Travelled from Melbourne on Feb 11th 2015 with my daughter. The cruise was a gift for her 18th birthday/completing high school. My parents, who have sailed on this ship multiple times, decided to tag along so we had adjoining balcony ... Read More
Travelled from Melbourne on Feb 11th 2015 with my daughter. The cruise was a gift for her 18th birthday/completing high school. My parents, who have sailed on this ship multiple times, decided to tag along so we had adjoining balcony rooms. B303 and B301 The only time i have been on the ocean was on the Ferry to Tasmania several years back. My daughter and i were both seasick, with me suffering quite badly. I stocked up on Anti Emetic medication (2 different types) as well as the Sea Bands you wear around your wrists. I didn't even care if they were only a placebo so worried i was about being seasick. So why on earth would i choose a cruising holiday you ask? Well, i figured we should give it another chance as maybe Bass Straight was just misbehaving when we sailed on it. Luckily for us, the worst swell was around the 2 mt mark and that was only for 1 day. 2 other days were reported as 1.5mt (These reports came though constantly on the in-cabin TV on a channel devoted to ship info), and the rest of the time we could have skated on the ocean it was so flat. Lucky?..... you bet. So now to my review......
Obviously getting on in years and certainly needing a freshen up by way of new carpet, decor etc. I believe that a refurbishment may actually be commencing in May or thereabouts Rust is obvious on the ships exterior, and the exterior door handle to our balcony has corroded to a pint where it is about to pull off the door. Seeing the Dawn Princess berthed in front of her newer stable mate Diamond Princess made a comparison easy. Dawn is an older ship and it shows. That said, it was kept spotlessly clean and tidy. Exterior maintenance was carried out each time the ship berthed, including constant repainting, which could sometimes surprise you as the motorized platform would glide past our balcony each port day. Keep that in mind on Port days, in case the maintenance guys come past your room while you are in a state of undress.
At the very front on deck 7 was fairly large and comfortable, with small tables that unfolded from the armrest of your seat, much like some aircraft. Sound quality was good enough, and there was a big projection screen that movies would sometimes be displayed. The stage was big enough for an impressive show from the entertainment team. Not easy to get in and out if you were in a hurry because of the high percentage of older travellers with mobility issues. The highest (furthest from the stage) 4 rows or so were reserved for these passengers but it was clear that many people didn't bother to adhere to that instruction as they could leave much faster from the back rows after a show . Not the ships fault of course, but it is an issue. Comfy seats, but even with the lights on it seemed really dark which, given the percentage of older travellers, was surprising.
At the very back of the ship on deck 7 was much better than i expected. I had seen many photos of this lounge from my parents previous cruises, and wasn't that excited to see it in person. Obviously the photos didn't do it justice as i thought this was one of the better areas on the ship. Not as big as the main theatre, and it runs almost east-west across the ship which made the stage appear smaller, but the slight floor decline from back to front meant that the viewing was good from practically anywhere. A bar at the back of the lounge had comfy stools, and the staff were always around to offer to get you a drink. A couple of times a popular show in the Main Theatre was "simulcast" on the screen in the Vista theatre. Quality wasn't great, but better than missing out entirely. One of my favorite places on the ship for the way it felt.
Only walked in here twice as i am not a gambler. Cant give much of a description, but it had a couple of games tables, and many "pokies" (Slot machines). Sold Instant Win scratch tickets as well as the usual gambling fare. Probably had more features than i describe here, but i didn't take the time to discover any.
My family had an early sitting for dinner (5.45 pm) in the Florentine room on deck 5. Didn't see the other dining room (Venetian) on deck 6, but am told is essentially a copy of ours. Big, but still managed to feel intimate. Chairs were upmarket enough to make me feel a bit special (We rarely eat out in Australia so it doesn't take much to feel special). As with the main theatre, the lighting was on the dim side, but i guess this adds to the ambiance. Service was as perfectly timed as i can imagine it to be considering the next sitting was 7.45pm, and the staff needed time to prepare for the next lot of diners. Somehow they never made us feel rushed, and with 2 waiters taking care of 3 tables (which were never completely full) they were never far away if you needed something. My daughter and Mother had both purchased a non alcoholic drink card, and the waiters would automatically provide them with a different "Mocktail" each night. I will talk about the food later.
Horizon Court Bistro
The bistro was at the very front of the ship on deck 14. They promote that there are 270 degree views, but that would require you to sit on the port and starboard side at the same time. Regardless you get a nice view from any (steeply angled glass) window seat. Casual, sit anywhere seating arrangement is the flavor here. I loved this room because of that feature. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and a long time after),this was my favorite place to eat. Tables and chairs were the bamboo,outdoor style variety which suited the bistro to a tee. Plenty of staff on had to provide drinks like juice, coffee, tea, iced water etc. On some nights,the Port side (you could usually enter from either side of the ship) was closed off and dressed up with a curtain, and called the "Stirling Steakhouse". A couple of times the meat for this specialty restaurant was on display outside the Bistro to encourage people to pay the $25 over charge. Gotta say that the meat looked VERY impressive,although i declined to pay extra when there was already so much great food on offer.If the steaks on display were an accurate example of what you would receive, the cover charge may well be worth it.
Shopping on board.
Deck 6. Regatta and Illuminations. This was probably the most pleasant surprise for me as the items from most stores on board was very reasonably priced. As we were a captive audience so to speak, i expected the usual offering of ridiculously overpriced junk masquerading as souvenirs. I was very happy to see the range of what i would call affordable (everyone has a different definition of affordable of course) trinkets like the usual fridge magnets, snow globes, caps, shirts, pens, sunglasses etc, but the range was more than i expected. From Shot-Glasses to ladies dresses, handbags, budget-to-pricey jewellery and the obligatory watches (all 4 members of my family are now proud watch owners). The only items i thought overpriced were fragrances, which did not surprise one bit. The one thing that did begin to grate was the constant presence of the ships photographers. Prints on board were essentially $20 AUS for an 8x10, with the digital negative file an extra $15. Formal night images cost $30 each. All images were overly photoshopped using preset filters, but we still purchased quite a few prints so the photographers must have done a decent job.
Deck 7 Midship. Gee i feel sorry for the staff who work here. Talk about drawing the short straw. Due to the age profile of passengers, this nightclub is essentially empty every time you walk in. The tunes are geared to an older crowd. Think mainly 80's disco music. if full, it could very well be a great place to go as the room itself feels like a real nightclub. Sadly, not enough younger people travel on this cruise to ever come close to filling it, even if all turned up on the same night.
Deck 8. Great pizza and desserts available here. If this pizza place was in my home town i would eat there often. Actually, make that VERY often. Not an Australian style of pizza with heaps and heaps of topping, more an American style. During this cruise there was a different 50th anniversary pizza available each night. They were fantastic. I wish i ate here more often, but we seemed to go to the dining room most nights. Do yourself a favour and try it at least once or twice.
Deck 5. My daughter and i went here every day for a coffee (Me) and Hot Chocolate (Emily). Being on deck 5, you sat at large portholes and were quite close to sea level. Lighting was good, and you could watch the daily passenger activities that were held each at-sea day on deck 5. You could order tea (free i think, i didn't try any), coffee (extra cost or on a coffee card for which you pay), Hot chocolate (a part of the non alcoholic card that cost approx $8 per day), wine by the glass which was reasonably priced, or sprits/beer. I admit im a bit reluctant to part with extra money on a trip like this, so if i say something is reasonably priced, i mean it. Wines approx $8-10 AUD per glass. Not a wine buff and dont know too much about it, but what i tried i really enjoyed. My daughter said the hot chockies were excellent. There was also a large tray with either savoury or sweet treats on it for free. You couldn't serve yourself for health reasons, but they were yours for the asking. Special mention to the staff (Particularly Gina) who worked here, as their friendly disposition was much appreciated. 2 days in and we were already being asked, "the usual".. lol
Other Bars etc.
There were other areas on the ship where you could sit and chat while enjoying a refreshment or 3, but we simply didn't get to them all. That may sound stupid when we were on board for 13 night, but its just the way it was. I remember my parents telling me that they did not see everything on the ship on either of their past 2 trip ( both 13 night) and i rolled my eyes thinking they were just lazy. Well i have apologized to them as i now know that it IS actually possible to be on board for almost 2 weeks and not sample everything on the ship. You see these places of course, but only while walking to somewhere else.
Deck 14 Aft. Sadly i didnt do anything more than take a couple of photos here. I am an avid bike rider and regularly punish myself with riding to keep fit. I don't know if i was just lazy, or too busy doing other stuff, but i did no work here at all. Lots of equipment to use by way of static bikes, steppers, free weights etc, so if you are a fanatic it should be enough to keep you from feeling guilty.
Prompt and professional. Ordered late night room service 3 times ($3 room charge but the food was free) and it was always delivered very quickly. Set menu of items available, listed in the folder in your room. Good quality food, although my judgement may have been clouded by the fact that i was fairly well "happy on drinks" by the time i ordered. You must get something delivered at least once, just to say you got room service.
Seriously, anyone who complains about either the quality or quantity of food available on this ship needs stringing up. I was on board for 2 weeks and put on 1kg in weight. Quite simply, the range of food available is superb. Regardless of where you eat, you should come away satisfied.
Didnt go on any as they were overpriced. Not by a lot, but overpriced all the same.
Starting on a sour note, i did have one unpleasant experience with a staff member in the jewellery store. I was taking a photo of the shop, and she rushed over and spoke to me like i was some sort of criminal. On reflection, i shouldn't have used my camera around their jewellery, but she definitely needs retraining in how to deal with that sort of situation. On a much happier note, Princess Cruises have every right to be proud of the other staff they employ. Our cabin steward Sonny was a model of unobtrusive efficiency, somehow managing to tidy up our twin balcony suite when we were gone for less than 5 mins. He got the biggest tip (not actually required on Australian Cruises) of all staff we had dealings with. Our waitress (Irina) and waiter (Harold) were so friendly we wanted to take them home. Gina in The Patisserie was simply fantastic, and i cant compliment her enough. Even the cabin crew who were not looking after our room were polite and friendly. Every single staff member from The Philippines (and there were lots) are a credit to Princess Cruises.
If you are unsure of whether or not this cruise is for you, i say STOP DITHERING AND BOOK. One of the best holidays i have ever had, and i have traveled fairly extensively. Unless you sail though a Cyclone, you will have the time of your lives.