We were booked in to this cruise as part of a bigger land and sea package tour by UK company Cruise.co.uk. It was one of their "Bucket List" trips which included seeing some of the "7 Wonders". We took in Cambodia and ... Read More
We were booked in to this cruise as part of a bigger land and sea package tour by UK company Cruise.co.uk. It was one of their "Bucket List" trips which included seeing some of the "7 Wonders". We took in Cambodia and China before flying to Hong Kong and boarding the SP. Disembarking at Singapore we flew on to India and had a land tour from Delhi to Jaipur and Agra.
The whole package ran in to a 5 figure sum for two people before any extras so it wasn't a cheap trip.
As we didn't pay for the cruise separately I guess it came under the umbrella of how the whole trip went and as such suffered from the poor performance of the Cambodia and China sections due to bad planning. Anyway, lets ignore that but let's remember perhaps to put that into the equation .
Our arrival in Hong Kong was on a very wet day so we decided to stay on board once we had checked in. Embarkation wasn't too bad by the time we arrived as we were late in the afternoon and presumably most passengers were already on board.
Our first meal was proceeded by a visit to the bar at the back of the ship on the open deck and our favourite ( forgot to mention we have largely traveled this route on SP 4 years ago).
"I'll have a draught beer please!"
"We don't have any!"
" We have just been on a cruise of Japan and Korea and the demand was unexpectedly high."
"Strange, last time I boarded the ship in Beijing before sailing to Korea and Japan and that's the answer you gave then too. You said you'd be re-stocking in Hong Kong but you never did."
Meanwhile, barman slopes off and is replaced by bar lady.
"What beers do you have please?"
"I'll just take a look, sir"
It turns out she doesn't know where to look. She has just arrived on board, been sent to work this bar and hasn't even been shown where anything is kept.
That's not her fault but it seemed typical of what was to follow.
The SP appears to have been sub let to a Chinese company prior to the November sailing. Lots of the crew were new on board and unfamiliar with procedures due to poor training.
Not only that but it appeared that the SP hadn't restocked with essential supplies and there was a shortage of various beers and wines.
When ordering at the bar over the next few days it was unacceptable to be told that they didn't have a particular beer try another bar. It was unacceptable to be told that bar didn't have the least expensive gin at $7 a shot so you had to settle for a more expensive one. It was unacceptable to be charged 15% service for a can of beer that is placed unopened on the bar along with a glass. In my opinion drinks are hugely overpriced and as a consequence Princess are the losers. On the SP there are no wine packages, the only one offered is the 15 drinks a day one which for a 14 day cruise for two people is silly money.
We just drank a lot less and probably as a result enjoyed ourselves less as we didn't socialise in the bars after dinner. Others find all sorts of ways to try and beat the system and who can blame them.
So back to day 1 and off to anytime dining. There are 4 restaurants earmarked for anytime but as there was a huge group of 600 South Americans representing some miracle additive, two dining rooms were set aside specifically for them as requested prior to the cruise beginning. Problem was they din't want to use those restaurants but preferred the buffet which meant that until someone realised what was happening finding a table was not easy for "anytime".
As for the food, edible but nothing special. Bland and mediocre. This was the pattern for the whole cruise and I can honestly say I can't remember anything memorable at all, Very disappointing. We ordered a bottle of wine each evening and the quality was acceptable but there is no way you would pay $28 plus 15% for a bottle such as this anywhere else I have been. $32 in total for a bottle you could buy in a supermarket for $6-7 represents quite a mark-up.
Breakfast was the usual bunfight at the Horizon Court. Despite the demand the hot food always seemed tepid, the pastries a bit dry. Again, it was OK but not memorable although the choice was huge.
Our cabin was an inside one. Perfectly acceptable as we didn't intend spending time in it. We didn't turn the TV on so it was of no importance what was being shown and I can't comment on that. Bathroom was just about big enough and there was sufficient storage for clothes. A fridge and kettle are provided but we didn't use them either.Our cabin steward was lovely and no complaints there at all.
The boat itself is starting to look worn in places but not disastrously so. Many pieces of the plastic decking around the jacuzzis were missing which didn't look good and right at the very back the lower deck was cordoned off because the wooden decking was lifting. Deck carpets lifting and worn , signs of rusting, doesn't really bother me. I was told the decor in the theatre was particularly bad with broken chairs and ripped coverings. I only ever stood at the back for brief moments and what I saw didn't encourage me to look for a seat. Poor quality entertainment in my opinion.
It wasn't just in the theatre that things seem to be lacking though, the daily sheet of activities always seemed to contain lots of promotions trying to get you to spend money. "Enrichment classes" meant enriching Princess not your mind.
As for ships tours, we didn't take any as they are overpriced and sold on the fear factor that if you do your own thing you'll be left behind if you miss the sailing time.
Our Bucket List package did include a Junk boat ride in Halong Bay,a visit to Ocean Park in Hong Kong and a trip to the Royal Palace in Bangkok as well as a quick 4 hour tour of Singapore before being dropped off at the airport.
We did our own thing and did a tour in Da Nang organised by a Cruise Critic member and advertised on the Roll Call, I had arranged one myself for Phu May and we availed ourselves of the shuttle bus at Da Nang on another day.
A quick appraisal then.
Ocean Park Hong Kong surprised me. Really enjoyed it, it's more than a theme park and well worth a visit to see the Giant Pandas,Walrus and Penguins kept in good conditions.
Halong Bay. Well it was dull, overcast and misty the day we went and that we were told is quite common. Too many boats are licensed so it can be very busy. We visited the caves which have the usual stalactites and mites and appropriate lighting, then we were dropped off on an artificial beach where anyone brave enough could swim in the polluted waters. Personally I found the trip disappointing.
Phu May we took a local tour that included a list to some nearby Viet Song tunnels. You don't need to travel far to see some. An excellent tour, check out Vung Tau tours.
The second day in Phu May we decided to stay on board. Been to Pattaya before, it's a pit. Ho Chi Minh City is just too far to be bothered IMO. Just another crowded Far Eastern city. There is nothing to do locally either. Phu May. is one of three industrial ports that make up this cruise's stops.
Da Nang Day 1 we did the shuttle bus that took us to a low budget hotel in an uninspiring district. Sat on some plastic chairs at a makeshift bar alongside a dual carriageway. Had we had prior information we could have easily picked up a taxi tour here at a fraction of what we paid the following day.
Day 2 Da Nang. Took a tour as previously mentioned. It was well subscribed and ended up one minibus and one coach load. We were on the coach. The highlight was an enjoyable lunch but much of what we saw and did seemed as if they we srtugglingto find suitable places to take you to although when we got to Hoi An I could have spent ages wandering around this delightful town. Instead our guide persuaded us to all stick together and visit a silk factory in case we go separated and missed the bus etc etc. No doubt he got his back hander for taking us there. I wouldn't take the trip again but I would visit Hoi An.
Bangkok. We were on our organised package here, A promised 2-2.5 hour journey to get there ended up as 4 hours due to traffic. The Places were interesting,"bling" comes to mind and the whole place looked like a Disneyland theme park. A poor lunch was part of probably 3 hours in Bangkok before repeating the journey back to the ship which took a similar amount of time. A tiring day to say the least.
Koh Samui was chaotic tendering. Two boats provided by the local port took about 25 minutes each way and had a capacity of 100 people. 3000 passengers wanted to get off.
The day was wasted and no more to be said about that.
Singapore is a beautiful city. So much to see and do but it's somewhere you can do on your own with ease. We just wandered over to the excellent gardens in the Bay and spent the day looking at the gardens and drinking beers.
So that just about wraps up my thoughts.
We had done a similar trip previously but on that we got on In Beijing and visited Bosan in Korea,Nagasaki and Shanghai before arriving in Hong Kong after which we went to Phu May, Laem Chabang,and Singapore.
This cruise now has three overnight stops which if I'm honest are not really appealing for a second visit as they are industrial and miles from anywhere of interest.
Well hopefully they will get their act together in terms of the crew being training, that's not difficult.
Entertainment? Well it doesn't matter what it's like if the weather is OK.
Food and drink, Much left to be desired IMO, and to me they are very , very important parts of any holiday. Read Less