This was our 6th cruise in the last 20 year, so we don't consider ourselves real "cruisers", but I've been a sailor for the past 30 years and have read several behind-the-scenes books about the industry. We've ... Read More
This was our 6th cruise in the last 20 year, so we don't consider ourselves real "cruisers", but I've been a sailor for the past 30 years and have read several behind-the-scenes books about the industry. We've spent about 50 days total on a cruise ship and we do have a process when we travel this way. We have sailed the Caribbean, off the coast of Mexico, Hawaii, and the Atlantic/Mediterranean. We look for cruises that have few sea days and lots of ports of call. I do have to say that we have never had a bad cruise and will continue to return to ships when it fits the bill. We live in Hawaii, Waikiki specifically, and look for itineraries that do not travel to "tropical" locations. We have a no sand in the house rule.
The colder destination was one reason we chose this sailing. The other reasons were: We couldn't match up airfare, hotel in a close destination. We only had a few days and had to fly from Hawaii. The price was right at roughly $100/person/day (before the extras we purchase) with a balcony. The ship was relocating and direction of travel would be one way. And lastly, it was my wife's birthday. This is a great way to cruise at a reduced fares and I would encourage people new to cruising to take a short repositioning cruise.
My concerns centered around the crew contracts. This sailing was a small leg of a repositioning cruise of around 30 days. The ship is going into dry dock next year. What happens in Vancouver (embarkation) to the crew? Are some or many rotating out? Are they preparing to rotate out in Los Angeles (debarkation) and are more concerned about getting their ducks in a row than taking care of me? Whatever the case, our interactions with all crew were fantastic. Worrying for no reason at all.
The cruise departs from Vancouver. That's cool, but Hawaiian doesn't fly there. Can't use miles. The ship only stops in Astoria. Where? Oh yeah, I remember the dreaded Colombia River Bar from my sailing days. Two days at sea. YAWN! My expectations were low.
Embarkation took place in Vancouver. The process began with baggage drop. We arrived from the airport around 9:00am. The bag drop line was getting really long. We had some coffee and breakfast and headed down to join the line around 10:00. It opened and even though we were at the back, waited about 10 mins to literally drop off our one suitcase. It was incredibly fast. Now what? Check in? A very friendly Princess employee suggested we take in some sights in Vancouver and return to check in at around 2:45pm. That's exactly what we did and walked right on board our Emerald Princess in about 3 mins.
Now that I'm on the ship I'm looking for signs of wear as reported by other review authors. Sorry folks. The ship looks great. The only sign of moderate wear was peeling paint on the ceiling of our balcony and rust in places. I've owned 13 vessels and they all had rust somewhere. My wife and I both commented on how nice the ship looked. Our stateroom was a little smaller than others we've had, but it certainly worked for two people. Luggage was waiting so we unpacked and waited for room service to bring our pre-orderd bottles of booze. I headed out to the bar with both our ship i.d. cards to get our mixers as we also purchased the unlimited soda package. I really recommend buying your alcohol from the ship and making your own cocktails. It saves quite a bit. We were on the Lido (15) deck and the bars were easy to access. It was around 4:00 and I noticed some long lines for food. No worry, I'll get a burger in 20 mins or so. The lines quickly dissipated and we found this was the way the lines behaved for the entire cruise.
Muster drill took place in the Princess theater and we didn't have to bring our life vests. Nice. We were soon on our way, but never made it to the MDR or buffett. We had cocktails on our balcony while watching the sunset. Later we got some pizza and a hotdog and were in bed by nine. Don't judge we took a red eye and didn't sleep a wink.
Bright and early the next day I was up and walking the decks. This is always my favorite time on ships as it's just the crew, mops, and me. I was searching for the Calypso (I think) Bar as it opened at 6:00am and the wife wanted a bloody. Picked up some breakfast from the buffet. I was really impressed by the buffet food which I usually find fairly pedestrian. You serve yourself with tongs that everyone touches, but there is a crew member stationed at the entrance and will not let you enter until after you Purell your hands. This is important and another cruise line, Holland, doesn't even let you touch the tongs. They plate your food for you. That is a great idea and I hope other lines adopt this. Now if we can only disinfect the chips in the casino.
We spent the next couple of hours watching the banks of the Columbia river from Skywalkers lounge. The views are great from the lounge, but it does have a significant vibration that you may find distracting. I know of a much better spot. Later on that.
We docked in Astoria at 11:00am and were off on our bus trip to see Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, and Seaside. Touristy, but that doesn't bother us. We had to take the shopping excursion because the only car rental in Astoria closes at 12:30pm. What?
Back on the boat, cocktails, nap, and 9:30 reservation for the Crown Grill. I've found most of the surcharges for the specialty restaurants are worth it and usually eat at those locations more than the MDR. The Crown Grill was very good and they didn't even or forgot to charge us a corkage fee. After dinner headed out to the Casino and began what ended up being one of our best gambling trips ever. We paid for our trip. That has never happened. The lion's share was taken from their ugly brown craps table. I love that ugly brown felt. It was a very late night including a 1:45am call to room service for a hot dog and some flan. The two go great together............when you're three sheets to the wind!
The next two days at sea were relaxing. We would get up early, grab some breakfast and here I will let you in on a little secret. We never eat breakfast or lunch in the MDR. Takes way too long and I'm pretty sure the waiter heads over to the buffet and loads up your plate. Okay, okay, I know they actually prepare your food, but I've never been blown away by anyone's breakfast. So hit the buffet. After you get your breakfast from the Horizon buffet, walk up one deck(16) to Share. Share is closed, but Adagio, the bar next to it is open, but not serving alcohol. It is beautiful, comfortable, quiet and a great place to eat in peace. The views are amazing and I recommend seeking out this little gem of a getaway place on board. After you finish breakfast, take your dirty dishes back down to the buffet area. Don't leave them sitting on the bar in Adagio. No one is there to bus them. We then would get a beverage, play some cribbage, get another beverage, walk around, repeat.
We've taken our kids on several of our cruises and every time there were throngs of other kids, but it didn't bother us. They would form roving bands of sugar fueled shenanigan creators. No wonder I've seen so many reviews complaining about kids. We did a poor job, like other parents, of monitoring our kids and for this I apologize. Our kids were in their early teens when we did this. Now that they have graduated from college, we prefer fewer of the little people. On this particular cruise there were very few kids, but more than I anticipated. They were all well behaved. We now look for cruises in Sept, Oct, April, or May. The kids are in school.
One night we had dinner at Share which was very good. My only complaint is that they were woefully understaffed. The two servers were taking drink and food orders, running the food, busing the tables and working their butts off. I pulled our server over that let her know I appreciated how hard she was working and that if Curtis Stone was in the restaurant, he would not like what we were seeing. That's my only gripe. Our server got a fat tip.
We've been amazed that on all of our 6 sailings, the casinos are mostly empty. We love that. The craps table didn't open until 8:30pm so I played some poker and did well there also. Oh, did I mention that we killed at the craps table. I know I did, but we REALLY killed it. The only show we saw was Uptown. The singers are really good, but their banter had that awkwardness to it when you see a skit going off the rails. It felt forced, but overall the show is good. Bingo is a crackup. I go just to watch the people. On another cruise my wife and I won back-to-back games. We were infamous with the blue hair crowd and I was wary of getting whacked with a HurryCane so I kept my guard up. Bingo can be a serious business for some. As the sea days counted down, we visited every nook and cranny passengers are allowed to venture, played pickleball, and tried really hard to finish all the gin, bourbon and vodka we bought. We didn't. That was definitely a first.
Debarkation took 4 seconds. We popped out of the ship like a zit. 45 mins later we were relaxing in our hotel room at LAX (my wife works for a large hotel chain) and caught the 6:00pm flight back to Honolulu.
Overall we were very happy with this short sailing and everything Princess had to offer. The Emerald Princess is a very nice ship and if the price is right, we will return. As we try out different lines we are beginning to get a feel for the type of atmosphere we want. As a result, we now know what we do not want. Princess is now high on our list. Well done.
Mahalo nui loa Read Less