so a bit hard to move without coming in contact with the shower curtain. Fellow passengers All the passengers we met on the ship were very nice. Many were elderly (someone said the average age was 70) but there were also a few children on this cruise. Also unlike all our previous cruises the majority were Australian. A few people we met had done the around the world cruise & this around Australia cruise as a B2B so were spending 132 days onboard. Way too long for me. Dining We thought the food in the MDR was good for lunch & dinner however some soups were over salted (didn't enjoy breakfast in MDR, which is normally a treat for us). They were a bit disorganised with the seating & we were only 2 on a table for 8, so we asked to be moved. We ate dinner & lunch several times in the pizzeria where the food was also good & for the first time we also ate dinner several times in the buffet which was a bit hit & miss. Entertainment & activities The entertainment was good overall. Liked the MUTS with free popcorn in the evenings & during the day there were lots of trivia & game shows like family feud. Especially liked a horseracing game during the day called Dicey Dicey Wooden Horses where they threw dice to move horses along a grid on the floor & you could place bets for $3 per horse. There was lots of hilarity, cheering etc. The casino was very small with mostly pokies that we see in Australian casinos. Ports Brisbane - On our own. We went around Brisbane on the HOHO bus, which made it very easy. The Roma Street Parklands are a must. Port Douglas - Unfortunately mum was ill so I only wondered around for a very short time on my own. Port Douglas is very small so you can easily walk to & from town/pier, although there was a bus available for a fee. Darwin -Ships shore excursion. We took a short drive around Darwin & down to the marina, visited the Darwin museum where they have an interesting exhibit on Cyclone Tracy & then visited the Military museum. Broome - Ships shore excursion. We took a short drive around town & over to Gantheaume Point to see the dinosaur footprints & amazing rock formations. Then went to Matsos Brewery where we tasted some amazing mango beer. Bali - We couldn't face the 45 minute tender each way so we stayed onboard. Fremantle/Perth - On our own. There was a short 7-10 minute walk from the dock in Fremantle to the train station where we took a train direct to Perth. Once in Perth we used the HOHO bus to get around easily. Bunbury - Ships shore excursion. We went on a dolphin watching boat tour which was fantastic. Stayed out for about 2 hours & saw so many dolphins (a bit luck of the draw as the tour after ours saw none).Then went to the Dolphin Discovery Centre. Albany - On our own. We took the ships shuttle into town. Wondered around the small town & had a look at a pretty church. At a kiosk in the park we booked a trip out to Whale World, which was interesting if a bit gruesome. Adelaide - Ships shore excursion. We opted for a shore excursion which took us into the city & then out to Glenelg. Unfortunately the drive around the city did not show many things & the stop at the rundle mall was very short (by the time everyone got off the coach we barely had 20 minutes). Glenelg was a pretty seaside suburb but not much to do there in a short time other than shop. Melbourne - On our own. We were able to buy tram tickets at a counter inside the cruise terminal & the tram stop is at the end of the pier across the road so very easy to travel into Melbourne. We went to the Fitzroy Gardens where we saw Captain Cooks Cottage & a conservatory full of beautiful flowers. The tram also has a stop of the casino. Burnie - Due to very strong winds the captain was unable to dock in Burnie so we had an extra day at sea. Hobart - On our own. We were overnight in Hobart & had been there previously so on the 1st day we took the ships shuttle into town & then a bus to the Wrest Point casino. The second day we again took the shuttle into town & just spent the day shopping. It had snowed on Mt Wellington so we felt it was too cold for any outdoor activities. Summary We had a great cruise. It was good to see places in Australia that we would otherwise probably never have seen. We are still partial to RCCL & "American" cruises but we really enjoyed this cruise & loved the ease of departing from our home port rather than having to fly overseas to emberk the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Holland America's ms Volendam Circumnavigation of Australia 14 March-17 April 2010, roundtrip out of Sydney, 34 days with 18 ports of call. We sailed with about 1250 passengers, primarily from the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia. ... Read More
Holland America's ms Volendam Circumnavigation of Australia 14 March-17 April 2010, roundtrip out of Sydney, 34 days with 18 ports of call. We sailed with about 1250 passengers, primarily from the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia. Pre-cruise Travel I elected to fly United Airlines to Sydney because I have elite status with them and can enjoy Premium Economy seating and free baggage. I selected to fly via San Francisco because the airport is more compact and better organized than Los Angeles. The flights went well with only minor turbulence and we arrived just few minutes late in Sydney. I had pre-booked online with KST Airport Shuttle for transportation to my hotel. They charge 12.60 AUD (pre-pay) or 14.00 AUD (pay at time of service). There was a little bit of confusion finding my driver in the airport and he had other passengers to drop first, but I find their service reliable and easy to use. I flew into Sydney two days early in order to have time to unwind, do a little sightseeing, and more importantly to have a cushion of time in case of flights going awry. There were several people who missed the ship in Sydney and had to catch up in another port, and several others who did not have their bags arrive on time for our sailing. The ship was scheduled to sail from Darling Harbour Pier 8 which is over the hill from the more famous Circular Quay area. I wanted to find affordable lodging within walking distance of our pier and I succeeded well with Napoleon on Kent at 219 Kent St., a two-block downhill walk to the passenger terminal. The cost was 150.00 AUD per night (a quite affordable rate for Sydney) for which I got a studio apartment with full kitchenette. Shops, cafes and public transportation were all within a few blocks, although mostly uphill from my location. For pre-cruise sightseeing I had planned to take the train out to the Blue Mountains but discovered at the last minute that there would be no service that weekend due to repair works on the track. A quick email to Sydney's tourist bureau lead me to Grayline Tours which offered an all day Blue Mountains On Your Own tour for 129 AUD. The tour included return bus transport from a pick-up point a few blocks from my hotel to the terminal and on to Katoomba where I was given an all-day ticket for the Blue Mountain Explorer hop-on/hop-off bus which has 29 stops. The pamphlet they give you is very helpful identifying what is located at each stop and recommending walks between stops, of which I took full advantage. The main tourist spot in this area is Scenic World which offers both cable car and "train" access to the valley. The train is a near vertical ride based on the old line used by miners long ago—a sort of mini-thrill ride—whereas the cable car is smooth and pleasant. On the valley bottom there are several boardwalk trails with some historical displays from the mining era as well as interesting flora and wildlife. For the more athletic there is a trail on the rim leading out to the Three Sisters rock formation. Embarkation On embarkation day I walked down to the pier arriving about 10:15 am as check-out time at my hotel was 10 am. There were already quite a number of people waiting in the terminal, some of whom had disembarked and were still waiting for transport. After I dropped off my checked luggage, I was directed to wait outside the terminal where there was some seating; we were told check-in would begin about 11 am. At some point someone came around and passed out group numbers for check-in and handed out immigration forms for us to fill in, but it was closer to 11:30 before we were allowed into the terminal by which time a large group of travel agents had already appeared for a tour and luncheon on the ship. By then things were getting confused. It eventually turned out that those of us who were already Mariners and had done our documents online were suppose to check-in first (Priority Check-in) before Group #1 which meant of lot of line shuffling at the door. More confusion happened mid-day for those of us who wanted to go back into town and reboard later—which way did we go? I got sent back through the whole check-in process again in error. The problem turned out to be locals hired to help at the terminal who were not properly trained. I think there should have been more HAL supervision here. Once on board it took a while to find someone who could tell me where we could store our hand luggage; staff kept directing everyone straight to the Lido buffet. I finally found the location in a corner of the pool area but there was no one there to staff it; that took contacting several more crew members before someone appeared. Then it was off to a pleasant lunch and walk around the ship while we waiting for the "your cabins are now ready" call. While waiting, though, we heard an announcement telling us lifeboat drill would be at 4 pm even though we were not scheduled to sail until 6 pm. That had several people upset, myself included, as many of us had planned on walking around the city that afternoon. In the end the ship scheduled a second drill the next day for those who missed the first day's event. What was nice was that we did not have to bring our lifejackets nor was roll taken. Stateroom I only booked this cruise in late October 2009 and I was booking as a single hoping for the lowest single supplement so my choices were a bit limited. The only lower mid-ship cabins left were next to elevators so I went with a deck 2 inside aft cabin (#2672) which looked to be a quiet location and at a great single rate of about $176 a day. The cabin looked fine upon arrival but the smell—smoke! I immediately went down to the Front Desk to report the problem and to remind them that I had notified the Special Needs department well in advance of my allergy to smoke, but they said they had no record of that. Anyway to make a long story (already reported in detail on CC's Holland America message board) short, it took three days of deep cleaning my cabin, multiple visits to the Front Office, two phone calls to HAL's main office, and the intervention of the my travel agent for them to admit the problem could not be solved (there was a heavy smoker across the hall and the smoke was in the air system). The eventual solution worked out well as they moved me to a nicer cabin, but it should not have taken three days to get there nor should I have been denied an appointment with the Hotel Director which I requested twice. Caveat: if you are allergic to smoke you cannot be guaranteed of a smoke-free cabin on any Holland America ship, so if this is an issue for you look elsewhere. My second cabin, #1902 deck 1 outside mid-ship, was very nice and huge! There was so much storage I didn't know what to do with it all. For those needing extra storage there were two drawers hidden under the foot of the bed and a padded stool that was hollow with a removable seat. The bathroom had one of those mini-tubs of which I'm not a fan, but they provided a rubber bath mat so it was not slippery to get in and out of. The extra tub space gave me more clothes drying room so that I never needed to get in line at the self-service laundry down the hall. There were only two electrical outlets, one U.S. and one European, on the desk so it pays to bring a multiplex extension cord. I use a CPAP machine by the bed and my cord just barely reached. The bed was very comfortable and I had a small loveseat and arm chair as well. They provided this small padded stool for the desk, but I used the armchair there instead—much more comfortable especially as I had brought my laptop for use in the cabin. Even though I was only about 4 doors down from the elevators there was never any noise problem; there were no crew work areas across the hall. However, since I was on deck 1 there was some engine vibration/humming noise with an occasional tapping/chain noise from below (perhaps a repair shop?), but this never bothered me. This cabin was smoke free although by the end of our voyage there was a lingering smoke smell occasionally in the hallway. Ship Information The Volendam is a mid-sized ship with about 1,400 passengers, most of the amenities folks want and nicely decorated. With only nine decks and not a vast length, the Volendam was easy to get around. Many passengers really appreciated the full wrap-around promenade deck for walking. I heard that the ship is due to go into dry-dock spring 2011, but honestly it should have gone this year. Towards the end of our cruise there were often only one-half the passenger elevators operating. There was a small section of cabins portside on deck 1 that was flooded out twice during our cruise, and during a heavy rainfall a "waterfall" suddenly appeared in the ceiling of the Fran Hals Lounge. The crew worked diligently to keep things working as best as possible, but that damp carpet smell never quite left our hallway. Dining I happen to be a great fan of buffet dining as it's quick and you can have small amounts of several things, mixing and matching as you please. Our Lido buffet manager was the best; he was always keeping an eye on things and any problems were quickly resolved. I especially loved the beef and the staff was always willing to additionally cook my portion if there wasn't any "well-done" already available. Overall there were a lot of choices and my only complaint is that sometimes the side dishes were not as hot as one would have liked. Continental breakfast was served beginning at 6 am and hot breakfast started later. The one miss here for me was the lack of fresh whole berries for my granola or waffles in the morning. Both lunch and dinner had a wide assortment of hot and cold entrees, sometimes with theme specialty bars (e.g. Indonesian, Indian, etc.). The evening dessert buffet choices were limited, but the lunch had a wide range of pastries, puddings, cookies, etc. The ice cream bar was open from 11:30 am through dinner and that was often my choice for sweets. I do wish we had lemonade available in the afternoons in addition to ice tea; it makes a nice treat on a hot day. And milk was only readily available in the mornings; otherwise you needed to request it from the back. I only ate in the Main Dining Room a few times. I had Opening Seating which I liked as we could go into dinner right at 5:15 pm whereas First Fixed Seating was not until 5:45 pm. Service was fine and the food good. At 3 pm each day the Dining Room offered Tea, which on a few afternoons had special themes. The most popular was the Aussie Tea with local favorites such as Anzac cookies and scones. The Dining Room was also the location of the Mariner luncheons which were scheduled throughout our voyage based on star level. There was no Mariner luncheon on embarkation day because the ship hosted a large group of local travel agents that day (something they repeated in several of our ports). I ate at the specialty restaurant Pinnacle Grill ($20 charge) just once when the Cruise Critic group got together near the end of our cruise. I was not very impressed. Yes, you got very personal service and the cut of steak was just a bit better than the regular dining venues but the chocolate soufflE was tasteless, and I did not think it was worth the extra charge. We had two other small dining outlets on the ship. The Terrace Grill offered hamburgers and hot dogs as well as a small salad bar, a taco bar, and pizza. It was not a very attractive set up and there were no drinks, not even water, available so that you had to bring something from the Lido buffet or order from the bar on the opposite side of the pool. The Explorations Cafe next to the library offered specialty coffees and teas for sale and provided free pastries and appetizers. On other cruise lines I've been able to get hot milk for free at the coffee bar (I bring my own special hot chocolate mix) and I was unpleasantly surprised when the man staffing the bar turned me down, quite rudely I might add. My only option for hot milk was in the mornings in the buffet. There are, of course, several bar areas as well as a Wine Tasting Bar on board but since I don't drink I cannot say much about them. However, I did want to thank the Beverage Manager, Nigel Thomas, who helped organize several meetings for our Cruise Critic group. Activities Athletic facilities on the ship included the two pools, a fitness center, a basketball court, a small tennis court, and a short jogging track. The fitness center was well equipped and there was a small wood-floored class area that could be used for stretching and yoga. The aft Lido pool was right next to a smoking area so I never got to use that pool. The other pool had a sliding covered roof which gave it some protection during inclement weather. The most popular physical activity on board, however, seemed to be walking around the promenade deck—all ages, all physicalities were out there every day in all weather chugging their way around. The daily program listed several culinary and craft activities each day but since I never participated I cannot comment on them. Although I do want to note that one of our own Cruise Critic group members, Peter, won the cook-up contest with his special chili. The ship also offered some group games and the team trivia seemed to be the most popular. The lectures that were offered on board were quite good and on sea days we usually had three offered. From Sydney to Freemantle we had on board two biologists from the University of Tasmania who lectured on flora and fauna and environmental issues; whereas from Freemantle to Sydney we had two retired military officers who focused on military history, in particular World War II. From Darwin to Brisbane we added a special local reef pilot to guide us through the Great Barrier Reef and he provided additional lectures as well. The ship's Tour/Port Director, Chris Fisher, offered port lectures as well as a few history and wildlife lectures of his own. His background happened to be in birding so he helped organize an ad hoc birding group; we met on deck several times to look for sea birds. I did participate in the computer classes that were offered in a special classroom sponsored by Microsoft. Classes covered the new Windows 7 operating system plus the programs that come with it including web pages, movie making and photo editing. The instructor Kristan was excellent. The classroom was also open for "lab time" for passengers to work on their own photo projects. The Photography Department teamed with the instructor to offer a photo contest in several categories which was quite popular. The Volendam's library was fantastic with a large selection of both fiction and non-fiction books available for checkout. There were also a large number of travel books for help in planning for this cruise and future cruises. The very comfortable chairs and couches were often full on sea days. There was a large table for picture puzzles, another with a globe and atlases, and board games available. Combined with the library was the internet center which had about 14 computers; wireless was available throughout most of the ship. Internet packages were available from about 25-65 cents a minute. I purchased a 500 minute package thinking that would be more than enough, but discovered that their service was very slow and not always reliable. I ended up having to buy another package later. In addition to the regular daily activities, the ship occasionally organized a special event. One at-sea Sunday we had a "Market Day" by the pool. The crew decorated small carts and served special drinks and food. The on-board stores had specials flea market style including half-priced t-shirts. When we anchored for an evening in the Great Barrier Reef, they provided a whole tropical paradise setting with a giant floating fountain in the pool, palm trees, and music. That evening was capped off by the arrival of dozens of migrating birds who mistook the ship for an island; they perched all over the top of the Sun Deck. Services The Tour Director (called Port Director on most ships) provided us with lectures on every port that included a bit of history with practical information such as docking location, transportation, sights, etc. I really appreciated the fact we did not get the awful "shopping talks" you get on many ships that do nothing but point you to the nearest jewelry store. In addition to the lectures, he would have desk hours each at-sea evening and he was dockside on port days where he would answer questions (or try to). The one frustration here was that on occasion I would be told that this was a new port for them and so they were unable to answer my question. This same thing would happen with the Front Desk; one would refer you to the other, or to Shore Excursions, and back again. There were a few ports where I had more information than they did. I do not believe that a port being new to the ship should ever been an excuse for the staff not having done their homework. The Volendam had the usual spa and beauty salon offerings but I did not make use of any of them. Personally I love massages but I do not enjoy the high-pressure sales pitch for over-priced spa items that always seems to accompany any service provided so I stopped using and on-board spa years ago. The Photography Department was quite active on this cruise. They provided the usual port disembark "mug shots," but they were not pushy about it as they are on some cruise lines. The prices for individual pictures, though, were too high I thought so I never bought any. They also offered passengers a chance to create their own book combining pictures of themselves with stock cruise photos. What really appreciated was that in every port they sent photographers and videographers on shore, and from their material they created a two-disk DVD of our cruise. Since my husband had not been able to come with me on this cruise, this DVD has given him a chance to vicariously experience many of the sights I saw. There was the usual selection of shops, with emphasis on jewelry, and the art auctions. The Front Desk offered currency exchange at a reasonable rate and also sold local stamps which were convenient. There were just a few children on board and the Volendam does have a Club Hal/Oasis for them to take advantage of. Entertainment The Frans Hal Lounge offered the usual evening entertainment series, but I never attended. This was a long cruise so a variety of entertainers were rotated through from various ports plus the ship had its own traveling troupe of entertainers. I did, however, attended the two special shows we had with locals. At Hobart the Royal Tasmanian Police Band came on board for a very rousing performance accompanied by some young local Celtic dancers. And in Cairns we had a local aboriginal provide a demonstration of the didgeridoo. I did attend the movies quite often and delighted by seeing a number of quite recent films. Popcorn was provided but they always ran out. The theatre seating was all on one level so many folks came early to fight for the few seats with unobstructed views. Each cabin also had a DVD player attached to the television and DVDs were available for checkout at the Front Desk. Shore Excursions Our first day on board found our Shore Excursion manager, Kevin, running ragged as the ship had just found out we would not be able to visit our second scheduled port of Bateman's Bay due to a problem sand bar. Within 48 hours Kevin managed to completely organize all new shore excursions for the new and very small port of Eden—quite a feat. However, all was not perfect with the Shore Excursion department. Another of our planned ports was Exmouth, a very small town in western Australia, for which pre-booked shore excursions filled very rapidly online. I, happily, got the one I wanted (Glass-bottom Boat Reef Cruise) —or so I thought. Apparently there was some computer glitch along the way and some bookings, mine included, were lost. Even though I had written confirmation of my booking in hand they refused to honor it; instead I was put on a waiting list. And to top that off the staff person (not Kevin) was very rude about the situation. I eventually got another, less attractive time slot for the same tour, but that was due to the fact that they pressured the provider into adding several more trips that same day. The upshot of these additions, however, was that the trip was shortened and we did not get to venture very far from shore. Folks who just went ashore on their own found an independent tour operator who gave them a fantastic trip which was longer and for less money. Note: Individual Port and Tour information given at end of review Disembarkation Since I was flying straight home after the cruise, I had arranged in advance to use the ship's transfer to the airport as this meant I did not have to find my bags in the huge pile in the cruise terminal and then haul them to a taxi or whatever. That part worked well as I walked straight off the ship at my designated time and straight onto the bus. However, when we got to the airport our driver had no idea where our bags were located as they had been shipped earlier by truck. There really should have been a HAL representative at the drop off location at the airport to provide directions. Eventually someone found another passenger with HAL tags on his suitcase and he pointed us to the far end of the terminal. Once there we waited in line to retrieve our bags only to discover there were no bag carts available there; they were back on the outside sidewalk where we were dropped off. Again having a representative there to let us know to take a cart with us would have helped greatly. Then came the wait. Even though my flight was not until 2:30 am I had been given a disembarkation time of 8:00 am. At Sydney the check-in counters do not open until 3 or 4 hours before flight time; in my case it was due to open at 10:50 am. Fortunately I had printed out a terminal map in advance and was able to find the small food court (with Starbucks!) that was hidden away behind the check-in area. Sydney is a very large and busy airport and the lines were long. Thank goodness for my elite status as United's Premier line was much shorter than even the First/Business class line. Once through security I was able to enjoy the Air New Zealand Star Alliance Lounge which offered recliners and hot food as well as an open bar. From there it was smooth flying home via San Francisco. Just a note for future cruisers: 200 of our lucky passengers who remaining on board to continue on to Vancouver were dismayed to discover that they had to report to immigration on the afternoon of disembarkation day along with the newly arriving passengers to be cleared for the continuing voyage. Some had planned overnight trips out of Sydney and had to cancel at the last minute as this requirement was not announced until our disembarkation talk the day before arriving in Sydney. Summary Holland America is a wonderful cruise line with large comfortable cabins, good food, interesting enrichment programs, and, for the most part, a nice older, educated clientele. And this particular itinerary was fantastic! It was the best introduction to a vast country as you can imagine. To have done this itinerary by land would have entailed several plane flights and long rental car drives. That said, however, I simply can no longer tolerate HAL's outdated smoking policy which allows smoking in all the cabins and on verandahs. This policy presents both health and fire hazards for everyone on board. Because of my experience on this cruise, my husband and I cancelled our other Holland America booking for later this year. Instead we've booked a similar cruise with Oceania although, unfortunately it is costing us quite a bit more as we lost any early booking discount as well as our on board credit. If HAL ever decides to change their policy, we will be back because we really do love the cruise line. ____________________________________________________________________________ Ports of Call Newcastle, NSW: Newcastle, formerly just a coal and industrial town, is re-inventing itself as a tourist attraction. We docked at the commercial port and were tendered across the Hunter River to the town dock from where you could easily walk or take one of the shuttle buses provided by the town and staffed by wonderful local volunteers who pointed out the sights along the way to three different drop-of points. Avis provided last minute car rentals right at the dock. With a heritage walking map downloaded from the tourism website, I enjoyed the morning walking out the spit to the lighthouse and then around the fort and into the town center where I took advantage of a nice bakery cafe. Many passengers, however, headed directly for the Hunter Valley wine region either with the ship's excursion or on their own. As an extra treat as we sailed out of the harbor at sunset the old fort saluted us with three cannon shots. Eden, NSW: "The little town and could—and did!" This port was a last minute substitute for Bateman's Bay with its navigational issues. With just 48 hours notice, they provided us with several shore excursions and organized a little open market/fair on the green for us. I took the tour to Ben Boyd National Park where we had a couple of nice walks, one out to the point. We did not see as much wildlife as I hoped in the park, but first time Australia visitors got a kick out of seeing a mob of kangaroos on the golf course as we headed out of town. On the way back the driver took by past a beautiful beach with dolphins playing in the water; I elected to get off here and then just walk over the hill into town. In town the center of attraction is the Killer Whale Museum which many passengers visited before walking down a winding path back to our tender dock. Port Arthur, Tasmania: This was a half-day stop offering tender service into the historical park; passengers had to pay the park fee if going ashore or be on a shore excursion. Since I had visited the park before I elected to stay on board but I do highly recommend taking a tour as it's the best glimpse of Australia's beginnings as a penal colony available today. Hobart, Tasmania: We were docked right in town from late-afternoon one day until midnight the next. I had visited Hobart the year before so I knew right where to head first—Salamanca Square which is lined with cafes and small shops. Unfortunately we were not there on a Saturday so we missed the famous open market. Several excursions were offered and I selected the one scheduled to visit New Norfolk, Russell Falls, a winery, and Bonorong Wildlife Park—all sights I had not seen the previous year. The tour turned out to be long drives with rushed stops and an awful lunch. We never stopped in New Norfolk but went to Richmond instead; it's a beautiful historic town with wonderful shops but I had been there before. At Russell Falls we were told it was a ten-minute walk and we only had 25 minutes there. It was a beautiful location that deserved far more time and many of our passengers simply could not walk that fast. For lunch we visited a winery where there was a tasting session (but I don't drink alcohol) and that was followed by a lunch of oysters, sausage, assorted raw vegetables, and dry, tasteless brownies. Another guest next to me and I just had bread and butter—that was it. From there we went to a small wildlife park which was very nice; you could hand feed the kangaroos and get up close to Tasmanian Devils and wombats. Melbourne, Victoria: Australia's "second city" but my (and many Aussies') favorite. We docked out at Port Melbourne where you can usually catch a tram into town. However, due to a traffic accident in town the tram was down for the morning. A few last minute shuttle buses were found to take us to a drop off point at the Southbank Arts Centre in town, and by mid-afternoon the trams were working again. Melbourne offers wonderful museums, parks, shopping and food so it was easy to do this city on your own. The city provides a free City Circle Tram hitting most of the sights including the famed (and huge) Victoria Market. If you wanted to venture outside of town you needed a rental car or to take one of the shore excursions as it was Sunday and train/transit options were not that frequent. I spent the day in town visiting my favorite chocolate shops, the Sunday arts market, and a Thai Festival being held in Federation Square. Adelaide, SA: Adelaide strikes that unusual combination of a bit of Old West with multi-cultural enclave into a small city surrounded by parks, museums, and universities. You can have huge grilled stakes in a heritage saloon than walk a block for authentic Chinese food. This city also provides a free circular bus for getting around, but the port is located a good distance outside of town and on our visit the usual train out there was undergoing track work. The ship offered a paid shuttle bus for those passengers not on shore excursions. Having spent time exploring the city the year before, I selected the Hahndorf tour. Hahndorf was one of several German settlements founded in the 19th century in the hills above Adelaide. Unfortunately our visit was a bit rushed as our guide insisted we drive around the city quite a bit before heading up into the hills. I wish the port area had rental car facilities as this would have been a much better option. Esperance, WA: What a paradise, even if the weather did not quite cooperate. It's a little difficult to fully enjoy pure white sugar sand and gorgeous turquoise water with lightning bolts all around. This was another of our wonderful small town ports, but our only docking option was the commercial port where we were required to take a shuttle bus from shipside a short distance to the town beach park—no walking in the port was allowed. I had pre-reserved a rental car with Avis but had to fight the crowd of "claim jumpers "in the tiny office to get my car. Once on the road we headed out to Cape Le Grand National Park where we encountered said lightning bolts and incredible scenery. On the road in we saw wild emus and kangaroos. Since we cut the park visit short we took in the Ocean Road drive suggested by the tourism website taking us past Pink Lake and the beautiful wild coast land on the other side of town. Many passengers took advantage of the ship's cruises out to Woody Island in the RecherchE Archipelago for wildlife viewing. Albany, WA: This was a tender port and a slightly larger town than Esperance with a few small historical buildings and museums; it's an old well-known whaling port. I elected to take the Billabong Track excursion which was described as a 5 km walk along the famed track that eventually goes all the way to the west coast. I was a bit disappointed as the walk turned out to be a 2.5 roundtrip and we had those pesky non-stop talkers which meant bird watching and listening to the crashing waves was difficult. Had I known I would have rented a car and done it on my own, but I thought I'd get a longer walk if we were dropped off in one location and picked up in another. Fremantle, WA: Back to the "big city" feel. Fremantle is the port gateway to Perth, Australia's only large western city; it appears in the glimmering distance almost like the city of OZ. We were docked on the edge of town where one could easily hop on the FreeCat shuttle bus into and around Fremantle. Downtown Fremantle is filled with cafes, bars, and shops; we arrived on a Sunday evening and it was hopping. For those who wanted to head into Perth the train station was a short walk from the cruise terminal and commuter trains left at regular intervals. Also within walking distance was the ferry to Rottnest Island (or Rat Nest as named by the Dutch for the unusually large rodents living there). Being an animal nut, of course I had to go. The quokkas are, in fact, not rodents but related to the other marsupials; they are cute and exist nowhere else in the world. The Rottnest ferry docks right in the village where you can catch the paid Bayseeker bus which circles the island delivering snorkelers, surfers, and hikers to various bays and inlets. As an alternative you can take a wildlife cruise or hire a bike for exploring the island. I elected to take advantage of one of the free historical walking tours offered by volunteers from the old Salt Store. Geraldton, WA: Now we are beginning to get the "outback" feel, although Geraldton itself is a good-sized town and was an important military base during World War II. This was a tender port and the various rental car agencies in town provided shuttles, although there were far too many people to fit and it was chaotic. A bright spot at the dock was a visit by a wonderful local woman and her golden retriever for whom all pet-starved passengers made a beeline. She said she always brings him down to the dock when a cruise ship appears and he loves all the attention. Once I had my rental car and all my passengers we headed north to Oakabella Homestead only to discover the ship had a "lock" on the place for the whole morning and the owner wanted to charge us $50 a head for morning tea and a tour! Since the ship's excursion bus had not arrived yet, we asked permission to walk around for a few minutes to take pictures and then we left. From there we continued north to the small town of Northampton where we had our much cheaper "tea" at a local cafe and walked around the historic church and other buildings. Coming out of the post office I encountered a local man who asked if we were from the ship (it had been the lead story on the radio news that morning); he then told me about his life growing up in the area and actually knowing Monsignor Hawes who designed and help build the church here as well as the cathedral back in Geraldton. Had I the time I think he would have talked all day. That's what I really love about Australia—the people who are just so open and caring. After Northampton we headed south past Geraldton to the historic settlement of Greenough with its wonderfully preserved buildings. We would have gone to the Hotel for refreshment but we saw the ship's bus just headed there and didn't want to discover we were shut out again. With the heat close to 100 degrees we headed back to town and the ship. Exmouth, WA: Our smallest and most remote Australian port proved both a disappointment and a small joy. We tendered into a small marina outside of the town center; a few shuttle buses were available. This was the port where the "computer glitch" screwed up the shore excursion pre-bookings. Originally there were only a couple of glass-bottom boat cruise times for the Ningaloo Reef available and they filled quickly. However, due to passenger demand the ship pressured the company to offer several more sailings. As a result our cruise time was shortened (but not the price) so we barely moved away from our beach embarkation point and that, combined with the fact it was coral "spawning" season, meant we saw very little and photography was impossible. Some other passengers got the opportunity to snorkel with whale sharks and others went four-wheeling through the national park area. Learning about the town of Exmouth which had been created to service a massive military radar installation and an air base was quite interesting. As with Eden a few town folk brought out arts and craft tables to supplement what the few stores had to offer. But for me the highlight was a local wildlife rescue group who brought along two joeys (baby kangaroos) which we allowed to hold while they took our picture. Komodo Island, Indonesia: What an Easter morning to awaken in a small bay surrounded by palm-filled islands and pink and gold clouds sliced by a vertical rainbow! The entire island is a controlled national park and passengers were only allowed ashore if they were on a shore excursion or had made special arrangements in advance with the rangers and had written proof of that arrangement. As our tenders were being readied you could watch nearby islanders arriving in their small boats to set up shop for all the potential customers; lots of carved dragons, post cards, and jewelry would be available after our tours. We were met at the tender dock by our guides and handlers (two for each group with long sticks to "manage" any dragons that came too close). We walked a fairly level and not very long trail while our guide talked about the flora and fauna of the island. Half way along two rangers had rounded up a large dragon for us to observe and later back in the small camp area two smaller dragons made their appearance. One got a little excited about all the potential "fresh meat" around and started to charge us but was corralled by our keepers—one reason why all were counseled to never wander off. On backing up from our charging dragon we ended sheltered under a tree until one of the villagers cautioned us as there were two small snakes wound in the branches. A later shore ex group got to watch a feeding session while the independent tour members went on much longer walks to and saw much more wildlife. Darwin, NT: We arrived amid a cracking thunder storm and drenching rain; it was definitely still "The Wet" up north. We were held on the ship until it was decided if and when various shore excursions would be able to go. I was booked on the longest one, Litchfield National Park, so I was worried, but the Captain eventually agreed to stay in port longer and we left an hour late. We saw no rain the rest of the day. This shore excursion turned out to be another of those "too-long rides/too-short stop" trips and I regretted going. Although the waterfalls were beautiful, we were not allowed to swim in the pools due to seasonal issues in some and not enough time at the one open pool which was a disappointment. I wish I had either rented a car or just stayed in town which was reachable on a longish walk or by shuttle from the pier. Cairns, Queensland: The ship docked right in town. The terminal parking area was under renovation so you had to walk out to the street to get a taxi as pick-ups dockside were not allowed. I had signed up for the Kuranda Experience tour as the guidebooks said that was the best one-day trip. However, heavy rains a few weeks earlier had wiped out part of the rail tracks and the trip was cancelled. Eventually the ship put together a substitute trip using a bus but many of us elected to just go on our own. Several of us got together and took taxis up to the cable car station which cost $23 per taxi; later we learned that there was an express city bus from town that was a much cheaper option. I'm glad we went very early as by the time the cable car opened the line was huge. The cable car offers the option of two mid-way rainforest station stops on the way up to Kuranda. Each stop has displays and a short boardwalk trail. From the Kuranda station you can walk directly into town or follow both the river walk and/or jungle walks. A more challenging hike to the falls is an additional choice. I did both walks in a little over an hour and finished with a short uphill walk into town for lunch and leisurely shopping. Kuranda is designed for tourists with souvenirs, art galleries, and cafes everywhere. From Kuranda I was able to catch one of the $4 buses back to town. I was very glad to have done this trip on my own; many of the passengers who took the substitute shore ex complained they only had 45 minutes at Kuranda. Back in town it was HOT but I did a few errands and then headed back to the nice air conditioned ship. Many other passengers did reef snorkeling/diving trips at this port and they enjoyed the experience tremendously. Townsville, Queensland: Townsville has two cruise ship docking locations, one near town and the Sun Ferries pier and the other in the commercial port; we ended up in the commercial port. The ship offered a paid shuttle to town and there were taxis available dockside. I had originally planned to take the ferry to Magnetic Island for the day but got talked into going with some other CCr's to the Billabong Sanctuary. We were going to rent a car but discovered they were only available at the airport on a Sunday and there was no shuttle, so we booked private transport through a local tour company (Abacus) recommended by the Sanctuary. They were late picking us up (they also run airport shuttles) and there was no shade at the pier so we were really hot. But the park was quite nice and we had the opportunity (for money) to have our picture taken with a koala, a wombat, or a crocodile and snake—I opted for fur and the wombat photo is my favorite of the whole cruise. Even though we were late arriving we had more than enough time here and we were glad of the covered porch and snack bar to kill time until our return pick-up. Hamilton Island, Queensland: We anchored among the Whitsunday Islands and tenders were provided to Hamilton, a resort island with a small tourist town. I had pre-booked the Knuckle Reef tour and was looking forward to my first-ever snorkeling experience as I had read that this particular company handled beginners well. Unfortunately this was another tour where the ship pressured the company into taking more than the usual number and we ended up on a long, crowded boat ride without even enough seats for everyone; it was 2 ½ hours each way to the reef. One treat on the boat, however, was an onboard masseuse. For $40 I got a 20-minute wonderful back & neck massage, but it's not for the shy as this was done right in the middle on the lounge with just a towel as front cover! When all our passengers descended on the pontoon we were given the options of a free semi-submersible and/or glass-bottom boat ride in addition to snorkeling or diving. Because of the size of the crowd the boat rides were shortened (again!). Consensus among passengers seemed to be that the glass-bottom boat was the better choice. Beginning snorkelers were offered a paid class but I opted to try it on my own with mixed results. The company provided all the supplies: stinger suits, masks, fins, and float vests—I think I looked like a short colorful whale after being fully suited up. There were two roped-off areas for snorkeling and steps down to platforms for easy entry (easy that is unless you've never worn fins before). As suggested I used the rope as guideline as I was off—what a wonderful experience. There was a small rescue boat in each area in case you got into trouble as well as look-outs on the pontoon. The paid class group got to go off in a separate area and had much better sightings so I would recommend this option. Lunch was served buffet style upon arrival. The staff at the pontoon was absolutely great; I would highly recommend this tour. We only ending up having about 2 ½ hours out on the pontoon although our tour description said at least 3 hours; I imagine this was due to the greater numbers and longer load time at the ship. Brisbane, Queensland: We were docked downriver from town but within walking distance of the Brett Wharf CityCat ferry which many of us utilized for transport. Again the ship provided a paid shuttle bus service. Originally I had planned to go to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary with another CCr but she could not go so I took the ferry downtown and elected to take the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus which gave me an inexpensive narrated city tour as well as the chance to stop at the Botanic Gardens for a walk before returning to town where I found a wonderful farmers market in progress. I had planned to visit some aboriginal galleries but the addresses the guide book had provided all turned out not to be extant any more. No worries. By this time of the cruise we were all pretty tired and many of us returned mid-afternoon by ferry to the ship. Sydney, NSW: "Home" again after traveling a total amazing 8,136 nautical miles! Our itinerary gave us a full day and overnight here before disembarkation. Sydney really is a city to see on your own; there is no need for a shore excursion, especially since we docked this time right in Circular Quay at The Rocks historical district. Within a very short walking distance you have access to Sydney's ferries and the train. Sydney Explorer buses provide two different tour circuits and your all-day pass is good on either or both; there are very few sights that are not located at one of their many stops. Directly across from our dock was the famed Sydney Opera House where you can purchase a one-hour tour for $34 or check to see if tickets are available for any of the performance spaces (drama, ballet, opera, or symphony). In addition to the Opera House tour, I spent the morning doing last minute shopping, walking around the city, and visiting the Art Gallery, which was bit disappointing; I thought the museums in Melbourne and Adelaide much better. After packing that evening, I went to sleep with the lights of the harbor and Opera House framed in my cabin window. What a nice ending. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2010
I just returned from an exhilarating 27 day World Cruise leg from Los Angeles to Sydney on the Pacific Princess. I really enjoyed the cruise and was fascinated by the major dramas at sea. I though I would miss my favorite TV show ... Read More
I just returned from an exhilarating 27 day World Cruise leg from Los Angeles to Sydney on the Pacific Princess. I really enjoyed the cruise and was fascinated by the major dramas at sea. I though I would miss my favorite TV show "Desperate Housewives" and instead I found my own live version right on the ship. The stories I heard were unbelievable. There was a big drama on the ship—and I bet there is one every year—and you are either in the know or being made fun of. It is better to in the know than to be left out of the loop, welcome to Desperate Cruisers! This ship had just come out of dry dock and it was in good shape, all new carpeting in many rooms and only one elevator was out of service for several weeks. This is the old Renaissance #3 ship for those who are interested in this. The public rooms were beautiful. The elevator in repair was a Godsend, the food was outstanding and plentiful and I needed incentive to walk those stairs. I spent a lot of time in the Pacific Lounge, the Cabaret Lounge, and the Casino Lounge—Steven the bartender in the Casino lounge was very nice, he made a mean virgin Margarita. We had a lot of rough sea days; however once I got my sea legs nothing bothered me. For many days walking through the ship was like snow skiing, rather tiring but great exercise. I also love to walk around sideways; I am really good at it! :) I stayed in a balcony room by myself and there was plenty of storage for me alone, but sharing this space for a month with my husband might present a challenge because space is much more limited than on a traditional ship. I do need to learn to pack less things, this is the bane of my existence when I travel alone and have to schlep my own stuff around. The bed was very low and a bit hard for me; they don't have real egg crates anymore, only puffy pillow tops which are not as soft as egg crates. I got one bar set up for 27 days, not the weekly set up I though I was getting. I was a little bummed out to learn this after I had given away all my booze and stuff because I had been told the wrong info by another FCC person on another ship. Live and learn, I though it sounded too generous for Princess to do this but I did not listen to my own instinct. I got one set of shampoo and conditioner and lotion for the whole 27 days, fine by me because I don't like the stuff anyway and I always bring my own. I got a nice array of elite amenities and used them for the boat building contest. I did not get any upgraded towels or bathrobe; I don't know why they bother promising them since I have never gotten them as elite. The occasional thick towel is such a treat! I had a weird dining experience initially as I was seated with a loud and unpleasant person who was traveling solo like me. Thankfully I was also seated with a couple, Ken and Peter from Australia, who were fantastic and they totally saved an otherwise problematic situation. We got stuck with an unpleasant person who had made no friends on the first leg of the journey and demanded "young" people be seated at the table. This person treated the waiters like they were personal slaves and we all found ourselves getting more and more uncomfortable with this poor behavior. I finally spoke up in front of the group and asked this person to refrain from speaking to the waiters poorly in from of me. Then the whole table ignored this person, and we talked over this person for several days. Finally this person decided to change tables; this was the only way we could get Princess to take action. We could not get Princess to change this mean person's seat for us because nobody in the dining room wanted to sit with them. This person ultimately became a great source of humor for the remainder of the trip, suffice it to say we saw the humor in a bad situation and choose to find the joy rather than the bummers. Nancy No-friends (the name my friend Ken gave her) sat alone every night! This person terrorized a few individuals on the cruise; Princess did nothing to manage this person because they were bragging about bringing 100 people on the world cruise next year. This was a joke; this person talked a big game but had nothing to back it up with. You know the kind of person who manipulates situations to their advantage. We were all amazed that this person never got booted from the cruise; instead they continue to cause a tremendous amount of trouble for some individuals and a huge annoyance for the rest. If you are going on a segment this year you will meet this person, just don't say I didn't warn you! The food was great; I really enjoyed the variety and abundance of options available for such a small ship. We had a late dining table that seated up to 10 and we had a few empty spots that we used to invite people to join us, especially after ridding ourselves of our problem tablemate. The MDR was a little more traditional with the Head waiters preparing pasta and pineapple flambe, and the food was truly standout fare. We also loved the Bistro, they had their own menu and you could also order off the main dining room menu and you did not have to dress. A fantastic solution to no anytime dining, we loved the bistro! On port days the buffet stays open for the evening, otherwise it becomes the Bistro. We had a few loud and large dinners there and really enjoyed it. I did not want for anything during the entire cruise, there was more food around than you can possibly imagine on such an intimate ship. I learned a secret; you can order things like Lobster and Filet Mignon in the MDR if you give 24 hours notice on any night. We only had 2 formal nights in the whole 27 days and I guess this reflects a general lack of interest in dressing up when one cruises the World. I seemed to be the only one who knew about the Elite and Platinum lounge but soon lots of people were frequenting it. I regularly stopped by for nibbles, especially since I had late seating, we didn't usually get served until 9pm thanks to our poorly behaving tablemate. They had a lot of food and drink parties in the Pacific Lounge, with skewers of Pineapple and Shrimp and all sorts of fruits, kind of a happy hour thing with reduced priced drinks and stuff. Room service was great; I ordered lots of fresh fruit for those late night moments (LOL) where food is necessary. I got to know my morning coffee and toast kid well, he dutifully served me for 26 days and I miss him a lot. I got several trays of fancy strawberries and stuff sent from captain's circle, plus I got to order stuff as an elite perk. This was very nice, and boy did I get spoiled. I had brought my own coffee press and fresh ground Cubita coffee but the press broke in transit and I was not able to get it fixed and then I just got used to the syrup coffee and gave up on brewing my own. I did bring my bag of coffee down to the coffee bar and asked them to brew me a cup which they did, I though that was very nice. I had issues with some of the waiters in the dining room, one in particular was very petty and mean to me based on who was sitting at my table (mean person) and kept handing me scalding pots of hot milk for my "best friend" (mean person) who quickly became the bane of my existence! I realize that when people are mean to waiters, they can become curt and slow but imagine how it feels to be seated as a solo traveler with someone who is so nasty that their reputation becomes yours! This happens quickly on small ships and I found that I suffered the sins of this mean person, as did my other table mates, until we took control of the situation by making this person go away. Meanwhile, I do think it is dangerous to have waiters who target people, even the bad ones, because my hand got burned badly and I was not able to use it for days. I hope none of you get this waiter and if you email me I will give you his name! I did turn him in but nothing happened to him and he is still in the MDR. Be careful of him. My room steward Victor was very good, he had 16 rooms to care for and yet he took outstanding care of me. He made me feel safe and secure all the time. He was never obtrusive, always there when I needed him and kept my room clean and tidy. My laundry was handled perfectly; they never lost one single pair of the junky target undies I bought for the purpose of not caring if they lost or damaged them! Go figure... There were some very interesting lecturers on the ship including an Astronomer, a Middle East Crisis expert, a style adviser, an Academy Award winner, a nice Port Lecturer, and a WWII Historian. We had at least 2 lectures on Sea days. There was also a Water Color paint teacher who gave regular lessons in very high surf! We had Concert Violinists and other wonderful musicians and singers, and we had several dance shows done quite well on the very small stage by the excellent Princess Singers and Dancers. We had several lounge acts, all very talented. There was a wonderful fitness instructor who taught Yoga and Pilate and she had her Appendix burst while we were in Honolulu so we lost her, she is doing great back in Sydney and getting better. By the time her replacement came several weeks later, I had given up on Yoga and Pilate. Oh well, some things are not meant to be. I got much exercise righting myself on such a rocking ship for almost all of the sea days. Karaoke was very fun, we got the whole place going one night and it was very fun. My first Karaoke song ever was "Bye Bye Miss American Pie" which is the longest Karaoke in history. I loved it! Sadly there was only 2 Karaoke sessions during the whole 27 day segment and there should have been more! We had a fantastic crossing of the Equator Ceremony, it was so funny and messy and everybody had a blast. I am no longer a pollywog, now I am a shellback! Many of our sail-a-ways included Champagne although I am not a drinker so I did not have any. The ship building contest was also quite fruitful, all the ships were great and I got to donate all of my "elite amenity items" and my Obama Surfer Bobble head doll to one group who should have won but didn't. Must have been the crappy elite amenity items! I took a Princess excursion in Vanuatu to see Ekasup Cultural Center, it was nice but limited to that place only. I did not get to sit with the people I went with, this always happens when I take Princess tours. I liked the place we visited, a fake tribe who also appeared on Survivor. Survivor was filmed on this island, on the other side of the island but fairly close to Vila! The port had lots of junk to buy, mostly from China but I did manage to find me some Kava. ;) I took a Princess excursion in the Bay of Islands to see the Kauri Forest and Glow Worm Caves and that was really fun. We got to see much of the area including some artsy toilets, there was plenty of stops for postcards and junk and opportunities to hike a bit if you wanted to. It was a good excursion. I took a Princess excursion in Picton to see the area via land and sea and this was a classic bummer made so by an individual who showed up late (they waited) and then who "got lost shopping" at a 10 minute stop and caused another half hour delay, all of this amounting to a shortened excursion. This is why I hate ship excursions. I don't mind so much when we go slower because of handicapped people, but I go crazy when some selfish loon shows up late (duh) or wanders off to shop at a toilet stop! I took private excursions in all the other locations. In Honolulu we rented a car and spent the day tooling around the North shore and more. It cost 50 bucks for the whole day, plus $15 in gas. Several folks rented cars as well, one man who drove to buy flowers and to see the Diamond Head lookout point later told me he was suffering from Macular Degeneration. Be careful driving when the World Cruise is in town! In New Caledonia we took one of the petite tour "trains" around on our own and that provided for a nice overview of the Island, which is quite beautiful and civilized if expensive. We were in town late, we got to port at noon and that is when the market closed for the day so we missed that. It is an expensive place, one can hardly afford to blow ones nose at $7 a box of tissues. I did manage to find a jewelry store open and there was this Gold Tiki I could not resist... We walked on our own in Auckland and Sydney and had a blast. We took local buses and ferries and walked as much as we could. The only HOHO we took was in Sydney Harbor, a boat you could hop on and off but we did not end up using it in that way. The Botanical gardens in Sydney were outstanding, we saw tons of bats just hanging around and mating (flying foxes) and so many different birds, bugs, and butterflies it was amazing. This was a perfect place to end our stay in Sydney. We found a wonderful restaurant 14 years ago in London and were pleased to find it again in Auckland and Sydney, it's called Wagamama and it is well worth a visit. You have to try the Passion Fruit & Lychee Sorbet, with a shot of Sake. All in all it was a nice cruise, it was just the right amount of time to be away and though I did enjoy the cruise I was ready to get off the ship after so many Sea days. I am not sure I could handle being on such a small ship for such a long period of time (107 days) with the same people and the same staff. While some staff was a delight to be around, others seemed tired and battered and ready for a break. The same was true of the cruisers, many were delightful and happy, but there were the occasional grumps that got grumpier as time moved on. I was happy to leave the mean and the grumpy but very sad to leave the wonderful friends I met on the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2009
The final leg of the world cruise left from Dubai, where we flew to from Sydney, spending many hours in the airport waiting to embark. Embarkation was rather slow, Dubai seems to be in the process of building its new cruise terminal- ... Read More
The final leg of the world cruise left from Dubai, where we flew to from Sydney, spending many hours in the airport waiting to embark. Embarkation was rather slow, Dubai seems to be in the process of building its new cruise terminal- should be better when that is completed.The itinerary, which included 3 ports in India, 1 in Thailand, 2 in Malaysia and Singapore, before returning to Australia, was the reason we took this particular cruise. The cabin was smaller than others we have had (on Royal Caribbean and Carnival) but it was adequate- just a bit hard for more folks to fit in when we were entertaining!. Dawn Princess has obviously benefited from the recent refurbishment, public indoor spaces are attractive and comfortable, but the pool and recreation areas were small and a bit run down still. Food was OK, Horizon Court had the best choice, and the special feature days (e.g.. Italian fiesta, Indian fare)were the most interesting. The Pizza restaurant was very good. We had late sitting for dinner in the Venetian dining room every night, the menu became a bit boring, but the attention paid to my partner's food allergy was excellent, with special meals ordered the night before, and gluten-free bread made available every day. The activities each day also got a bit repetitive, but the cruise director, Sammi, and her staff were wonderful. The entertainment was patchy, some acts really excellent, others mediocre. The nightclub, Jammers, was the source of many a joke on board but we had some fun times there. The port excursions we did (Mumbai,Goa,Cochin and KL) were fantastic, with very informative tour guides, and the interesting places visited gave us a really good idea of the places we saw.( We usually avoid tours and do our own thing.) The sea days cruising through the Torres Strait and the Great Barrier Reef were enjoyable, we had a reef pilot on board who gave plenty of information to us, which enhanced the experience. Although this was not the best cruise we have done, the itinerary, great weather and smooth seas meant that overall we had a very pleasant experience. We met lots of new people,and had a gay old time. The service was faultless, which is the lasting impression we took of Dawn Princess. Read Less

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