Having read some of the reviews (after we had booked!) we were concerned that we had made the wrong choice - delighted to report that we had a wonderful cruise and would have happily stayed on the ship and replay the holiday again! ... Read More
Having read some of the reviews (after we had booked!) we were concerned that we had made the wrong choice - delighted to report that we had a wonderful cruise and would have happily stayed on the ship and replay the holiday again! Original cruise choice was based on price of balcony compared with other cruise lines and Princess was the cheapest by a significant margin. Super quick embarkation - although we were late (major M25 problems) and would have missed the ship had 2 coaches laid on by Princess for passengers from "up north" not been delayed too. Be warned - they will not wait normally!
We enjoyed the ship and the staff were polite, helpful and pleasant. British captain, mainly British first officers and UK passengers - the general atmosphere and culture on the ship was relaxed and very pleasant. Weather was brilliant and thoroughly enjoyed the ports. We like the more traditional cruise ship layout - rather than the new mega ships and quickly found our way around the ship.... very similar to Ventura. Some areas were looking a little tired (ship built in 2007) but this did not spoil our enjoyment and the Atrium area is lovely, as you would expect on a ship of this size.
We certainly noticed the impact of the low £ rate against the dollar on board - and my perception was that the drinks were a little more expensive than the last RC cruise we went on 2 years ago - but frankly drinks are always a rip off on cruises, as are the cost of excursions, although generally we find the guides to be very knowledgeable. Tip - cruise line often runs a "flash sale" on trips with 10% discount - about 2-3 weeks before cruise. Allowed to bring on 2 bottles of wine and alcohol purchased on shore wasn't confiscated as it is by other cruise lines.
The food was good in the buffet, but on occasion I felt could be hotter and the choice wasn't quite as varied when compared with the huge buffet areas on the much bigger cruise ships - but more than adequate - and generally seats could be found when required, even at busy times! We thought the food in main restaurants was very good and having opted for " any time" dining for the first time - found that it worked well and even when busy, the "buzzer alert" system was efficient and usually the wait was no longer than 20 minutes... worst wait was 30 mins. Any time diners could also book restaurants if booking before 5pm. 4-5 additional speciality restaurants - but I thought extra cover charges pricy at $19-39 dollars per person.
The entertainment was fine and varied - although not first class - the ships dancers/singers were very good and thoroughly enjoyed their shows but they only lasted for 35-40 minutes and there were only 3 on a 14 night cruise - the rest off the nightly theatre programme was filled a variety of solo acts, which we didn't see. Two deck/pool parties - were good but felt the Entertainments Team could have made them better. No lecture programme other than the "Port Lectures", Spa, or Art Auction type stuff. The port expert was good and enjoyed his chats. I didn't find the sales pitches for the stores, spa or art auctions anymore OTT than on other cruise lines... they are all the same... and we had no problem switching off or ignoring them! Same with the photographers - always present but politely backed off when you said "no thanks".
The ship was packed - loads of kids - so the two main pool areas were manic - but adult only pool and the adult only "sanctuary" provided alternative areas (extra charge for the latter - but one or two fellow passengers apparently found a back door in). I didn't see any lifeguards at all (so you must keep a close eye on kids) and the deck crew rarely checked unruly behaviour. Getting a sunbed on sea days was a challenge - but the deck crew enforced the "15 minutes absent and towels and belonging removed" rule - be warned - some passengers delighted in "grassing up" fellow passengers!!! Smokers are contained in only two areas on the outside deck - which worked well for all - non-smokers could avoid pollution and the smokers had the best social circle and gossip on the ship!
Loved Movies Under the Stars" - some great films, football etc and screen resolution was really good. Liked that deck side ice cream, pizza bar and grills were open until 11pm (great for the Movies) - many ships that I've been on close these down at around 8pm. Pools stayed open late too, often until after 10pm. Café in Atrium open 24/7 otherwise restaurants open a variety hours from 5am to 11pm plus 24/7 room service - mainly FOC and reasonable selection on menu. Warning - 4 Passengers were left behind a Gibraltar as they didn't get back on time... and the Customer Officers were out in force at Southampton and had a field day with cigarette and alcohol smugglers who had stocked up in Gibraltar (£20 for 200 cigs in duty free)!!!
Best bits - Jacuzzi at back of boat after 6/6.30pm usually empty - really hot and great to unwind after a hard day sight seeing, Movies under the Stars, main dining rooms in evening, ships dancers, spotting dolphins around Gibraltar and Iberian coast, ports and sight seeing, beds very very comfortable - best I can recall at sea (but were medium to soft which suited me). Main moans - it took over 1.5 hours to get off ship via tender at Corsica - although was very quick to get back on ship in spite of queue, 15 min rule on sunbeds a bit too draconian, cost of full day trips to Rome and Florence (although thoroughly enjoyed them!). Overall I would recommend the Emerald Princess and would certainly book for another cruise... if I can get a good deal again! Read Less