This was our 6th or 7th Princess cruise, and we're up to 75 days or so, consquently they gave us a bottle of champagne when we arrived at our cabin (well, a coupon for one waiting for us in the dining room). Vacations to Go, our ... Read More
This was our 6th or 7th Princess cruise, and we're up to 75 days or so, consquently they gave us a bottle of champagne when we arrived at our cabin (well, a coupon for one waiting for us in the dining room). Vacations to Go, our travel agent, had a bouqet sent too, so we left the dock on the first day feeling quite special.
But, lets not get ahead of the story. First we have to get to Copenhagen.
Princess's first air booking for us from San Francisco to Copenhagen required about 26 hours in transit. We declined and they booked us a SF-London, London-Copenhagen schedule of about 14 hours, and we elected to arrive a day early hoping to work off some jet lag, and see the town. No problems. In the afternoon of our second day we took a cab to the docks and got on board the Emerald in under 30 minutes. It is probably best not to arrive with the Princess transfer crowd if you want quicker embarkation.
We had balcony cabin C 501, which we booked way back when the economy was collapsing, and so we got a great cabin at a great price. Our balcony was double sized and, weather permitting, we enjoyed it. No problems whatever with the cabin, and Eric, our steward was personable, friendly, helpful and we were able to keep our eccentric schedule with no difficulties.
We did not find the ship crowded, nor the public spaces cramped. But we had a double balcony and spent a lot of time in the cabin. We dislike controlled seating, and opted for the open dining rooms for almost all meals. Quite quickly we discovered that eating at 8 meant you could almost always just sail in through the door and get a table with no delay. Since our sense of time was in confusion due to moving through a lot of time zones to get to the cruise, 8 was as good a time to eat as any. Normally we accept a table with whomever shows up at the same time and we met some interesting people. The last few days we found two other couples who were good company and ate with them each evening.
On our last Princess Cruise we took to stopping at Vines for a glass of sparkling wine and a snack (free) before dining. We did it again on the Emerald and Jorge, our waiter, was another highlight of the trip. Vines was offering free tapas and sashimi, which was quite good. The food in the dining room ranged from acceptable to very good - they had a "home cooking" entre on most menus and I usually went for that. I find on cruise ships that there are often eccentric ideas about what the fancier dishes are and how to prepare them. One tip: they had no cocktail sauce for the shrimp cocktails, and the "American sauce" which is ketchup, was sparingly applied I always got a side of sauce, and a bottle of tabasco and mixed to taste. I tried getting horseradish but it had no bite so I gave up on it.
Upstairs was the cafeteria (Horizon Court) and a smaller area called the Caribe or something like that. It had excellent food - really better than the dining room often. We would lunch there and at least once diner there.
We don't like cruise ship entertainment & have no comment about the shows. My wife felt the opera singer, who performed in the central area of the ship one night, was not very good. This I know from nothing, as Tom Lehrer said. The magician was magical, we liked him.
We took only one tour. That was in Dublin and we went to Powerscourt gardens because I have been reading Jane Austen novels and everyone is always in the great house or walking in the shrubbery or garden and I wanted to see one. It was great, the tour guide was at least so-so, par for the course. Otherwise we just got off the ship and wandered around the ports.
Oslo was our first port, and my first chance to buy a charger for my computer, as I left this indispensaible item at the Citigarden motel in San Francisco the sleepy morning we flew out. We grabbed a cab, had several adventures and got the item. Then we walked the port area, had one of the most expensive lunches in human history, visited the Nobel Peace center (before they announced Obama's prize, but they were doing a Martin Luther King to Obama display so that should have been a tip off.) The weather was good there, and in every port except St. Johns, Newfoundland, which was skipped by the ship due to gales.
Edinburgh was next. We anchored in the Firth of Fourth near the famous bridge - in itself worth the trip just to say the name. There is a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge in SF, in use there as well. Tendered to the dock, bussed to the city. To my complete surprise we ate at a Spanish restaurant, which was quite good, enjoyed a book store and a hardware store (got an indoor/outdoor thermometer) and walked to a large park & museum area where some Nigerians were singing a gospel trance song for a very long time, which did not prevent a bagpipper from doing his thing, all to the background of jackhammers installing the new streetcar line. Charles Ives eat your heart out.
Belfast was overcast, and notable to me for the incredible heart attack inducing breakfasts and lunch menus. Nice ferris wheel by the city hall. We rode on its counterpart in Copenhagen. (Very dull at night, Copenhagen is not much to see from the air after dark).
In iceland in retrospect we should have taken the tour or rented a cab and gotten out of town. I wish I had seen the Golden Circle attractions. Worse yet I visited the post office and spent a fortune on year sets of stamps for my collection. Despite the currency collapse recently, prices were high.
Qaqortoq (pronounce the q's as k's) was marvelous. The place is big for Greenland but at 3200 residents, small for the world. It was easy to walk the town, and between the brightly colored houses and the rock carvings scattered everywhere, not to mention the lake, there was much to see. We visited several local grocery stores and my wife got what seemed to be a popsickle with a licorish coating. The town boasts a Thai restaurant, and I can now say that I have eaten reindeer at a Thai restaurant in Greenland. It was good, but the joint was absolutely jammed and service, while pleasant, was slow. While dining we looked out the window and saw people standing in a line. We were a block or two from the pier & couldn't figure out what they were doing. After lunch it turned out that not everyone who tendered in was enjoying the local culture, gaily painted houses, and art work, and having spent 15 minutes ashore were now waiting for the tender. We went up the hill to another grocery store, saw some folk art murals, and a boy of about 10 years with a brown dog, green pop bottle, and blue hair. When we finally had to leave we were welcomed at the tender dock with hot soup and no line. On the way out we saw a couple of icebergs which had inexpicably drifted into the bay.
The gales were great. The ship itself hardly rocked in gale force winds and officially rough seas. We don't get sea sick, apparently, but this was not a proper test. I think only one thing fell off a table while we were dining. I went to deck 5 and photographed waves breaking against the windows of the future cruises office - one did every few minutes and it was a challenge to snap the shot but I got a couple of good ones.
Disembarkation had its moment of confusion as we tried to find our luggage in the huge shed where customs was, but aside from some time in line, no problem. We were flying out in the afternoon so we took the Everglades and Flamingo Park tour. Excellent. I would skip the alligator show at the Everglades unless you are into old-time southern roadside kitsch, but the alligator we saw in the wild was a airboat trip highlight. Flamingo gardens offers a tram tour. Skip it, the narration is quite bad and the tram badly in need of maintenance (carts pulled by a tractor like thing). But flowers everywhere and the flamingos must be seen to be believed. So we saw them.
Next trip on the Norwegian Jade in January. Read Less