This was our first cruise with Princess. We sailed on the Emerald Princess from Southampton on the 20th August with our Daughter son in law and two grandchildren aged 14 and 11. Embarkation was slow, as there were storms affecting the ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Princess. We sailed on the Emerald Princess from Southampton on the 20th August with our Daughter son in law and two grandchildren aged 14 and 11. Embarkation was slow, as there were storms affecting the port and Princess were unable, for safety reasons, to use the covered walkway to board the ship and boarding had to take place from dockside up a ramp. We were lucky as we were awarded platinum status due to our past P&O cruises, which gave us priority over many other cruisers. We were allowed to go straight to our stateroom and deposit our hand luggage. In my case quite a lot as I don't travel light!
The ship was in quite good condition after a revamp in December, as it is not one of the newer ones, and public areas were well maintained and clean. We avoided the crowds in the buffet and went to the main resturant which we found opened for a short time for lunch. This proved a good move as I had a lovely fillet steak followed by a souflet. Other members of the family didn't fare so well in the buffet.
The service everywhere on the ship was outstanding, every member of staff went out of their way to help. The only exception was one female server in the international cafe who was very short and sometimes quite rude in her attitude. However even she improved as the cruise progressed, so I think she may have been spoken to.
We had a balcony cabin with a double size balcony, half shaded and the family had a mini suit which was very spacious, however their balcony was completely uncovered. Our cabin had plenty of hanging space and a very comfortable bed. I asked for extra hangers and two robes which came straight away. Our steward was excellent with nothing being too much trouble. He serviced the cabin twice a day including the balcony and vacuumed daily, something that was neglected on recent P&O cruises. Our bathroom was very small, with a shower that had a fixed head, which I hate, and a nylon curtain which stuck to you, but was adequate. Our children had a larger bathroom in the mini suit with a bath, which was not full size, but bigger than some we have had.
Dinning was excellent. As we were a large group, having been joined by some of our daughters friends who were also on board, we were given a table in anytime dining at 8pm and allowed to keep it for the whole cruise. We had excellent service, with all our requests being met. The food was top quality, especially the meat and fish. Some of the starters and soups were a bit odd for our taste, but it was no problem to get a small portion of another course as a starter. Something again P&O no longer do. The resturant food and service was excellent for all meals so wherever possible we used this. The buffet was a different matter it is the same bad design in my view as Azura and Ventura with only one side open at a time. It was vastly overcrowded with no vacant seats, as the ship had over 3;400 passengers and some 900 children on board. The food was poor Luke warm canteen type food and the salad and fruit were truly awful. The fruit was always hard and unripe, and presented either whole or unpeeled. The salad which was all I wanted at lunchtime was a poor selection dotted about in different areas. One day someone had sliced up raw courgettes instead of cucumber. We didn't use this area after first couple of days. The international cafe had nice sweet treats and my grandson loved the doughnuts. Again lack of seating made this area unusable much of the time, so we took snacks back to our cabin balcony. We didn't use pool burger grill or pizza takeaway, but kids said they were quite good quality. Lemonade was available most of the day which was a nice touch.
The wine was very expensive so we didn't have our usual bottle with dinner every night, just a glass and instead we made use of happy hour, and the nice cocktails for 5 dollars between 5.30 and 7.00pm, served in the lounge for platinum and elite passengers, these also came with free canapés.
Entertainment was very hit and miss, there were a couple of good vocal acts. We didn't see the comedienne but we went to a couple of shows, which were poor due to lack of talent. One show written for princess could have been great as the production was good, it was just the lack of vocal ability that let it down.
The children have cruised with princess several times and this was the first year they didn't enjoy the clubs. I think they were too overcrowded with equipment and activities being rationed. The 11 yr old boy liked the pools but again they were very overcrowded and I think potentially quite dangerous as it was almost impossible to keep your child in your sight all of the time with so many children in them.
Daily activities were mostly quizzes, talks where that try to sell products, lotto and films which didn't appeal to us, so we read and went to a couple of lectures on sea days.
Ports were good with the exception of Genoa which wasn't very nice. Corsica was by tender and the usual drag which was a wait of about an hour in a lounge after getting a ticket for the tender.
Our highlights were the two days in Rome and Florence/ Pisa. After much research I had organised and pre booked private tours with a local company on line. These were in very comfortable Mercedes people carriers, with free wifi which the teen loved. Both trips picked us up from and returned us to the ship. This enabled us to see much more in a day than we could have done on a ships tour, as the drivers drove through the narrow streets right up to the attractions. On the Rome day we started at the Colosseum where we had priority tickets obtained by the company to save us time queuing. We set our own time at each attraction with the driver at our disposal all day and were able to drive up to and get out at the pantheon, Trevi fountain, Spanish steps, Pissa Navona etc, something we couldn't do on a coach. The second day was the same and the driver even took us to a beach at the request of the children for a swim on the way back to the ship. This is the first time I have organised private excursions, although we have got taxis before in some ports and would absolutely recommend this option. My husband hates coaches and for us this was a much better option at a reasonable price.
One thing I wish cruise lines would sort out is the tipping. We paid all the daily gratuities charged and the service onboard was indeed excellent, being as good as our experiences on Celebrity and better than HAL and P&O. We also gave the cabin steward extra for great service. We did however see hoards of people removing their tips. In my view as these gratuities are charged in advance they are not tips they are part of the wages of hard working staff and should be included in the cruise price. If a little extra was added to every cruise it would cover this, enabling staff to be properly paid and the cost spread between all passengers who benefit from the services onboard.
Overall a very enjoyable break with the family. We would definitely cruise with Princess again and I am sure the ship would be less crowded outside of school holidays. Read Less