1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Ocean Princess Review
  4. Ocean Princess Cruise Reviews

217 Ocean Princess Cruise Reviews

We departed from Dover, England June 25 on the Ocean Princess. We could see the beautiful white cliffs of Dover as we boarded the ship. The ship is the smallest we have ever sailed on and we were not sure what to expect. The Ocean ... Read More
We departed from Dover, England June 25 on the Ocean Princess. We could see the beautiful white cliffs of Dover as we boarded the ship. The ship is the smallest we have ever sailed on and we were not sure what to expect. The Ocean Princess is a small, beautiful ship. It has an elegant staircase to the deck with the Purser's desk. All the wood is dark and polished. There are no rugs put in the small elevators to tell you the day,the day is displayed above the elevator floor display. Although their were only two small elevators at the front, middle, and back of the ship, you never had to wait long and they were never crowded.We enjoyed the intimacy of this ship and found it to be perfect for a cruise that takes you to a different port every day. As we left Dover, the fog was extremely dense and you could not see anything. The ship's fog horn was blown every few minutes. Norway and the fjords are absolutely beautiful and it was a wonderful and scenic experience. The weather the last week of June in Norway was cool but not cold. It rained everyday but the last day, while we were in Bergen. The rain was not heavy and a light poncho or rainproof jacket were all that was needed. A light jacket was all we needed for the cool weather. There were 2 days on the ship that it was sunny and the deck around the pool was used by sunbathers and people using the hot tubs. The ship furnished blankets around the pool, as well as beach towels. The western fjords of Norway are mountainous with many rivers flowing down their sides and numerous waterfalls. The ship is small enough to travel deep into the fjords and sail slow enough to get good pictures.The sun did not set until almost midnight and rose again about 3:30 a.m.so there was lots of time to take pictures. The ship's shows were held in the Cabaret Lounge, which did not have a stage area. We all sat close enough to feel the energy of the shows. There is a Tahatian Lounge on the top front of the ship and they would have very good music there every night. It seems with all the sun, you really do not want to go to bed. Our cabin was on the very front of the ship. It offered excellent views, but it was quite noisy when the ship was putting out it's anchor. That did not seem to matter much to us because we were up ready to see everything. I would recommend this ship and cruise to anyone that enjoys mountains and cool weather. We will definitely consider going on another small ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
A very disappointing cruise with limited facilities for a cruise of this length and so many sea days. Brilliant fellow passengers and dining table company was excellent. Cabin steward and dining room staff were excellent. Very good library ... Read More
A very disappointing cruise with limited facilities for a cruise of this length and so many sea days. Brilliant fellow passengers and dining table company was excellent. Cabin steward and dining room staff were excellent. Very good library and internet room but theatre disappointing and quality of entertainment poor although some of individual artists very good.Very small pool and noisy at lunchtime when loud live music was played which resulted in many passengers going to their cabin balcony.Shop choice and stock very limited and all reflective of a small ship which whilst it has advantages has to be weighed against many other downsides.Suspicion of Senior management problems on the ship with a sub standard Cruise Director and a Captain whilst very communative over attentive to young attractive female passengers.As always on cruise ships Tours are becoming exhorbitant from a price point of you and there is a feelling of being "ripped off".The ship acquired a severe spread of Norovirus after only a week into the cruise and still the management of the ship did not attend to what were clearly adverse hygiene issues and only started to place hand washers out and clean the hand rails some three weeks after the illness started.The fact the ship was only 3/4 full for the first part of the cruise was and had to be discouted heavily for the latter part to attract additional passengers was interesting?In future we will revert to larger ships with better entertainment. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We boarded the Ocean Princess in Hong Kong in perfect health. Within a few days, we, along with many others on board were struck down with a severe case of the flu which left me with a terrible cough I could not get rid of. The air ... Read More
We boarded the Ocean Princess in Hong Kong in perfect health. Within a few days, we, along with many others on board were struck down with a severe case of the flu which left me with a terrible cough I could not get rid of. The air conditioning in the ship was so cold it was impossible to get warm and we had to ask for additional blankets just to sleep at night. I visited the Doctor and was given antibiotics, nasal spray and an inhaler which I have never had in my life. Nothing made any difference.I felt very isolated as I could not stop coughing, so refrained from going to many activities as I did not want to pass my germs on to other people. Two nights before we landed in Singapore my husband came down with severe food poisoning which he is convinced he got from some watermelon he had on board which was not fresh. The Doctor tried to tell us he had contacted a Norovirus in Koh Samui and really read him the riot act and treated him like a small child. All he ate or drank in Koh Samui was one orange juice as he was already feeling unwell and since I had the same we are sure it was not that. We were made to feel like Lepers, confined to our cabin, had people come in at midnight to casually wipe down a few doorknobs and walls which suposedly was supposed to "sanitise" the room. We were made to wait until everyone else got off the ship then we were escorted to a separate gangplank and placed in a taxi.Within two days of getting off the ship we had both fully recovered so we are convinced that the ship is indeed "sick". I would be very interested to hear if anyone else had the ame experiences we did as we know the Doctor's surgery on board was full every time we went there. This is my foirst experience travelling with Princess and I am very wary about travelling with them again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
The cruise was in fact two, back to back, Hong Kong to Shanghai (originally Osaka to Shanghai, pre earthquake) then Shanghai to Singapore.Good points.1. Mostly excellent crew. Others have complained about the level of staff training but we ... Read More
The cruise was in fact two, back to back, Hong Kong to Shanghai (originally Osaka to Shanghai, pre earthquake) then Shanghai to Singapore.Good points.1. Mostly excellent crew. Others have complained about the level of staff training but we found that the waiting and the cabin staff were excellent. Several went well out of their way to help.2. The crew kept their helpfulness right up to disembarkation. Some other lines (Regent being the worst) lost interest in disembarking passengers on the last morning.Not so good points.1. The reception staff were not as helpful as the rest of the crew. Indeed on more than one occasion someone came from the back office and was outright rude.2. The attitude to hygeine was strange. Other lines have hand sanitizer dispensers at the entry to every restaurant and bar. When I asked about there being only one on the whole ship (entry to buffet) I was told that there was no need, the crew had excellent standards. What about the passengers? Anyone who, like me, watched someone come out of a toilet cubicle and walk straight out into the restaurant would not be happy to handle his menu after him!3. Passengers doing back-to-back are not really catered for as they should. We asked about excursions for such passengers and were told that there were too few. We later found that there were about 120 rolling over between cruises. How many do they need before they cater for transit passengers?4. The food was OK as to standard but the restaurant menu repeated after 12 days! There was only one working ice machine on the ship, in the buffet. 5. The big one was their nickel-and-diming. Other lines we have been on do not expect you to look for coins (only $1 but if you don't have the right coins it is a bother) to use the washing machines. The standard coffee was dire, made from a liquid concentrate, and in the UK they would have been prosecuted calling it 'coffee'. To get a drink that tasted of real coffee rather than ersatz cost from $2 up. They charged for small bottles of water on disembarkation for excursions just to find that the excursion companies provided complimentary larger bottles on the excursion buses! Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
Review of the Ocean Princess February 2011-- Singapore to Shanghai We took this cruise, as did everyone we spoke to, because of the itinerary --a truly great itinerary that takes in many of the great cities of Asia and other ... Read More
Review of the Ocean Princess February 2011-- Singapore to Shanghai We took this cruise, as did everyone we spoke to, because of the itinerary --a truly great itinerary that takes in many of the great cities of Asia and other places as well. And the itinerary truly is great. This is a pretty small ship -- about 30,000 tons, and not new. Nonetheless it is well kept and charming in it's own way with dark woods and nice touches. Crew -- by and large the crew is great. I know that some have argued that since the advent of automatic-deduct-from-your-credit-card tipping, service on cruise ships has declined. I will say however, that this ship had some of the best wait staff, and cabin staff we've ever encountered on over the dozen cruises that we've taken. The tour person and the port speaker were also very friendly and very good to deal with. An exception to this good crew were the front office women at the main desk. We found them to be unfriendly and generally not helpful. This is an opinion shared by others on the cruise as well. I cannot imagine why a cruise company which hired such friendly and helpful people on other parts of the ship, would fail to address this issue. Food in the dining room generally was a cut above the norm (although not at the 9th deck buffets) and very good in specialty restaurants (for an additional charge). Entertainment was fine for a small ship--singers, dancers, comedians, etc. Not fabulous, but good enough. It is worth mentioning at this point, and you probably know it, the the average age is pretty high on this ship-- I think most people over 65. That's not surprising since it is fairly expensive and takes a lot of time---neither of these factors generally available to young people. Having said that, the entertainment is pretty geared to that age group and I thought the entertainment generally popular. The real stars of this cruise are the ports of call. Fabulous and interesting to visit, and the excursions cover many of the places you'd want to go. Overall, despite some flaws, this cruise is extremely enjoyable and I strongly recommend it--and rate it 4.5 of 5 stars. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
This cruise is definately NOT VALUE FOR MONEY I had previously sailed with Princess on a 21 day cruise to the Panama Canal, a fabulous holiday, with 5 star treatment, FOR ALOT LESS MONEY. This holiday bore NO COMPARISON. ... Read More
This cruise is definately NOT VALUE FOR MONEY I had previously sailed with Princess on a 21 day cruise to the Panama Canal, a fabulous holiday, with 5 star treatment, FOR ALOT LESS MONEY. This holiday bore NO COMPARISON. From the moment we stepped on to this small ship I was dissapointed. I felt like the entire ship needed a complete refurbishment, and when we opened the cabin door the smell was awfull. Two of the female reception staff were arrogant and rude. The entertainment was similar to a Butlins holiday camp, not a £6000 + cruise. The captain spent the entire cruise referring to the ship as his Beautifull White Lady, it was far from this, and both myself and other passengers began to cringe every time he mentioned this. So dissappointment am I with Princess Cruises that I dont think my husband and I will travel with this cruise line ever again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Background, I am 26 years old, been cruising for 11 years, Carnival, RCI and Princess. This was my first solo cruise, first small ship cruise and first time in Asia. I'm going to split the review into general sections. Getting ... Read More
Background, I am 26 years old, been cruising for 11 years, Carnival, RCI and Princess. This was my first solo cruise, first small ship cruise and first time in Asia. I'm going to split the review into general sections. Getting There I flew from Guangzhou to Shanghai Saturday Jan 22 on China Eastern Airlines, good flight, but about 20 minutes late which is what reviews told me to expect. I had a a car service take me to my hotel, Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel, near the Bund, which put it about 5-8 minutes away from the cruise port. Lovely hotel, would easily encourage others to stay there, and I would stay there again if I found myself in Shanghai. Embarkation - documents stated it started at 12:30, I arrived at 12 and found out it didn't start until 1 pm. Not a big deal. There was a convenience store and coffee shop in the terminal and chairs. Went through customs and on board and in my stateroom by 1:30. No dining room lunch today, since no one was on the ship before 1:30 really. Stateroom- I booked an inside gty, and ended up with cabin 7071. I was close to the laundry room, but nothing like the diagram had it. It was also only 2 floors up to Lido and 2 floors down to deck 5 (main deck with shops, cabaret lounge, restaurant etc). Excellent location, good size, I loved having the small love seat in the room. No complaints about my cabin at all. I also had a fabulous room steward who was friendly and attentive. Staff - Just about everyone I dealt with was friendly and efficient. Some way more than others, but no on was ever rude to me or wouldn't help me out. The cruise director, Susan Rawlings, was nice. He cruise staff (also the Dancers) were a great bunch of people. Very friendly and attentive to their jobs. My waitstaff in the dining room were great, service always seemed to flow nicely. Food was the right temperature for me. The captain, Stefano Ravera was a fabulous man. I think I spoke with him almost everyday. It seems that Princess captains make time to walk about and chat with the passengers. On other cruise lines I never saw the captain. I would love to sail with Captain Stefano Ravera again. Activities- I need stuff to do. I found there was a daily low from about 5:30-7 pm every night where there was nothing to do. No live music, no activities nothing. I normally have first seating dinner, which is why I probably don't notice said low other times, but I had late seating this time and found myself bored and getting ready for dinner way to early. I did sometimes watch movies in my cabin, but I liked to leave by 7 pm at the absolute latest to let my cabin steward do his job. During the day, and after dinner there was always entertainment in several spots and I was up listening to music or 'dancing' until 11:30 pm at the earliest and most nights closer to midnight. Great time. There were some activities during the day that no one would show up to, so they got cancelled. I was talking to one of the cruise staff about this (as he offered to run the activity with me alone, but I declined) and he said some people were complaining about the lack of activities, but then a bunch no one shows up to. Can't please everyone. Entertainment- The BEST piano player ever, Daniel Oliver. I listened to him just about every night. He was funny and very talented. We also had 4 production shows (cinematastic, gotta sing gotta dance, ports of call and motor city) I enjoyed them all, but my favourites were Motor City and Cinematastic. We had Trevor Knight (Australian singer/horse whisperer), Glenn Amer (very talented singer pianist) and Lenny Windsor (comedian/worked with Benny Hill) and Sean Alexander (Magician/illusionist) as the guest entertainers. They were all good. Like I said, the nightlight was never boring on this cruise. Scholarship @ sea- We had Deborah Fraioli as our port lecturer (I caught most of her stuff on the tv in cabin, she was pretty good). Claude Tremblay was the Bridge Lecturer (I don't know how to play bridge, and cannot comment on him) and Dr. John Freedman was the enrichment lecturer, who did talks about the history of each port of call. He was good, but I was hoping to have someone doing enrichment lecture topics on something completely different. There was some overlap between his talks and Deborah's, but not too much. Spa- I only went for a tour, and got a free sampler massage, which was great. And then I booked a haircut and style. My stylist was great, friendly and did a fantastic job on my hair. (I had about 8 inches cut off -so a real hair cut) and the facilities looked great. I just didn't pack running shoes, so I didn't use them. Food- subjective, I know, but I found just about everything I ate to be from good to delicious. I ate in the dining room every night for dinner, a couple of times for lunch, 1 time for tea. I ate the rest of my meals from the buffet or continental breakfast in my room. There was so much seafood on this cruise. 3 times in the buffet at lunch there were lobster claws, 2 times there was a seafood buffet with lobster tails, claws, crab claws and jumbo black tiger shrimp. Lobster tail was served 2 times in the dining room the first paired with a crab cake, the second with the tiger shrimp. I definitely had my fill of seafood, but the cuts of beef I had were also delicious. I always got my food cooked to order the way I liked it, and it always was at the correct temperature for my liking. Ports of call - details can be found in my thread on the Princess boards. My favourite stops were Hong Kong and Thailand. I cannot wait to go back to Thailand. (embarkation) Shanghai, China Okinawa, Japan - Keelung, Taiwan- Hong Kong (overnight) Chan May, Vietnam Phu My, Vietnam Laem Chabang, Thailand Ko Samui, Thailand (disembarkation) Singapore Ship Atmosphere- at times this felt like a ghost ship. I would be on deck 5, and it was me and the shop staff. you honestly never saw the ship crowded except for port days in the buffet at breakfast. Shows were never full (at least the second sitting ones weren't). Nothing ever felt busy. The people I met were fabulous, and I was chatting with people all the time, so I never felt lonely (which is good, as I was concerned travelling solo). My table mates were some of the best I've ever had, and most people on this cruise seemed friendly and talkative. Overall - Great cruise, great staff, interesting excursions (I booked mainly Princess excursions). I cannot wait to cruise with Princess again, and would love to sail on this Beautiful White Lady again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Things I Really Liked: 1. a delightful port intensive itinerary with a wonderful overnight in Honk Kong. 2. lots and lots of seafood including lobster, crab and great big shrimp. No skimping. 3. a free upgrade to a balcony. ... Read More
Things I Really Liked: 1. a delightful port intensive itinerary with a wonderful overnight in Honk Kong. 2. lots and lots of seafood including lobster, crab and great big shrimp. No skimping. 3. a free upgrade to a balcony. Thank you Princess! 4. a very high quality enrichment lecturer whose audience grew daily. 5. a port consultant who was truly informative and not an extension of the excursion sales department. 6. the Princess no hassle wine and beer policy for stateroom consumption. I was surprised at the number of couples that enjoyed having a glass of wine together in their stateroom while getting ready for dinner. 7. the extensive visa and other entry paperwork that Princess did on our behalf. 8. less hard sell and cross sell and up sell than other cruise lines that we have used recently. 9. washers and dryers on board. 10. free port shuttles for independent travelers that were not on the Princess tours. 11. the good attitude of the staff who really tried to please. 12. the small ship experience. Room for Improvement: 1. some of the ports in Bangkok and Vietnam were really far from the main city or sights which cut down on the visiting time. Princess should consider overnighting in these ports. 2. an affordable dining room wine package would have been nice. However, to Princess' credit, they did not try the old stunt of "running out" of affordable wines after the first couple days. Am I absolutely hooked on Princess? No, but for future cruises with similar interesting itineraries and prices, I would give Princess a definite edge over the competition. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Back cruising after 25 years, so this is our first experience really because the standard is better we feel. I chose this ship because of the intinary which included Portafino and Villafranche(for Monaco). What a shock when 3 weeks before ... Read More
Back cruising after 25 years, so this is our first experience really because the standard is better we feel. I chose this ship because of the intinary which included Portafino and Villafranche(for Monaco). What a shock when 3 weeks before cruising we found out that we had Nice instead and instead of Portafino,we had Tunis.Having said that, one day stopovers, we had French singing in the square of Nice, Spanish guitar and dancing, a rare chance to see Nth Africa and Kasbah and Medina.Next time, in Livorno we would go to Portovenere close by and see a bit more of Sorrento or go to Pompeii.The ship was just the right size with a great layout. The staff were mostly very good. Great organisation that worked so smoothly. Very good team of organisers.Very good food too. We were lucky with the weather being a perfect balance of the ports (23-28C).The weather was fine and the sea smooth so we don't know how it would go on rough seas of a long trip. There was good entertainment although some casual group playing during the day etc ...might have been nice.About 50% dearer than our RCL cruise in 2011, I would have to say that this is the standard setter and I'm thinking that below Cunard (too posh?), I can't think anyone would equal it. Reluctant to book any other unless just to try. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
If I had only one word to sum up our "Norwegian Interlude" cruise on the Ocean Princess, that word would be FABULOUS. We had been on 3 previous Princess ships in recent years and were getting ready to hang it up with Princess. ... Read More
If I had only one word to sum up our "Norwegian Interlude" cruise on the Ocean Princess, that word would be FABULOUS. We had been on 3 previous Princess ships in recent years and were getting ready to hang it up with Princess. This was mostly due to the trend of larger and larger ships and a carnival type onboard ambiance. The ambiance aboard the Ocean Princess was one of quiet elegance. My husband and I traveled with another couple from Tampa, Florida to London. We booked our own air, as we wanted to fly non-stop on British Airways, but also because we were spending two nights prior to the cruise in Dover, then another week at the end of the cruise in London. Arrival at Gatwick London: We opted to book private van transfers with Woodford Chauffeur Cars to Dover which would have been price prohibitive (at least for us!) for two people, but for four persons, it was doable. There is nothing like starting a trip off on the right foot. Being met and whisked away quickly for the hour and a half drive to Dover was a much more pleasant start than taking the Gatwick Express into London and the bus/train to Dover. By my calculations, it was only $15 more per person to take the private transfers. Pre-Cruise Stay: We stayed for 2 nights at the Maison Dieu Guesthouse in Dover. Wonderful B&B, and handy for sightseeing. The first day we were pretty tired so didn't do much, but the second day, we walked to the bus stop (two blocks from our B&B) and took the local bus (number 15) to Canterbury. We walked the ancient city wall, took a tour of the Canterbury Cathedral and a punt (boat) tour with the Canterbury Punting Co. which I would highly recommend. Blessed with great weather, this was an awesome day! As we couldn't board the ship the next day until 1PM, we visited Dover Castle. It was OK for a couple of hours, but, being August, the place was overrun with kids and families Embarkation and Debarkation: This was the quickest and most efficient of any cruise I have taken! We arrived at 1:30PM and were on the ship by 1:45. We debarked at 8:15AM and caught an 8:44AM train to London! The Ship: The size and the overall ambiance of the ship really made this cruise truly special and have gained Princess some future small ship cruise customers. Soft classical music was played (mostly) in the pool area. We loved the outside area on Deck 5. As it is not an entire promenade around the ship, you didn't get all the walkers and joggers going round and round which made it a delightful place for read, nap and soak up the peacefulness of the water. There was never a crowd in the hot tubs. Never a problems getting on the gym equipment. No lines. No crowds. AND THE SHIP WAS AT CAPACITY! On a low point, I can see where the laundry facilities would be inadequate, especially on cruises of longer length. Entertainment: To be fair, we don't really go on cruises so much for the entertainment aspect, but we did really enjoy the comedian and the piano concert on the last sea day. We didn't attend the production shows because they seemed like they were going to be the same as the ones we had seen on previous Princess ships. Cabins We liked our location on Deck 4 forward, near the stairs. The gang plank was on Deck 3, so on/off access was good. The downside was there were people gathered in the hallway and in the stairwell area waiting around until they were able to debark, but that didn't last that long. We had an outside ocean view cabin. It didn't have a huge window, but it was bigger than a porthole. It appeared that all cabins were approximately the same size and decor, (except presumably the suites, which I didn't see). The soft furnishings were perhaps a bit tired looking; but the dark wood in the cabins was lovely. I thought the lighting in the cabin was the weakest point of the cabin. There was overhead light in front of the closet area, but the light was obstructed by the closet door when it was opened! My husband thought the mattress was a bit hard. Our friends had a balcony cabin (not a mini-suite) and the balcony was much more spacious than the other, larger, Princess ships in that same category. Dining: Food was above average to excellent. We ate dinner in both specialty venues and the personal service there was outstanding. The dining room service was also excellent, but the waiters had to look after a few more tables! Our 7 night cruise included port stops in Stavanger, Olden, Hellesylt/Geiranger and Bergen. Norway tends to be a pricy destination and this cruise had the perfect balance of sea and port days. We took this cruise before we washed our hands of Princess in search of smaller ships, and found the Ocean Princess exceeded our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
We left Montreal 2 days prior to our cruise from July 13 -31 2010. Jet blue was our choice as it was the most inexpensive to New York out of Burlington Vermont .WE nearly missed our flight arrived 20 minutes before departure but although ... Read More
We left Montreal 2 days prior to our cruise from July 13 -31 2010. Jet blue was our choice as it was the most inexpensive to New York out of Burlington Vermont .WE nearly missed our flight arrived 20 minutes before departure but although hectic we did make it . New York was wonderful. We stayed in Midtown in a lovely art dec hotel the BELVEDERE which I got on Hotwire .It was perfectly located for our visits ,right near Times Square and fun.WE took the hop -on hop-off bus and revisited all.Lots of craziness in New York for the soccer finals .It was hot and muggy but fine.We carried water in a cooler type carrier on the bus ,HOHO is a great way to see New york if you are pressed for time.We walked everywhere and LOVE New York.We also did a boat tour included with HOHO. Because we were near 9th avenue lots of restaurants around Food was fine everywhere On Tuesday under pouring rain we headed for Brooklyn and Ocean Princess ./no line ups we were very quickly on board without problems.Loved our upgrade to a balcony cabin.THANK YOU PRINCESS!!!!WE were near elevators and LAUNDRY ROOM best place to meet people After emptying our carry-ons we had lunch at the buffet and went exploring Ocean is a SMALL ship with about 600 pax tops .Visiting the whole ship rather quickly is not difficult The public rooms feel like large living rooms ..cozy comfy where we met with friends to chit chat. After muster we sailed away a little late because we were waiting for pax who never made it because of the weather Johan the head waiter came the first evening to deal with my food allergies and took care of all meals thereafter.He was very professional and kept a watchful eye on his staff....nothing escaped him and he kept them on their toes!!!  The next day we had our Meet& Greet and we met the loveliest people who made this cruise special.Susan and Arthur organized tours we shared and my heartfelt thanks for wonderful experiences everywhere.I really enjoyed our tours in Iceland ,Scotland Our first excursion was with a former Montrealer in southern Nova Scotia to Peggy;s Cove with other CC members Adele,Michael Sandy and Les.WE had a GLORIOUS day .I had been to Peggy;s Cove a long time ago and really wanted Jeremy to see it. It was as wonderful as I remembered Our guide bought us all kinds of berries to munch on as Nova Scotia was famous for them .A nice touch Very much appreciated We did stop at a lobster pound where I purchased a DELICIOUS NOVA SCOTIA lobster to enjoy later that day ...YUMMY I loved the lakes and rivers we crossed and their proximity to the sea .It was UNIQUE .Everywhere we went was SUPERclean and lovely .We walked in Lunenberg saw Bluenose and drove in lovely elegant towns All in all a wonderful tour I think Halifax and region is a GREAT choice to retire in About the Ocean ...do not waste your $$$ at the Casino very few machines and one very rude attendant whom I had to literally tell to shut up because her comments were unappreciated .Every time she saw me she made comments ..so I HAD to put a stop to it I also did not return 10 machines does Not a Casino make ..way too small.IMO either make a bigger one or scrap it altogether It really was a joke Entertainment at best on Ocean was MEDIOCRE .Some of the acts offered were downright PITIFUL ...anyone remember the ventriloquist ...SAD >>>SAD>>>SAD >>> Other then the Dance Production shows the rest were not that good .The Piano needed tuning .I felt bad for the professional musician who gave the piano recital ...those sour notes really spoiled his performance At Times our CD chose to put shows before dinner ...BAD CHOICE as there was nothing to do except chit chat in the foyer around the shops .For my Young man there was nothing to do and he found the ship VERY boring ...I have to agree They had a Naturalist Jules we got to know and felt bad his VERY interesting lectures got cut off regularly NOT FAIR He had lectures prepared he never got a chance to present on Icebergs etc Knowing what is going on now in Greenland with the huge iceberg break up it would have been very pertinentto hear that lecture Food on Ocean was as good as on any Princess ship ...not necessarily better .There is only the buffet available and Dining room /At night Bistro and Sabatin;s WE did enjoy our evening at Sabatinis as we crossed the ARCTIC circle under the midnight sun Our companions Anne and Nick made this dinnere memorable Thanks to our Captain for taking the detour and making us official bluenoses ...certificate in hand !!!GOOD JOB CAPTAIN SERVILLO My biggest thrill was seing ICEBERGS in Greenland ..Susan and Anne can attest to my joy at seing the first one .I saw one going by as I was sleeping I jumped up got dressed and ran to the top deck to film and photograph .I actually got a pic of one with a ship and speedboat in front of it WOW it was HUGE Our Captain could not anchor and needed to keep an eye on all the icebergs floating around.I got a pic of one right in front of the ship which I gave the Captain!!!The weather in Greenland was terrific and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit .Princess even organized the town to present a dance show,choir and Kayak demonstration .Some people even got to taste seal.All in all Greenland and its people were wonderful. Iceland on our tours was UNIQUE with its lava formations,wild horses,sulfur and hot springs and mineral baths .WE sure enjoyed the 2 swims we took in mineral baths THEY FELT SO GOOD .On all these visits we were in CONGENIAL company .Truly memorable days In Norway we spent a lot of time walking around and goofing off with Anne and Nick ...GREAT FUN .Norway was charming in every way...but be advised it is VERY expensive!!! All in all a great cruise where we met some very special people who made it that more memorable To all I tip my hat to you I would love to retravel with you I enjoyed all the time we spent together Ocean Princess is truly a MUCH smaller ship ...Yes it was lovely but why is it SO expensive compared to other ships ?I really do not see why Neither food nor entertainment was Superior yet is is so much more $$$$ However I would definitely go on a small ship again were the itinerary and price reasonable We really enjoyed our cruise The places we visited were awesome so I do recommend this journey   Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Princess Cruise line is in a state of marked decline. I have taken more than 20 cruises on their ships, and the quality of their current service and product is noticeably worse than that of Cruise Lines like NCL and RCL whom Princess has ... Read More
Princess Cruise line is in a state of marked decline. I have taken more than 20 cruises on their ships, and the quality of their current service and product is noticeably worse than that of Cruise Lines like NCL and RCL whom Princess has traditionally seen themselves as being a cut above. The problems take 2 primary forms. The personnel are increasingly poorly trained, and the corporation has decided to nickle and dime passengers at every opportunity. I am sure the problems would not be noticeable to relatively new cruisers because they have no standard for comparison. They would not realize that they could have gotten more for less at another cruise line. First, the issue of poor training. On each of the Princess ships I have been on recently there are certainly a number of high quality personnel who are trying to do the best they can. But cabin stewards now for example are required to take care of many more cabins than they can effectively service. One of the most important services for cruisers new to a particular part of the world is the qualuity of the port advice. On all 3 Princess ships I was on this last year, the person giving advice was well-meaning enough, but flat out did not know as much about the ports as would be known by a casual reader of Fodors. I once asked one of them for port information about the next port. The answer: "Oh, I wouldn't know. I don't have my notes with me." We would often find that the information we had been given was flat out wrong. Had the person giving the advice simply walked off the boat and looked around for a couple of hours she could have avoided the kind of misrepresentations she was providing. Another area of poor training is the front desk staff. They are persistently arrogant and unfamiliar with what is going on in the ship. The dining staff is also noticeably less trained than a couple of years ago. So, for example when I ordered cream puffs for my room, they brought strawberries. I politely asked "why?" The answer: "Oh, they just ran out of what you ordered. Maybe tomorrow!" Now to the nickle and diming: 1. The fitness instructor was taking huge fees for giving information that could be gleaned from reading any of the popular magazines in the ship library. 2. We were in a suite. Now the firm does not use sheets on the beds. 3. They charge $3.99 to activate your Internet account. This charge is bizarre and new. 4. There are no fresh berries in the dining areas. BUT they have them for those passengers who realize they must ask. 5. Several of the amenities to which we were entitled as top-level members of their club were not provided. The reason "we did not have a large enough inventory to provide them." 6. There is no customer service between midnight and 7 AM. 7. There was no skim milk in the buffet, but they did have some again for those who were aggressive enough to ask. 8. The firm just recently decided to no longer provide free access ever for their top customers to teh 2 special restaurants. 9. The entertainment was embarrassingly low quality. Entertainers were billed as Las Vegas entertainers, but I had seen them in 3rd level bars in the casinos where they claimed to have been headliners. All in all Princess is putting out a disappointing product. I would urge everyone to look elsewhere. The one exception would be that they go to someplace the other lines do not visit. They DO have great itineraries. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Cruise reviews tend to fall into 2 main categories: 1. We loved it 2. We hated it Now and then you get an 'average' rating. This review falls into category 1. We are an early-retired professional couple from Toronto. Ocean ... Read More
Cruise reviews tend to fall into 2 main categories: 1. We loved it 2. We hated it Now and then you get an 'average' rating. This review falls into category 1. We are an early-retired professional couple from Toronto. Ocean Princess is "small" (30,000 tons) and is "old" (1999). Please don't let that put you off. On the contrary, the ship was in fine fettle and reminiscent of bygone days of grand shipping lines with opulent interiors, refined service, with little nickel & diming. Princess went up in our estimation after this cruise. This is not your cookie cutter cruise. Destinations: Dover - Newcastle - Edinburgh - Faeroes - Iceland (2 locations) - Greenland (2 locations) - St. John NF - St. Pierre & Miquelon - New York. A huge East to West arc across the North Atlantic over 18 days in June/July. Confession: I'd long wanted to go to Iceland. To see what this planet was like billions of years ago. As with so many aspects of this cruise, our expectations were well-exceeded. I'd go back to Iceland at the drop of a hat. Like nothing else (including Hawaii - it's different) I've ever seen. I'm not going to bore you with ports of call, except to say we made our own plans at each one and, with the exception of St. Pierre & Miquelon (a bit of a yawn), we loved every stop. This itinerary and ship is for those who want to linger on an above-average cruise ship and experience places and things they've only read about but would like to see. It's not for beach bums. Did we get a suntan? Yep! Although en route into NY we caught some nasty sea fog, which put the damper (pun intended) on outside deck activities, but on occasion, if you were up on the top deck, you'd be in sunshine while the lower decks were shrouded in mist! Food was very good. Lots of seafood. Service at our table was perhaps a little stiff & impersonal for our tastes. A word with the head waiter and the passage of a day or 2 changed that. Onboard entertainment was poor to good and was not thrust down our throats by over-enthusiastic yet unskilled cruise director's staff. The production show (there were 3) about Motown music was very enjoyable. "Poor" related to a stand-up comic who gets a lot of his inspiration from the bathroom. The high spot (other than Iceland for me) was cruising through fjords of Greenland that took most of the day. My photographs, with no signs of habitation or trees in them to give an idea of scale, simply do not do justice to the colossal magnitude of this raw part of the planet. Full marks to the captain for firstly, making this section (many had gone before and not succeeded due to poor weather) so special. He would stop the ship and turn it 360 degrees so that everyone could get their best view of, say, a glacier. He sounded the ship's horn and, on cue, the glacier "calved" (i.e. a chunk fell off) into the water with a big splash! We made every port of call per the itinerary. If that sounds an odd statement to make, there were many on board who had taken this (or similar) cruises before and had not made all landfalls due to weather/icebergs etc. We count ourselves fortunate in that respect. For animal lovers, we did not see that much from the ship, directly (occasional porpoises, whales, the odd seal, etc). But there were several shore excursions for sea life and birds that we were told were OK. Everywhere port we went, people were friendly or curious. No problems with the "locals" that might be an issue in, say, some parts of the Caribbean basin. In conclusion: if you are at least a little adventurous and you're looking for something different from the mass cruising market, you could do a lot worse than this one. Needless to say, few cruise ships do this type of run. But if this sounds like your kind of vacation, go ahead and check it out. We are so glad we did. Oh, in case you're wondering about - small ship - sea sick? Well it did get a bit "pitchy" one night and I can't say that no-one felt queasy. But we never saw or heard any evidence of anyone being seasick the whole voyage. For the most time, we weren't aware we were on the high seas. One more point: the cruise was 18 days. Pace yourself with all that gorgeous food! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
About Us John and I (Carolyn) are retired university professors in our very late fifties, who have been cruising since October, 1991. We are Elite Captain's Circle members on Princess but have also cruised on Holland America, Royal ... Read More
About Us John and I (Carolyn) are retired university professors in our very late fifties, who have been cruising since October, 1991. We are Elite Captain's Circle members on Princess but have also cruised on Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Costa, and Commodore. Most of our cruises have been in the Caribbean but we have also cruised to Alaska, the Panama Canal, the Mediterranean/Greek Isles, Scandinavia/Russia, Hawaii, French Polynesia, South America/Antarctic Peninsula, the Far East, and the Amazon River. For shore excursions, we prefer nature and wildlife tours that involve snorkeling, SCUBA diving, or hiking. In particular, we will hike for miles to see waterfalls, volcanoes, caves, or other interesting geologic features. We also enjoy lighthouses, forts, castles, and anything else we can legally climb up on for a good view. Both of us are natives of New Orleans and, as such, are interested in good food and good times. Our preferred souvenir is a small regional or national flag. On this trip, I thought I would not need to acquire any flags because I had previously visited all the countries on the itinerary. However, I learned during the cruise that the Sami Nation has its own flag, so I was on the lookout for one of those. About the Review Other reviews give extensive information on the ship, cabins, food, etc. Our review is not like that; it is primarily a travelogue of what we did in the various ports, including links to tourist sites and maps. As is our custom, we mostly took self-guided tours/hikes or private tours arranged with other members of our Cruise Critic roll call. However, we did take some Princess tours when timing or availability was a major issue. We had previously visited two of the ports (Dover and Bergen) on our 36-day B2B cruise, "The Land of Fire and Ice" (NYC-Dover) and "The Top of the World" (Dover-NYC), last summer. Day 0 (Monday, June 7) Dover, England (Embarkation Day) We started the day in Paris, where we had spent the previous 4 days after an 11-day tour of the Burgundy, Alsace, Mosel, and Champagne wine regions with another couple. We taxied to Gare du Nord, took the Eurostar to Ashford International, transferred to the local train to Dover Priory, and taxied to the ship. The Ocean Princess was berthed at the Western Docks (www.whitecliffscountry.org.uk/pdf/dover-map.pdf). If you do not want to leave your baggage with the porters at the cruise terminal, ask the taxi driver to take you to the entrance at the rear of the terminal building. Last year Dover was our turnaround day; this year, our time was more limited. After checking in and quickly unpacking, we hiked to Dover's Western Heights. This was formerly a complex of fortifications to defend England against Napoleon. Now it is a nature reserve with lots of paths and great views. An interactive map of the area can be found at www.sustrans.org.uk/map?type=attractions&key=EH3477#route/NN1X. I had contacted the Western Heights Preservation Society (www.doverwesternheights.org/index.htm) for trail information. The secretary sent me detailed directions for reaching the Western Heights from the cruise terminal and suggestions for hikes. Walking away from the Western Docks, we came to a roundabout at the A20/Limekiln Street. To the right and across from the BP gas station, there is a bus stop and a pedestrian crossing with a light. After crossing, we turned left and headed up the hill. Limekiln Street becomes Archcliffe Road. Passing the remains of Archcliffe Fort on the ocean side of the road, we came to another roundabout. There is a building at this intersection owned by the Megger Company; this is the site of the original 1805 South Entrance to the Western Heights. We turned right at this building, followed the sidewalk a round to the right, and climbed up the hill on South Military Road. Along South Military Road, the original ditchwork slopes down to the right. As the road starts to level out, there is an abandoned fenced parking lot in the tight corner to the left; this was once the site of the South Front Barracks. Continuing on, we arrived at St. Martin's car park. The brickwork here is the remains of the Archcliffe Gate, which was the second South Entrance to the Western Heights. After turning right into the car park, we turned left towards the remains of St. Martin's battery. You can walk around the ruins and there are interpretive signs. Next we arrived at a pillbox with a set of steps heading down. These steps took us to the site of the Grand Shaft Barracks. The Grand Shaft, an unusual triple staircase (www.doverwesternheights.org/grandshaft.pdf), is only occasionally open to the public. To reach the Drop Redoubt Fort, we followed the road up, passing through a stile next to a cattle grid, and then doubling back up a small slope. After a short distance, there was a small tunnel on the left; we walked through that into the ditch of the Drop Redoubt. You can walk around any part of the ditches; the Redoubt itself is only occasionally open to the public. We walked around the Drop Redoubt ditch until we found a small ditch that leads down steps and past the Cowgate Cemetery into town. On the way back to the ship, we walked along Snargate Street, where the bottom of the Grand Shaft is located. This walk took about 2 hours. Day 1 (Tuesday, June 8) At Sea This morning there was a Cruise Critic get-together in the Club Bar. Although we were not a very large group, many of the officers (including the Captain, who invited us all to visit the bridge) stopped by to welcome us aboard. Tonight was the first of three formal nights on this cruise and also the Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail party. The nice thing about a small ship like the Ocean Princess (only 655 passengers onboard this cruise) is that the parties are not a mob scene. We went to the party for first seating (although we are in second seating) because we decided to go to the Sterling Steakhouse and have an early dinner. The food was very good, especially the lobster cake appetizer. Day 2 (Wednesday, June 9) Stavanger, Norway, 07:00AM to 04:00PM Stavanger is Norway's third largest city but the tourist area is very small (www.stavanger-guide.no/maps/maps_english/city.pdf). The ship docked on the west side of the Vågen, along Strandkaien, within easy walking distance of most sights. The first order of business was to find an ATM and obtain the kroner we would need for our private tours. Although most tour operators would take credit cards, we were going to need exact change for the one in Honningsvåg. There are several banks conveniently located along the street (Nedre Strandgate) that runs beside the dock. We spent the rest of the morning walking around the old town (Gamle Stavanger), with its whitewashed wooden houses and tiny gardens filled with flowers. There were lots of rhododendron and lilacs blooming. The Norwegian Canning Museum (one of 5 units of the Stavanger Museum) is also in this area. Then we walked over to view the outside of several old mansions, Breidablikk and Ledaal (used when the Norwegian royal family comes to Stavanger), that are also part of the Stavanger Museum. From there, we walked past the large lake to the Domkirke (Cathedral). The cathedral has undergone fires and restorations that have left it an interesting mix of the Romanesque and Gothic styles; its most renowned feature is its carved pulpit. Finally, we climbed the Valbergtarnet, a watchtower that had a panoramic view. The watchtower also has a small museum describing the duties of the watchmen; it's important to keep an eye out for fire in a wooden town. Later, we walked along the waterfront Blue Promenade to the Fiskepirterminalen for a cruise through the stunning Lysefjord to see Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen). This is a large rock shaped like a pulpit (naturally) that towers almost 2,000 feet over the fjord. This tour is available through the ship, but we made our own advance reservation for the noon tour (www.tidereiser.com/reiser/UK/Fjordcruise-1-65/Tour-3.-Pulpit-Rock-Cruise-Summer-season-3-1006.html?Company=nb). You may pay the day of the tour at the tour company's office on Fiskepirterminalen or on the boat; if you happen to be 67 or older, there is a discounted price. We saw spectacular scenery on the cruise up the fjord and it was a beautiful sunny day. The tour boat stops at several points of interest, including one to feed a small group of goats and another to collect water (which you can taste) from a waterfall. As an unexpected bonus, the tour boat dropped passengers off at the Skagenkainen, a quay directly on the other side of the Vågen from the Ocean Princess, making for a quick walk back to the ship. It would have been fun to hike to the top of Pulpit Rock for the great view. However, that would have required a ferry ride, a bus ride from the ferry dock to the trailhead, at least 4 hours for the roundtrip hike, and the bus and ferry rides back; the minimum time necessary is about 8 hours. We did not think the length of the port time and the ferry/bus schedule would make this feasible, but we later met two (much younger) passengers who were able to accomplish this hike by renting a car instead of taking the bus. We were later to encounter these young gentlemen again on our hikes in Tromsø and Geiranger. Tonight was the French dinner so escargots were on the menu. We had some great snails in France but we never pass up the chance to have more. Day 3 (Thursday, June 10) Flåm, Norway, 07:00AM to 04:00PM Another gorgeous day! Flåm is a tiny ferry port on the Aurlandfjord, a branch of the world's longest fjord, the Sognefjord. The Ocean Princess docks right in town (www.visitflam.com/upload/map_Flam.pdf), convenient to everything. Our first activity was a ride on the Flåm Railway (www.flaamsbana.no/eng/Index.html). I had put together a group of 10 people from our Cruise Critic roll call so that we could make an advance reservation (there is also a 10% discount for groups of 10 or more) for the first train of the day at 8:35AM. Again, we did not have to pay until the day of the tour. When I paid for the tickets, I was directed to a specific car --- there was actually a sign on the windows with my name to indicate our seats --- very VIP! The distance up the Flåm Vally to Myrdal (www.visitflam.com/pdf/Flamsbana-Versjon-1-2007.pdf) is only 12 miles but the train climbs over 2,800 feet. There is impressive scenery along the way --- the Flåm Church, farms, waterfalls, snow-capped mountains. The train stops at the Kjosfossen and everyone can get off for 10 minutes to admire and photograph the waterfall. On the return trip, a woman portraying a Huldra (a forest nymph in Scandinavian folklore) danced alongside of the waterfall; we did not think that enhanced the beauty of the waterfall. At one point in the journey, it is possible to glimpse four different levels of the train track, cut into a narrow ledge winding up the steep mountainside. Once the train arrives in Myrdal, there is about 10 minutes for taking photos of the mountain scenery before the return trip to Flåm starts. After the train ride, we hot-footed it over to the Fjordsafari jetty (less than 200 feet from the railway station) for the 10:55AM Heritage Safari (www.fjordsafari.no/index.cfm?id=212754). Again, I had put together a group of people from our Cruise Critic roll call so that we could make an advance reservation, with payment made on the day of the tour. There is no discount for groups, but a group of 8 or more is assigned to its own RIB (rigid inflatable boat). We were provided with survival gear (suits, hats, gloves, and goggles) that would allow us to stay warm on the tour and afloat in the unlikely event that any of us fell overboard. The RIB motors through the Aurlandsfjord to the end of a smaller fjord, the Nærøyfjord, at Gudvangen and back. The Nærøyfjord and the Geirangerfjord (visited later on Day 15 of the cruise) make up the West Norwegian Fjords UNESCO World Heritage Area. The boat stops at several points of interest and our guide, Brittmarie, provided interesting commentary on the local history and legends. This tour yielded more spectacular close-up fjord views plus sightings of dolphins and seals! This tour company does not seem to be mentioned anywhere on cruisecritic.com, which is a shame because this was an outstanding tour. We had originally considered reversing the order of these two tours. However, we are glad we did not because the boat tour ran about 1/2 hour longer than scheduled (no problem at all!). With only about 1-1/2 hours left in port, we decided to try to hike to Brekkefossen, a waterfall above Flåm that we had seen from the train. Free hiking maps (www.visitflam.com/pdf/walking_in_flam_nor-eng.pdf) are available at the tourist office. However, we just did not have enough time and had to turn back before reaching the top. All of the wildflowers were blooming and John even spotted some tiny orchids in the grass! Day 4 (Friday, June 11) At Sea Today was the "Most Travelled Passengers" luncheon in Sabatini's Trattoria; as usual that was great. We were a little surprised we made the cutoff this time, but we ended up sitting with the Chief Engineer and his wife. In the afternoon, we passed north of the Arctic Circle. The night had been only about 3-4 hours long and now the sun would not be setting at all. John was already having a hard time sleeping; he tried a mask but it kept sliding off when he tossed and turned. Of course, nothing bothers me --- I sleep like a rock. Day 5 (Saturday June 12) Tromsø, Norway, 10:00AM to 06:00PM The next port was Tromsø (www.destinasjontromso.no/english/useful_info_map.html), the gateway to the Arctic. Disappointingly, we did not dock at the Prostneset pier (under renovation) next to the town center but at the Breivika pier about 2-1/2 miles from there. Fortunately, I had printed out instructions from cruisecritic.com about how to use the local bus system to get to the cable car (fjellheisen.no/?side=hovedsiden), which climbs 1,378 ft. to the top of Mt. Storsteinen for a fantastic view of the fjord. First, follow the "Sentrum" signs out of the dock area to the road. As you exit the dock area, there is a bus stop; look around for the walkway under the road and go to the bus stop on the other side of the road. There is a bus schedule posted; take bus 42 to get to the city center. An all-day bus pass was NOK 50 and the "Fjellheisbillett" (bus pass plus a roundtrip ticket for the cable car) was NOK 135. The bus driver was incredibly helpful about explaining the passes and giving directions to the dozen or so passengers from the ship (even though this destroyed his schedule) and told us where to change busses. After about a 10-minute ride, you get off at Stortorget (it is the first stop after you drive through 2 sets of traffic lights). Walk across the road to the bus stop in front of Peppe's Pizza and take bus 26 towards Hungeren. The driver will tell you when to get off, but it's obvious by everyone leaving the bus. To get to the cable car station walk back the bus route one short block, turn left, and you will see the cable car station. There are several overlooks at the upper station. One had a sign showing the locations of points of interest, such as the site where the German battleship Tirpitz was sunk in 1944 (this historical tidbit is connected to later ports --- Honningsvåg, Murmansk, and the Lofoten Islands). We hiked about 2 hours to the top of Mt. Floya. This was the only hike where we wished we had brought the hiking boats because we had to cross several snow fields. If we had had the boots, we might have continued on to the next peak, Mt. Bønntuva. However, we decided instead to take the cable car back down and make a short walk to visit the Arctic Cathedral (www.ishavskatedralen.no). However, the Cathedral it was closed in preparation for a wedding. People were paragliding from near the cable car station down to some spot near the water. This was incredibly interesting but not something we would do! From the Arctic Cathedral, you can take bus 26 or bus 20 back to the town center. We walked back via the Tromsøbrua bridge. The pedestrian lane is separated by a barrier from the traffic lanes, but watch out for the bicyclists. We walked around the city center, where a Thai cultural festival was going on. We would have been interested in touring Macks Ølbryggeri (Mack's Brewery); however, tours are only offered on Monday and Thursday. There were a number of museums and other sights in the city center, but we were more interested in the Tromsø Botaniske Hage (www.uit.no/botanisk), which are right across the road from the Breivika cruise pier. To visit the botanical gardens (or to return to the ship), walk from Peppe's Pizza away from the bridge to the stop for bus 42. There was a sign posted on a wall that said "Bus to Cruise Pier." Tell the driver you want to get off at Breivika. Take the walkway under the road again. Follow the road behind the bus stop to the left, through a parking area, and to signs for the Botaniske Hage. The plants are arranged on a rocky hillside by geographic or botanical themes; there is a large collection of primula. To see a map of the gardens, go to their website and click "Plantesamlingene" on the right. These claim to be the most northern botanical gardens and they are definitely further north than the one in Akureyri, Iceland, which also claims to be the most northern. Day 6 (Sunday, June 13) At Sea Today we had a tour of the navigational bridge for the most travelled passengers. The most travelled on this cruise have almost 2,000 days with Princess. Later, we were invited to a vow renewal ceremony for a couple that we met last year on the Amazon River cruise. The library was transformed into a beautiful chapel and the ceremony by the captain was very touching. We got to go back to the navigational bridge for pictures and also went to the Captain's office for the signing of the vow renewal certificate. Then the Captain told us all to go to the early seating Captain's Circle party, even though John and I are in late seating. Tonight was the second of the three formal nights; dinner selections included lobster tails and crab cakes! Day 7 (Monday, June 14) Spitsbergen, Norway Spitsbergen is the main island of the Svalbard archipelago. In the morning, we did scenic cruising in Magdalena Fjord, the most northerly point in our cruise (79°34.3'N). The tops of the mountains along the fjord are all jagged and black-and-white, somewhat like Antarctica. However, there is some short, shrubby groundcover on the lower slopes. The fjord was short but there were two beautiful glaciers (Waggonwaybreen and Miethebreen) at the end. The captain rotated the ship 360° so that everyone could get a good view of the glaciers. We did not see any calving, but there were a few small icebergs grounded here and there. John spotted at least 4 seals on an ice shelf; they looked like huge slugs. One kept rolling around like he had an itch he couldn't scratch. After that, we sailed along the Spitsbergen coast seeing glacier after glacier. In the afternoon, we arrived at Ny-Ålesund (www.arcticstation.nl/towninfo.php?language=UK), where a number of countries (including India and China!) are conducting Arctic research. Ny-Ålesund was the base for many of the early Arctic explorers --- there is a mooring mast for dirigibles used to fly over the North Pole in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ny-Ålesund was formerly a mining town and there are some remnants of its mining past here and there. It is very small and the residents stayed hidden away when we invaded the settlement. We had been warned not to wander outside of town where the polar bears might get us, so we walked completely around the settlement twice and visited the small museum. We also saw a reindeer and some husky puppies and got buzzed by Arctic terns. When we were back onboard, John serendipitously spotted a whale on the far side of the fjord. Once we got the binoculars out, we could see it several more times --- actually, there may have been more than one, it was hard to tell. It did not breech or spout, but we could see the back and dorsal fin --- maybe it was a Minke. Day 8 (Tuesday, June 15) At Sea This morning we had yet another tour of the navigational bridge (the Cruise Critic group this time). The Princess Grapevine wine tasting was held in the afternoon. It is complimentary for us, so we went. But it is always the same 5 wines and thus not very good for learning about new wines. Day 9 (Wednesday, June 16) Honningsvåg, Norway, 08:00AM to 05:00PM Honningsvåg (img2.custompublish.com/getfile.php/876501.982.fefccvavwf/Nordkapp+Info,+incl+map.pdf) is on island of Magerøy. I had arranged a private guided tour for us and 3 other Cruise Critic couples to the North Cape and several fishing villages with Arctic Guide Service (www.lofotguide.com). This company is not really set up to offer tours for cruise ship passengers (hence the need to pay the exact amount in cash), but I contacted the Honningsvåg branch manager directly and eventually managed to arrange a tour. Our guide was Marita, a college student who seemed to know everyone on the island. Our first stop was the Gallery East of the Sun (www.evart.no) in Kamøyvær (www.skarsvag.no/information/villages/kamoyvaer). I thought the gallery would be a waste of time, but Eva was very interesting as she showed how she makes her collages of local scenes. Several people in our group bought artwork and I bought one of her books for my new granddaughter. We would later see Eva's art displayed at other gift shops. Next, we visited one of the fishing cabins where the local fishermen live during fishing season and prepare their catch. The fishermen were very friendly and obviously proud to show off the day's catch. They offered us samples of salmon right out of the smoker. Marita told us a lot about the fishing culture and showed us the memorial to a fishing tragedy where 6 members in a family were lost. Nowadays there is a legal limit to how many members of the same family may crew on the same boat. Next we drove to the North Cape, stopping at a Sami camp along the way. Nils Somby graciously posed in traditional Sami costume with a reindeer and sleigh. Nearby is the family's traditional tent, which contains a display of Sami clothing. There is also a small shop selling original Sami arts and crafts as well as some manufactured knick-knacks. Once forced to give up their lands, traditions, and religions, the Sami are now recognized as an indigenous people in Norway and their language, culture, and society are legally and politically protected. The Sami have their own parliament and special rights to reindeer husbandry. Everywhere we drove on the Magerøy Island, we saw small reindeer herds. Marita said that 800 reindeer are needed to support a typical Sami family. The next stop was at the North Cape Hall (www.nordkapp.no/north-cape-hall.52389.en.html). Marita guided us through the exhibits. There was a special exhibit about the Allied convoys that braved German submarines and surface ships (including the Tirpitz) to bring supplies to Murmansk during WWII. Marita explained that her father used to be the State priest (Lutheran) in Honningsvåg and he often performed marriages for couples from around the world at the St. Johannes Kapell. A small Thai museum commemorates the visit of King Chulalongkorn in 1907. There is an excellent panoramic film that shows the North Cape throughout the year, including the migration of the reindeer herds from the inland areas of Norway to Magerøy Island by ferry. Marita knew someone at the North Cape Hall and talked her into to starting the film for us 1/2 hour before the scheduled time. After the film, we went outside to see the view from the North Cape cliffs (over 1,000 ft. high). The wind was outrageous --- about 40 mph --- and it was also raining (maybe even sleeting). This was why we had packed the wind pants as well as the wind jackets! It was very overcast but we could see the ocean at the base of the cliffs. Not surprisingly, very few people were touring the area outside the hall. There is a globe monument that is the symbol for the North Cape, as well as a latitude (71°10'21N) marker pointing to the North Pole and a number of statues/monuments (Children of the World, Mother and Child, etc.). Next we visited Skarsvåg (www.skarsvag.no/information), the northernmost fishing village in the world. While not so picturesque as Kamøyvær, Marita took us to see king crab in holding tanks and a gallery of photographs portraying the fishing life. In Skarsvåg we also stopped at the Christmas and Winter House (www.julehuset.no/eng/index.htm), which has locally-produced arts and crafts. Unfortunately for our visit, it was packed with people having tea and cake. That made it difficult to look at the handicrafts. Marita got a pitcher of gloegg (mulled wine) for us to drink on the van and one couple in our group got some of the lefse (2 thin cake layers with sugar, butter, and cinnamon in between) for all of us to taste. That couple was of Norwegian ancestry and neither of them thought the lefse was anything like the lefse their families made back home. Of course, they did not agree with each other about what lefse should be like either! Returning to Honningsvåg, we passed several viewpoints that would have given us beautiful views of the coastline and back to the North Cape cliffs if the weather had been better. As it was, we did not even bother to stop. Our final stop was the Honningsvåg Church, where Marita's father had served. The church was the only building that was not burned when the Germans retreated at the end of WWII. The population of Honningsvåg lived in the church while the rest of the town was rebuilt and there are photos from that period on display. After the tour we had hoped to do some hiking, but it was still raining. The ship was docked next to the Nordkappmuseet (www.nordkappmuseet.no), so we visited that. There was a special exhibition featuring old maps of Scandinavia. The permanent collection includes exhibits on the cultural history of the North Cape, fishery artifacts, and the effects of World War II on the North Cape. While mildly interesting, we did not feel that it was worth the NOK 50 pp admission. As we were leaving port the Discovery was sailing in. She was formerly the Island Princess, who co-starred with her sister, the Pacific Princess, on "The Love Boat" TV show. Later in the evening, as we sailed off to Murmansk, the North Cape cliffs could be seen in the distance. Day 10 (Thursday, June 17) At Sea Today was spent at sea proceeding VERY slowly (7 knots) through the Barents Sea to Murmansk. We had to fill out immigration forms and turn in our passports. The Russian authorities wanted to know how many bottles of wine and cameras we had in our cabin --- we've never been asked that before! Later we went to a culinary demonstration and a variety show. Day 11 (Friday, June 18) Murmansk, Russia, 06:00AM to 05:00PM The day started out rainy. We took a ship's tour of the city highlights because touring on-your-own requires a Russian visa. We visited the Allied Cemetery for sailors and airmen killed protecting the convoys to Murmansk during WWII. There are not many graves --- perhaps most of the bodies were repatriated or never recovered. The civilian graves were interesting, with their wrought iron fences and benches/tables for the family to use on special-occasion visits to the departed. Then we went to the Aloysha Monument (shaped like a gigantic soldier) for those soldiers and sailors killed in action. There is a ramp leading down to a lower viewpoint; where you can get good photos of the monument --- don't try to climb down the steep hillside. From the monument, you can see the entire area, including the many dismal-looking Soviet-era concrete apartment complexes and our next stop, the small Orthodox Cathedral. The Cathedral was near another memorial (shaped like a lighthouse) for those who had died at sea during peacetime, including in the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster. A small section of the Kursk is located outside this memorial. We ended up at the Museum of Regional Studies, where we learned in excruciating detail about all the industrial, agricultural, military, etc. wonders of the Kola Peninsula. We also drove past the Palace of Culture, Central Square, railroad station, and other typical city sights. We were late leaving port because a woman had fallen at the Aloysha Monument and needed to go to the hospital for treatment before returning to the ship. As we sailed out of Murmansk, we saw the fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers and a drydock holding the largest ship in the Russian Navy (an aircraft carrier). Day 12 (Saturday, June 19) At Sea This was the last sea day before a string of 4 port days. Because the only remaining sea day is the last full day of the cruise, this was a formal night and the Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party was held. Dinner options included lobster with prawns. As a laugh for us, they had "New Orleans Style Muffeletta Sandwiches" at lunch in the dining room today --- they only wish! We are still motoring around above the Arctic Circle. There has not been a sunset since last Thursday. It is really weird for it to be light all the time --- no way to tell what time of day (or night) it is (except with a clock of course). Day 13 (Sunday, June 20) Near Gravdal, Lofoten Islands, Norway, 08:00AM to 04:00PM As we sailed along the coast of the Lofoten Islands (www.lofoten-info.no/KART.HTM, issuu.com/grundtvigproject/docs/lofoten_guide), we saw steep cliffs with picturesque villages scattered along the shoreline at their bases. The Captain was busy on the bridge during the approach because the ship passes near Moskenesstraumen, a strong tide between Moskenesøy and Vaerøy Islands. This tide is described (somewhat fancifully) by Edgar Allan Poe in his story, "A Descent into the Maelström." Anyway, we made it safely to our pier on the outskirts of Gravdal. There are not a lot of options there for private tours. John had tried to arrange a tour with the same company that we had used in Honningsvåg. However, the Lofoten branch manager never responded to any but the first (of many) e-mails inquiring about tours. There was no response from the local taxi company either, and the car rental companies said that we would need to make our own way to the Leknes Airport to pick up a car. Despite that, some people (who apparently made arrangements by telephone) were met at the dock by car rental company representatives and there was at least one car that appeared to be available for rent on the spot. We had not wanted to take the chance that we would be unable to arrange something at the dock, so we had pre-booked the ship's "Best of" tour. This tour went to the southern end of the main highway on Moskenesøy Island. Along the way, we took the turnoff to Nusfjord, an extremely scenic fishing village that is now an open-air museum. There was sufficient time to walk around the harbor, see the short movie about the area, and visit the buildings that were part of the museum. Returning to the main highway, we stopped at Flakstad Bay to visit the tiny, 18th century Flakstad Church. The church is considered a gift from God because it was built using wood that drifted ashore in the nearby bay. Continuing on, we saw lots of knock-your-eyes-out scenery ---- rugged mountains and picture-perfect fishing villages. We made a brief photo stop to view some bird cliffs. Finally, we reached the town of ? (pronounced "oh"). ? is the last letter in the Norwegian alphabet, like omega in the Greek alphabet, an appropriate name. This is another quaint fishing village with a number of museums related to cod and fishing. This was the lunch stop --- a buffet with a wide variety of fish dishes and salads. Nothing was outstanding, but it was an opportunity to taste something resembling local food. Our guide later said one of the dishes was cod tongues. However, nothing was labeled and he did not describe them in advance, so I don't know whether we ate any or not. On the return trip to the dock, we made a photo stop at Reine, said by Time Magazine to be among the most scenic spots in the world. The next stop was in Sund, where the local blacksmith specializes in forging statues of cormorants. There is also a Motor Museum here. This is a collection of all sorts of odds and ends or (as Princess puts it) a "meticulously gathered collection of century-old objects." The most interesting objects were a large propeller and a piece of the anchor chain from the Tirpitz. To us, it looked more like the contents of someone's garage and the stop here was far too long. Our final photo stop was at Flakstad Bay for more scenic views. I'm glad we took a ship's tour instead of John having to drive because he got to look at everything without running off a cliff. Day 14 (Monday, June 21) Trondheim, Norway, Noon - 05:00PM Trondheim (www.trondheim.com/content.ap?thisId=1117627656) was the first capital of Norway, and is still the city where new kings receive their ceremonial blessing. We docked at Cruisebåterminal by Pirbadet; it is an easy walk from here to the main sights. There is a good walking tour and map at www.frommers.com/destinations/trondheim/3091010008.html for help in planning the day. We got into port early but clearances and lowering the gangway made us 1/2 hour late getting off the ship --- that only left 4 hours for our port visit here. We disembarked and quickly walked from the dock area to Havnegata, past the Police Station, to Kjøpmannsgata (the street along the Nid River). The riverside boasts a colorful line of warehouses, some dating back to the 18th century. We passed the Old Town Bridge (Gamle Bybro) and a number of the sights on Frommer's tour as we hot-footed it to our primary objective, the Nidaros Domkirke. Be sure to pick up the free guide to the Cathedral when you buy your tickets at the visitors center (www.nidarosdomen.no/english/). We arrived at the Cathedral just in time for a 20-minute organ concert played on the ornate 17th century organ. After the concert, we had the choice of a guided tour of the Cathedral in English or a climb up the towers to get the bird's-eye view of Trondheim. This was a no-brainer for us, even though it turned out to be the narrowest spiral staircase we've ever climbed. Then we went to the Archbishop's Residence (a museum complex) for the 2 o'clock tour in English. After seeing the parts that required a guide for entry, we ducked out of that tour, saw the Norwegian crown jewels, toured a bit more of the museum complex, then went back to the Cathedral to see what we had skipped before. Frommer's calls the Cathedral "the single most amazing, stunning, and majestic building in Norway." The façade is intricately carved but most of the statues are reproductions (some of the originals are in the museum). After the cathedral, we crossed the Old Town Bridge and hiked uphill to the Kristiansten Festnung (Fortress) for some even higher views of the area. At the base of the hill is the Sykkelheis, a conveyor belt to help bike riders make it up the hill; we did not see anyone use it. The walk to the Fortress passes through the Bakklandet, a neighborhood of wooden buildings used as houses, shops and cafes. As we approached the Fortress, we discovered that there was a bike race going on. The race ended at large field below the Fortress where there were booths, crowds, and bands. From the ramparts, you can see the fortress-like headquarters of Trondheim's University. After climbing down from the Fortress, we walked around to see a few other sights on the way back to the ship such as the Trondheim Torg (column with a statue of a Viking on top), Vår Frue Kirke (Our Lady's Church), and Stiftsgården (the Royal Residence). Appropriately for a city in which every sixth inhabitant is a student, there is also a statue representing the exuberance of student life. We walked back to the ship along Fjordgata, where there are more old warehouses lining the canal. We were hurrying a bit because the weather looked like it was about to turn stormy. However, we knew we did not have to hurry too much because we had seen the Captain wandering around downtown. As we left Trondhiem, we passed Munkeholmen (Monk's Island), a short distance offshore. This was once an execution ground and prison but today is a recreational area. The sun was actually supposed to set tonight, now that we were south of the Arctic Circle. The constant daylight had been torture for John and had even disturbed my sleep cycle, especially when we had to change the clocks 2 hours forward for Russia and then 2 hours back for Norway. Two days ago we mentioned to the headwaiter that we had been hoping to see osso bucco on the dinner menu. He said that it had been on the luncheon menu earlier on the cruise; even though we had been checking both menus, we must have missed it. Anyway, he arranged for it to be cooked especially for us tonight. Yum! Day 15 (Tuesday, June 22) Geiranger, Norway, 12:00PM to 06:00PM The weather forecast for our day in the Geirangerfjord (www.geiranger.no/english.html) was for temperatures in the high 60°Fs and no rain. Today turned out to be one of the prettiest of the cruise. The Geirangerfjord lives up to its reputation --- a stunningly beautiful and narrow fjord. We made a detour down the Sunnylvenfjord to tender passengers ashore in Hellesylt for their all-day overland excursion; only those passengers were allowed to disembark. Apparently, disembarking the tours did not take as long as the Captain expected. As a result, he spent about 1/2 hour rotating the Ocean Princess in the fjord with the Seven Sisters waterfall on one side of the fjord and the Suitor waterfall on the other side. The fjord is only 800 yards wide at that point. Then we proceeded on to Geiranger for our noon arrival and started tendering. The ship only had a short visit scheduled here (5-1/2 hours) and this was the only tender port. John and I managed to get on the first tender so we would have plenty of time for hiking. There is a detailed hiking map online at www.visitalesund-geiranger.com/Alesund/Turkart/Hiking routes Geiranger.pdf. This map is also available from the tourist office on the dock; we had e-mailed them before the cruise and they mailed us a copy so we could plan our hikes in advance. My review will make references to this map; it uses letters to label the trails and numbers to label buildings/attractions. First we went up to the Flydalsjuvet overlook (1,050 ft.). This is about a 2-1/2 mile hike if you go up the zig-zag highway RV63, heading towards Grotli. With all the bus traffic from the 4 ships in port, that was not an attractive option. Fortunately, there are hiking trails and shortcuts that keep you off most of the highway and markedly reduce the distance. When you are walking uphill from the harbor, the first shortcut is a fairly steep path up behind the little octagonal church (#27) and through the cemetery, with a gorgeous view over the fjord. The shortcut is easy to spot on the left as you get close to the church; it is not shown on the map. Next you'll come to the Union Hotell (#29), the Geirangerfossen, and the Geiranger Fjordsenter (#30). It should take about 15 minutes to get to this point. The second shortcut, which shows as Trail K (dotted line) on the map, cuts off a long loop of the highway. Enter Vinge Camping (#31), turn right, walk a short distance, and look for stones and a trail maker on the left. Another shortcut is to take the side road to Fossen Camping (#35); from there, follow Trail K to Solbakken Campinghutter (#36). From there, take the road to the left back to the main highway near Hole Bru (Hole Bridge). Vinge Camping to Hole Bru should take about ½ hour. Continue up along the main road to the Hotell Utsikten (#37); the Flydalsjuvet viewpoint is about 100 ft. after the hotel. The viewpoint is divided into upper and lower sections with a sidewalk running in between. There are public toilets in the lower section; the steps out to the overhang are behind the toilets. The Flydalsjuvet is featured on just about every photo of the Geirangerfjord. However, it now has railings to keep people from falling off the rock that juts out over the fjord. Very few people went down to the rock, but of course John and I both did (separately so we could get pictures of each other). I don't think we would have done it without the railing being there. This part of the hike took about an hour. After enjoying the views, we walked back down along the highway, and took the side road to Hole Hyttleuyleige (#34), Westeras Utleigehutter (#33), and the Westeras Restaurant (#32). This road leads to Vesterås Gård (a summer farm that is not used in spring or winter because of the avalanche danger). From here, we followed Trail D, a muddy and zigzag path that climbs about 820 ft. up the mountainside to Storseterfossen, a gorgeous waterfall that you can walk behind (thankfully there was a railing there too). After hiking back to the farm, we decided that we still had enough time to follow Trail B (though herds of sheep and goats and their droppings) to the Vesterasfjellet overlook, a sheer cliff about 738 ft. above the tender dock. Returning yet again to the farm, we followed Trail A downhill to the Geiranger Fjordsenter. From there, we walked back to the city center, where I found a shop selling Sami souvenirs, including a Sami Nation flag. After buying the flag, we limped back to the tender dock. John estimates that our 5 hour hike covered about 10-11 miles. On the tender ride back to the ship, we spoke with a woman who had booked the ship's hiking tour to the Storseterfossen. That tour was cancelled (only 6 people had signed up) so she did the hike on her own. We agreed that the ship's tour description of the hike as "somewhat steep and strenuous" was a bit mild due to the poor trail conditions. That hike was rated a 2 (moderately easy) on the detailed trail map. Even though John and I are experienced hikers, I would rate the trail as moderately strenuous, less so under drier conditions. Day 16 (Wednesday, June 23) Bergen, Norway, 08:00AM to 05:00PM The final port was Bergen (www.bergen-guide.com/download.asp). Despite the fact that Bergen typically gets 300 days of rain per year, we had a lovely sunny day just like last year. The ship again docked at the Skoltegrunnskaien pier, within easy walking distance of downtown; the Queen Mary II was docked at a much less convenient pier. Because of last year's visit, we had already done a lot here, including the funicular and hiking on Mt. Fløyen. This time we walked to the tourist office (across from the fish market) to buy combo tickets for the double-decker bus and cable car ride up Mt. Ulriken (www.ulriken643.no/en/Home/). We used up the rest of our kroner and charged the remainder. Mt. Ulriken is much higher than Mt. Fløyen and the views are stupendous. It was considerably colder on the mountain than down in town. However, we rapidly warmed up by hiking for about 2-1/2 hours. The trails (www.ulriken643.no/en/Activities/Overview/) were sometimes poorly marked and even with the trail map and topographical map John had brought, we got "lost" and did not take the trail we intended to take. However, it is hard to get really lost as there are very few trees and you can see the television tower back at the upper cable car station almost all the time. John saw an adder sunning itself on the trail but it slithered away quickly before I saw it (perhaps my scream encouraged it). As we approached the upper station, we saw one of our Cruise Critic couples, who had already been up to Mt. Fløyen and decided to brave Mt. Ulriken as well. The bus back to the fish market only runs every hour, so take that into consideration if you decide to go to Mt. Ulriken. After we came back down, we walked awhile around Bryggen, the old warehouse district, and the Bergenshus Fortress (www.visitnorway.com/en/Articles/Theme/What-to-do/Attractions/National-Fortresses/Bergenshus-Fortress/). We climbed up to a stairway to some of the higher ramparts (Sverresborg) above the city that we had skipped last year. Day 17 (Thursday, June 24) At Sea On the last full day of the cruise, we were somewhere off the coast of Denmark. As usual for the sea days on this trip, it was overcast with light fog. It must have been foggier during the night because John said he heard the foghorn blowing. Later today we finished our packing. Day 18 (Friday, June 25) Dover, England I had explored the possibility of a private transfer from the dock to LHR. However, it wasn't cost-effective unless another couple was willing to share. Unfortunately, no one else on the roll call was interested --- some were staying onboard to NYC and others were spending additional days in Europe. We decided to use the Princess transfers, so we had to be ready to leave the ship by 8AM. There was some delay with the local authorities, so disembarkation was delayed. Once our color group had disembarked and boarded the bus, there was one couple missing. After quite a bit of waiting, it was finally decided that they must have boarded the wrong bus, so our bus headed off to LHR. There was a good bit of traffic around the outskirts of London, but we still made the drive in about 2 hours. That gave us plenty of time to check in, go through security, and use up our remaining GBP buying chocolate. We were an hour late boarding at LHR because of a problem with the Jetway. Fortunately, the pilot was able to make up most of the time and Boston was a very easy entry point --- customs and immigration proceeded quickly. We had plenty of time to make our connection to RDU, arriving around 11 PM. We saw our first sunset in weeks on the plane home. It was not easy to go from wearing jackets, sweaters, hats, and gloves to 100°F+ temperatures and high humidity! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Two retired but young-at-heart well-travelled Britons, this was our 8th cruise but our first experience of Princess Line. We drove ourselves just over an hour to prebooked car park in Dover, courtesy bus to the ship and smooth and quick ... Read More
Two retired but young-at-heart well-travelled Britons, this was our 8th cruise but our first experience of Princess Line. We drove ourselves just over an hour to prebooked car park in Dover, courtesy bus to the ship and smooth and quick embarkation. Firstly, we would like to say that our stateroom was better than we expected and our steward was faultless. We were impressed with all the Singers and Dancers, who produced some splendid performances in spectacular costumes. The Cruise Director was friendly and enthusiastic; not so the Deputy Cruise Director, Paul, who was quite juvenile with his constant references to his alleged drinking at any time of the day or night. In our opinion the entertainers were very good, with two notable exceptions. Chris Watkins the violinist was not just good, but outstanding, and all the British with whom we discussed Bobby Dennis thought he was very poor, used extremely outdated material and not at all worthy of the description "comedian". Thank goodness another comedian, Lenny Windsor, appeared later in the cruise. There were many aspects of this cruise which detracted from our expected enjoyment, and we hope you will all take note, as Princess doesn't seem to have done! Reception - Our very first impression after boarding at Dover was the TV monitor next to the Reception Desk showing the ship nearing The "Hauge"... (sic) - not a good start. Princess Patter - Just some examples of the many errors in spelling, grammar and typography:- • Ocean Pricess • King Hakon • Taxs (taxis) • Cointreu • Proffesional (several times) • Many superfluous apostrophes • Decck 9 Aft • "..your tour guide that provided superior service...." (should be WHO) • Film with "Leonardo DiCarpio" • Tromso street map showing wrong locations, and according to the Tromso Tourist Office is 6 years out of date. • Murmansk Port Guide repeated items in Local Cuisine list, and continued with the climate for St. Petersburg - not very useful. • Gravdal Port Guide failed to inform passengers of the location of the featured attraction of the Maelstrom, neither were the tourist attractions of Moskenes and Refsvikhula even mentioned. so we had no idea prior to arrival if we could visit - even the Port Lecturer had no idea on which island they were situated and advised us to ask the bus drivers on shore. This is no way to treat paying passengers who wish to make their own arrangements. The Port Guide for Gravdal continued with the irrelevant details of the climate in Oslo, several hundred miles away. Activities As first-time cruisers with Princess, prior to booking we consulted the website and found the following:- 1. Learn about our cruises ? 2. Onboard experience ? 3. Daytime Activities ? 4. Sports ? 5. .........Golf simulator and 9-hole putting green......... Nowhere on this page was there any indication that these facilities are available only on the larger ships, nor was there any suggestion to look at the individual provisions on each vessel. How were we to know that no. 5 above does not apply to Ocean Princess? This was EXTREMELY annoying, as the mention of a golf simulator was one of the prime reasons for selecting this cruise. Moreover, after publicising the golf practice facilities, the golf clubs provided are a positive disgrace. Only a few clubs of different brands & virtually none of any use to left-handers (all men's - what about the ladies?) and the steel-shafted ones were ALL rusty. One of the Scrabble sets on board has a very torn tile-bag and an incomplete set of tiles, so is useless. Additionally, the tiles in all the sets are of an illegal design, and there is no OSW to check challenges. The Trivia quizzes are heavily biased in favour of N. American passengers. Although this would be more understandable &/or acceptable on a ship sailing exclusively from/to the USA, to use these types of questions on a cruise from/to UK, with a very large proportion of British passengers, does detract seriously from the entertainment value. Furthermore, many answers given to the questions were WRONG; we appreciate that mistakes do happen, but in these instances there was absolutely no effort made by the staff to check and if necessary apologise and emend the scores. Although all the Trivia hosts were (allegedly) English-speaking, on many occasions their mispronunciations and obvious complete lack of understanding was shameful - we would suggest that at the very least they read & understand the questions before reading them to the assembled guests. Excursions We were promised a live commentary (later to be available on ship's tv) during the scenic voyage through Magdalena fjord - disappointingly, this did not happen, and no reason was given for this omission. We had to wait till we got home to "Google" the names of the places/glaciers we had seen. Gravdal. The first lines of the Gravdal Port Guide quoted: "You've certainly heard of the Maelstrom! Why not pay it a visit?" Indeed, why not? But where is it? On one the five major islands? Between them? Out at sea? No indication at all, and when I sought out and asked the Port Lecturer her reply was, "I've no idea." As for Gravdal itself, the tour literature on board referred to this village, implying that we would visit it. Instead, all the shuttle busses went to Leknes in the opposite direction, so there was little alternative to visit Gravdal other than to walk, which we were able to do but which would have been impossible for the less able-bodied. We have been informed that one gentleman showed the trip arrangements to the bus driver and insisted on being taken to Gravdal (which was agreed) and when asking about times for returning was told that he would not be collected and would have to walk. Everyone to whom we spoke who had visited either place said that as it was Sunday there was little point in going as everywhere was closed - the timing of the itinerary proved to be a poor piece of planning. Deborah Fraioli's port lectures were, without exception, awful. Every single one was disjointed, eg. commentaries did not match up with the slide/s being shown, mistakes were made re. currency used, and there were so many "I don't know how much/when/where, etc" statements it was embarrassing. In her position, she should have found out first or kept quiet. What is the point of emphasising that the annual Geiranger mountain cycle race takes place in June (the month we were cruising) but neglecting to tell us if we would be able to see it? (And she should know that "archipelago" is pronounced "arc....", NOT "arch.....") Other cruise lines offer free warming drinks after being encouraged to be on deck in the near-freezing early hours to observe the scenery - how very penny-pinching of Princess to charge for these. Equally annoying was the $10 charge for shuttle busses - all our other cruises on various cruise lines have provided them free. After conversations with other passengers, many agreed that intelligent & interesting lectures or lessons on board were conspicuous by their absence, so there was a lot of time with nothing much to do except read or sleep. No photography classes, no Windows classes, no travel talks, no History talks - all these and many, many others, have been offered on other cruise lines. Dining • Hot and cold plates in the wrong positions in the Panorama buffet - who wants a salad on a hot plate or roast pork on a cold one? • A few people, inc. us, chose "boneless" chicken in the Bistro and all such meals contained a large bone, and when we told the waiter he just laughed and said "boneless" meant "a few little bones, madam." (We later received an apology for his attitude from the Bistro Manager.) • Sliced brown bread was constantly running out at lunchtime, and eventually after 4 days of none being available we were advised to order 3 or 4 slices to be reserved specifically for us - this is absolutely ridiculous! • On at least 4 occasions the breakfast marmalade ran out - why are the staff not trained to replenish food before it is exhausted instead of keeping people waiting while supplies are fetched from another location? • Why is orange-juice free at breakfast but has to be purchased at lunchtime? • Afternoon tea was very often a lottery for scones, jam &/or cream. Queues of people holding half-filled plates, waiting for one or more of the constituents to arrive. • For dietary reasons butter is not acceptable to many people. For the first few days margarine was also available, but for approximately the last 2 weeks it disappeared from the Panorama buffet. Shops As I collect fridge magnets of places we have visited, it would have been nice to buy one on board, as I have done on all other cruises, but the only ones available were of the "Tahiti Princess" and ones with a map of the Mediterranean, hardly suitable for an Arctic cruise. We were told by the staff that delivery of appropriate magnets was expected prior to sailing but they'd never arrived. Tokens Redemption The small area allocated for this was a shambles, and the staff had to work under extreme difficulty, with passengers crowding the tables from all 4 sides, waving tokens and shouting for what they wanted. Those not at the front could not easily see what was available; it would be far easier to display items on a long table for viewing, and then arrange a simple one-way queue. The popular items ran out in about 5 minutes so that many, including us, were unable to get items of our choice. Surely by now the supply and demand ratio is known? Also, why start the Redemption on Deck 4 at 4.30pm., exactly the same time as the last Trivia quiz started on Deck 10, as the winners could not possibly get to Deck 4 before everything had gone? We sent these comments to Princess 3 days after our return - 7 weeks & 3 phone calls later we still hadn't received even an acknowledgement let alone a proper reply, then a mere acknowledgement came. Over 3 weeks more, and a "We're sorry to read about your experiences..." letter came, but still without answers to what they're actually going to do about it. What a way to run a company! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We booked our cruise through a cruise only agency, one that we have used for several years. We are too old and too fat to fly internationally in coach, so we usually buy our coach tickets independently and upgrade to Business Class with ... Read More
We booked our cruise through a cruise only agency, one that we have used for several years. We are too old and too fat to fly internationally in coach, so we usually buy our coach tickets independently and upgrade to Business Class with miles. However on this itinerary we booked Princess air through the travel agent because it was several thousand dollars less than if we had bought two one-way tickets each from the airline. We flew United on the outbound, and a combo of South African Air and United on the return. We flew into Singapore one day early, and booked the Pan Pacific hotel through the travel agent, who had a better price than I could find on the internet. It's a great hotel, and a real steal at $135 including taxes. Because we'd been to Singapore before, we chose to spend our 1.5 days there at the Jurong Bird Park, and the Orchid Garden at the Botanical Gardens. We were glad that we'd flown in early, and enjoyed two leisurely days. We embarked around 3 PM, taking a taxi from the hotel to the pier. No crowds at that hour, so we were in our rooms within minutes. I had assumed (wrongly) that Princess would have refurbished the ship when they changed it from the Tahitian Princess to the Ocean Princess. So I was surprised to see that the cabin showed signs of wear. Nothing bothersome, just a little tired. Our cabin steward was excellent, as they almost always are. The itin originally had 13 ports of call, but the Seychelles and Myanmar were removed before departure, reducing the number to 11, on a 32 day cruise. So nearly two-thirds of the cruise was at sea. The Seychelles was dropped due to pirate activity in the West Indian ocean, and I was definitely in favor of avoiding pirates! It was unclear why Myanmar was dropped, but it was suggested that it had to do with the tides in the river, and the scheduled times of arrival and departure. I'd visited most of the ports of call on previous travels, but my husband and our friend had not. We prefer to arrange our own shore excursions when possible. However on this cruise we only did our own tours in Malaysia, Thailand, and Cape Town. I just couldn't find reliable tour operators in some of the ports that don't have high levels of tourism. Kuala Lampur is a very modern and interesting city. We took a tour with Princess because the independent tour I'd hoped to book fell apart before we left home. In Penang,Malaysia (island) we booked a full-day tour with Mr. PG Lee, at a cost of 30 Malaysian Ringgits per hour (leepg2006@gmail.com). I especially liked the tour at the spice garden and the butterfly farm. And another fresh seafood lunch! Phuket,Thailand (another island) is charming, and has recovered well from the Tsunami, at least in the areas that tourists see. We booked a full-day island tour with Daj, http://www.independenttraveler.com/ at 1800 baht for the day, including petrol. Our guide was pleasant, and we enjoyed tasty seafood lunch at a local restaurant recommended by him. In Chennai we took the Princess tour to Mahabalipuram, to see the sea temples, which are interesting. I am a big fan of India, which isn't everyone's cup of tea, as proved by the reaction of many of the ship's passengers who had never been there before. IMHO one needs to experience the countryside in India, to offset the impact of the large, teeming cities. It's a place that grows on you with the length of stay. But cruises just can't provide that option. Mumbai, with its 14 million people and terrible traffic is also shocking for most Americans. We elected to take the tour which visited three different temples. India's various religions make it a very interesting place to travel. After several days crossing the Indian Ocean, we arrived in Oman, an ultra-conservative Muslim country. Muscat was small and bright and shiny clean, after India. Female passengers are advised by the Tour Consultant onboard to cover their legs (all of them), their arms (all of them), and also their hair if they plan to visit the National Mosque. A number of ladies just couldn't believe that this applied to them, so they were refused entrance unless they could cover themselves appropriately. The National Mosque is incredible...don't miss it. At the Souk we purchased Diet Coke for $5 a six-pack. Cheaper than $1.95 each onboard! Other people brought on soft drinks and water for their cabins. We next sailed to Dubai, where we had two days, since they had extra time due to the cancellation of two ports. This was very helpful. A lot of passengers had dinner ashore the first evening and we were ready for some individually prepared food. It's a fascinating city, because everything is so new. The question of whether or not they will be able to repay the bailout money and what will happen if they cannot looms large. In the meantime, construction is at a standstill, and my husband observed that you could probably buy a cement truck pretty cheaply (and all other construction equipment). We took the Princess Desert Safari Tour, which put 4-5 passengers in new Toyota Landcruisers with a skilled driver, who drove us into the desert for some dune riding. Fun! We also visited a camel farm, and had lunch at a desert camp where camel rides were available, and a belly dancer entertained. It's a great tour, although at noon it's well over 100 degrees, which is why the tour is usually run in the early evening. Some passengers mentioned that they had booked the evening tour online, and they picked them up at the ship. However you'd have to know the ship's departure time if it isn't a two day stop. On the second day we took a Princess tour of Dubai-Old and New. It was a standard city tour. One of the highlights was a small boat transfer across the Dubai creek, where we visited the spice market and the gold souks. I bought saffron in the spice market, which actually came from Iran. The jewelry in the gold souk is absolutely overwhelming! It all begins to look the same after the first three store windows. (Drum roll). And then we had seven days at sea. That's just too many on a small ship, in my opinion. We had a terrific Cruise Director (Sammi), but the lack of space limits the number and variety of activities that can be arranged. Our previous cruise was a Holy Land itin on the Royal Princess, which is a sister ship to the Ocean Princess, and we loved the smaller ship. But it was a port intensive cruise, with only two sea days out of eleven, which we all needed after our days on shore. On this long cruise I read about eight books on my new Kindle (perfect for traveling), saw at least six movies (the selection went downhill at the cruise progressed), and attended several lectures by the onboard guest speakers. But it was challenging to find appealing activities when the Princess Patter arrived each evening. We called on the port of Nosy Be, which is on a small island off the northwest coast of Madagascar. We elected to take the Princess tour to the smaller island nearby, where we could see the lemurs for which Madagascar is famous. We did see one variety that is very small, perhaps weighing a couple of pounds. The villagers were thrilled to have visitors, which only occurs a few times a year. The children are let out of school, and they sing and dance to entertain (and request a 'local donation'). I was relieved that there were no accidents in the loading and unloading of the small boats that took us back and forth to the small island. Madagascar is a huge island. I wish Princess would try to develop another port of call somewhere on the island. Three more days at sea before we arrived in Durban, which is quite a lovely city! We did the Princess tour to 'Land of the Thousand Hills', taking us through some beautiful countryside, and ending at a Zulu tribal village where we saw a well done Zulu show, shopped in a nice (and huge) souvenir store, and toured a reptile farm (shudder). At the Durban ship terminal at least 100 vendors set up stalls, selling good quality handicrafts. The prices were much lower than found in the stores. The Zulu bead work is beautiful. In Durban about 100 passengers disembarked for an overnight at a luxury game camp. We picked them up the next day when we called on Port Elizabeth, where there is absolutely nothing to offer tourists. Someone suggested that the only reason we stopped there was to pick up the group who went to the game camp. I think that's probably correct. We took the shuttle bus ($5 each way) to the local mall, which went through downtown but didn't stop. It was a nice enough mall, but not worth the trip. Finally we arrived in Cape Town on our 31st day, and over-nighted on the ship there. Before leaving home we had purchased tickets online for Robben Island and for the Table Mountain tram for those two days. We docked right downtown, at the Victoria and Alfred (not Albert) Waterfront. What a great location! The first day was spoiled a bit by a downpour, put we visited the Slavery Museum, which was excellent, had lunch and spent the last afternoon packing. The museum included an exhibit about the life of Nelson Mandela. We were planning to stay another week in South Africa, so we bought two-day Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus tickets. The next day brought sunny skies, so we took the HOHO bus to the Kirstenbosch Gardens, which are fabulous, if you like gardens and really wonderful native sculpture. Our next stop on the bus was the Cable Car for Table Mountain, which was totally clear. Another 'don't miss' experience. We continued on the bus to Camps Bay, a sophisticated suburb on the water where we had a delightful alfresco lunch. We spent three nights at a private game reserve, Sanbona, which is about three hours East of Cape Town, in the Little Karoo area. We hired someone to ferry us back and forth since they drive on the other side of the road in S. Africa, and we didn't really need a car. It was a wonderful experience, and quite different from other game experiences in East Africa. The high points of the cruise were 1) the crew and 2) the other passengers. The crew seemed to work very well together, and were always helpful and good natured, although several of them expressed an interest in working on a larger ship, where I'm sure they make more money in tips. The other passengers were extremely well traveled, both in cruising and in land touring. It was always fun and usually educational to sit at breakfast or lunch with almost all of them. What didn't work? On the small ships there is not an option for anytime dining. One must pick first of second seating, and we had chosen second seating because we like time to shower, change and have a drink before dinner. There were 530 people on board, with a ship capacity of about 680. Apparently there were a lot of cancellations, since at one time the ship was supposed to have been fully booked. So our party of three was at a table for six, but there were no other guests at our table, and there were several partially filled or even empty tables in the dining room. I do love my husband and our friend, but dinner would have been much more fun if we had had someone with whom to discuss our day's highlights. Perhaps the moral is to choose early seating, when there are lots of sea days. The food was mediocre, although always beautifully presented. We attended a Chef's demonstration early in the cruise where he emphasized that he had 32 entirely different menus. And there were! But it's difficult to successfully duplicate a national cuisine for 530 people in two groups. For example, the Greek dishes tasted similar to Greek food in Greece or even US restaurants, but not the same and not as tasty and fresh. Maybe it's because they have to provision far in advance, and freeze a lot of the food. Maybe it's because they modify the seasonings for the audience they serve. But it generally wasn't very tasty or interesting, in the opinion of many passengers. They do a good job of getting the food to the tables while it's hot. The waiters and the kitchen staff have a well developed system that works very well. They rely on pre-packaged products. The coffee in the Horizons Buffet is nearly undrinkable. It's made from a syrup, rather than brewed. Some passengers figured out that they could use their coffee cards at the coffee counter up there for brewed coffee, and they weren't charged. Iced tea was also made from a syrup, and was so strong it was undrinkable, even after diluting it by 50% with water. One lady solved that problem by ordering a pot of hot tea and three glasses of ice with most meals! It seemed to us that Princess has cut so many corners to remain profitable that they have changed the nature of their product. It felt more like a Carnival cruise or an NCL cruise. We've sailed with Princess many times, and may sail with them again. But we were disappointed with this one. It just didn't meet our expectations. We had a nice time, but it wasn't a wonderful experience, as you want all of your vacations to be. We've booked our next cruise on Oceania, and are looking forward to comparing the two cruise lines. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
My honey, Edie and I boarded the Ocean Princess for a 6 segment cruise from Tokyo to New York City for our 129-day adventure. Overall, we had an excellent experience. The purpose of this review is to share our learning from the trip. ... Read More
My honey, Edie and I boarded the Ocean Princess for a 6 segment cruise from Tokyo to New York City for our 129-day adventure. Overall, we had an excellent experience. The purpose of this review is to share our learning from the trip. First, the renamed Ocean Princess is a 650+/- passenger ship that seems to attract more experienced cruisers because of the length of the segments and the exotic ports. It was surprising to me that some passengers complained that we had too many days at sea or not enough stuff to do on the ship to pass the time. Seems like they would have figured that out when they booked the itinerary. The OP does not have the amenities of the mega ships in the Princess fleet. The upside is the OP is able to get into more ports than the larger vessels. The major advantage is getting to know the passengers and crew. The OP had recently been renovated and yet the ship seemed a little dated. The service in the dining room was excellent and the food better than average. The dance team was superior and many of the entertainer were dandy. Because we were on the ship for multiple cruises we were able to see what worked and what could be done differently. A Sunday brunch was started in the main dining room that was excellent. When a new matre d' started his contract, the popular brunch stopped. The personality of the ship is driven by the matre d', head chef, and the cruise director. When they change, it is different. That can be a plus of minus, based on what we liked. Because we were on the ship so long, life slows down. We were careful what we ate, exercised every day, only went to ships events when we wanted, and stayed away from the less than kind passengers. It is also a major advantage to sail west because we had lots of 25 hour days. We liked the OP and have booked another 48 days of that ship in 2011. The Captain loves his "white lady" and is a visible leader of the crew. Overall I would give the ship 4 1/2 stars. Ronvoyage Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Preliminaries We took a midnight flyer out of LAX to Bangkok on Cathay Pacific (we used AA miles for business class). It was 15 hours of air time to Hong Kong but it was "heaven" because of the flat bed seats and the superior ... Read More
Preliminaries We took a midnight flyer out of LAX to Bangkok on Cathay Pacific (we used AA miles for business class). It was 15 hours of air time to Hong Kong but it was "heaven" because of the flat bed seats and the superior Cathay Pacific service—the best I have ever experienced in 50 years of flying. After a short layover it was three hours to Bangkok where we negotiated with a Limo service at the airport for transfer to Laem Chabang. For 2300 Bhat ($71) we took the 1½ hour ride to the port in comfort. We carry our own medium size roller bags on the ship and the whole embarkation process took 30 minutes. My wife Vonne and I are seasoned travelers as this was my 27th cruise (Vonne's 24th) and I have now visited 94 countries and Vonne 90 We are 67 and 59 and are still very independent travelers. The Good The Ocean Princess is one of the old Renaissance ships that have been bought up by Princess, Oceana, Azamara and maybe one other line. They all hold around 675 Passengers and are an ideal size to travel the world. This is our 5th cruise on one of these ships and we have been on this one before when it was the Tahitian Princess doing 10 day cruises through the Society Islands and alternating the Cook Islands with the Marquesas in the South Pacific. Three months ago we were on another former Renaissance ship the Azamara Journey for 12 nights around the Tyrhennian Sea. Since the two cruises were so close together on the same Renaissance type ship it is only natural to compare the two experiences. You would be hard pressed to find a more interesting itinerary than what Princess put together for this 16 night journey through Southeast and East Asia. With days at sea alternating with port days it was an ideal way to sample Asia. The stops included Ko Samui (island in southern Thailand), Singapore, Phu Mai & Danang in Vietnam, Hong Kong (2 days & 1 night), Keelung (Taiwan), Okinawa, & Shanghai. Food Our dinner companions for the late or 8:15 sitting were two British married couples, who each came from different parts of the UK, and two single ladies from Canada. We had a wonderful group and were often the last table to leave the dining room. Thank you John and Angie, Rob and Pat, and Helen and Jean for making our dinners so enjoyable and for especially trying to teach me the rules of cricket. As with most cruises there is enough variety of food to satisfy most palettes. Overall I would have to rate the food basically good but uneven. Some good, some bad, much of it so-so. We usually ate breakfast and lunch in the dining room when we had days at sea and breakfast in the Panorama buffet on port days. Lunch was ashore on port days and we normally packed two sandwiches with cold cuts at breakfast to eat for lunch on our port days. Breakfast in the dining room was a nice experience but the menu was very limited. Lunch in the dining room was quite good at times as not many passengers ate there and the cooked to order food could be very tasty. I found that the fish cooked at lunch (I had excellent perch and trout dishes) was much better that the fish cooked for dinner. One real standout for both lunch and dinner was the salads. The selection of greens was first rate, and the blue cheese dressing was not only different than what you usually get, it was very tasty. My wife really liked the honey-mustard dressing as well. One feature that the Ocean Princess introduced is the Bistro dining option for dinner on days at sea. The normal buffet still operated on port days but on days at sea and especially the three formal nights you could eat in the buffet but it was set up as a dining room with white tablecloths, servers, and all the amenities of the dining room with food cooked to order and served. For the first time we did not drag our coat and tie and dress shoes and fancy dresses to a cruise that had formal nights. Without that unnecessary baggage we were still able to dine in the Bistro in our "smart casual" clothes and had a wonderful dining experience. My salmon filet was cooked just right and was as good a piece of fish as any that we had on the cruise. The Bistro has three different menus, A, B, and C that alternate. Cabin Our cabin in "steerage" as we like to call it on lower deck 3 was fine. Lots of room for everything and except for the shower being a little tight it worked out OK. There are a couple of things wrong with it that (see "The Bad) could easily be fixed. We hit some weather going to Taiwan and the ship was rocking and rolling and the lower deck is a smoother ride. The crew would come around and close our porthole but I would open it up. I did leave it closed one night when the ship was rocking in heavy seas. The one disadvantage to deck 3 was you could not walk to the gangway on port days (located on deck 3). You had to go up to deck 4 and over and then down to 3. Ports of Call Ko Samuii is a terrific resort island and we took the first tender ashore, bargained for a taxi, got a new one, and the driver took us to a number of stops around the island including one for an elephant ride, the famous grandpa (phallic) and grandma (vagina) rock formations, the main tourist beach and other sites. It was 2000 Bhat ($60) well spent. Singapore is the great entrepot of Asia and we had stayed here before so we kept our journey simple. It was typical Singapore weather, hot and humid and we rode a hop on hop off bus around twice to see the changes from our last visit. The new building is unbelievable. It was a cheap way to see the sights in comfort (great AC) and a front view seat. Finally, we stopped at the free botanical gardens and toured that area including the Orchid garden that had a small fee to enter with a great senior discount. Hong Kong was new to us and we had two full days. Sadly, the weather did not cooperate for both days were cool and blustery. On day 1 we did too much. First the ferry to Hong Kong island (as a senior I rode free and Vonne was $3 HK or about 45 cents and then the bus to famed Stanley Market. We almost never shop but we actually bought a couple of gift items. The market was OK but nothing unusual and nothing like some of the markets we have seen around the world in Istanbul and Tunis etc. Next, another bus to Aberdeen to see the Sampans and the fish market. Another bus to the central station where we took the MRT to Tung Yee to ride the famed 3 mile cable car. I will let my wife Vonne take over from here: Off we go to Lantau to take the Ngong Ping skyway cable car ride over the city, a hike to see a giant Buddha, and take the skyway back. We pay a bit more for the "crystal" cable car with a glass bottom (I'm thinking —so you can see the ground approach as you plummet 2000 feet straight down if the cable breaks). It starts out OK—fine and dandy— We see a forest of green trees below as we ascend the tops of the mountain peaks. We glide over the ocean and see miles of beautiful scenery all around (and below us). We can see the cable car in front and behind us, and the ones returning. We wave to each other and smile. Suddenly, it starts to get colder and the car begins to rock in a strong wind. We ascend into a mist that fast becomes a cloud. We are a cloud. No cable car in front or back. No ocean beneath. Look out the windows and through the glass bottom— solid cloud. It gets even colder. All I have is a weenie, light-weight, cotton zip-up; and Tom has only a light nylon jacket. I realize that if the cable breaks, we will not see the ground through the glass bottom as we plummet to the ground. We both are COLD, and we can't see anything— but we keep moving along in the cloud for about a half an hour, and get off in a misty, cold, windy village called Ngong Ping 360. Out we go to see if we can make it to the Big Buddha— NOT! Too much wind and swirling mist/rain — and not enough visibility. Tom spots a Starbuck's but we opt instead to duck into the Zen Noodle Cafe for some warmth and nourishment before undertaking the return trip back. The Zen Noodle Cafe is small and open to the elements in front, but there are tables tucked inside where it is warm. We share a big bowl of chicken noodle soup and it hits the spot. They also bring us two mugs of plain hot water. Watching others, we see them drinking it (as opposed to adding it to the soup), and we do the same. After another potty stop we brave the wind-chill and make way to return down the mountain; but the weather is so bad, they close the ride and refund the return fare down. What to do? We find a bus back to the MRT and run to board it just in the nick of time. Oh— and you have to have exact fare for the driver because he does not make change, but keeps the difference! Good thing for the coins we received at the Chinese Noodle Soup place! Taking the bus down the mountain, across the valley, and up the next mountain is more scenic than the cable car going up. We see the stuff we missed from the cable car when we were in a cloud. To get back to the ship we take the MRT back to Central Station then to the Star Ferry, and back to Cruise Harbor. It has been a long 8 hours of trekking and maneuvering, and it is again good to be back on ship to a comfortable room and a good meal. We are so stiff and sore the next day in Hong Kong from the labors of the previous day that we do not do much in the rainy weather. Vonne stays on the ship to heal and I take a two hour walk of the basic shopping areas of Kowloon and I am not a shopper. Just more expensive stuff as far as I am concerned and I can usually get better deals in the U.S. Who buys all this "crap" anyway? Ships Tours As fierce independent travelers we usually do not take ship's tours but go off on our own. We broke our rule this time and went on three ship's tours. They cost about twice what we usually spend when we go ashore independently but they are convenient. The first was a 2 & ½ hour ride to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) from Phu Mai where the ship was docked. This was an adequate tour but was marred (see bad) by a long shopping stop. The other two were much better. A 1 & ½ hour ride to Hue from our port near Da Nang. We had a very nice guide and saw all the historic sites in the Imperial city. The final one was on Taiwan and very pricey at $159 each. With bad weather marring the view the trip to the mineral springs at the Paradise hotel started out as a disaster. The following is my wife Vonne's report on this stop and the ship's tour: This morning we docked in Keelung, Taiwan and it was raining 12°C (53.6°F). We were signed up for a tour to some outdoor mineral spas, and I had misgivings about the whole thing, but it turned out to be really super For starts in celebration of the Tet, Taiwanese greeters gave us each a red envelope and greeting card with a good luck coin inside. Red is the Chinese good luck color, and parents traditionally give good luck money to their kids on Tet morning. We took a bus ride in bad weather for about an hour to the mineral springs at the Paradise resort hotel. Before using the baths we had to change into our swim wear and put on a silly shower cap. Then we hustled outside in the cold mist/rain and made our way along a couple of football fields to about 12 stone mineral baths. The mineral water smelled a bit like sulfur and the outdoor baths varied from 20 to 40°C. Each of them offered different types of pressurized water massage. There were pipes having openings the size of large garden hoses on the sides of the walls and down inside the pools with different amounts of pulsating, pressurized water coming out of them. All we had to do was position ourselves in the right place to get a great water massage. We spent about an hour & ½ at the pools and then joined locals for a Tet lunch buffet in the hotel. On the way back we put on rain gear and had an easy hike by the sea on a rock area that had been shaped and eroded by the force of ocean waves over thousands of years. The water had worn away the sides of large rocks and boulders and made them into bizarre sculptures. One in particular was shaped like ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertitti's head. It was about 15 feet tall, and we all stopped to get a photo standing by the sculpture. After walking through a very interesting market we returned to the coach and back to the ship. Our final ship's tour was on the last day in Shanghai. As our flight left at 6:00 PM we needed to kill most of the day. To Princess's credit they arranged for a half day tour of Shanghai to the Jade Temple, a tea ceremony, Yu Gardens, and walk along the east side of the river to see the Bund from a distance. It was quite enjoyable and it ended at the airport as they dropped the 14 of us off for our flights. This tour was a bargain at $49 each and did not include the usual lunch stop. We had packed sandwiches at lunch so we were fine. Our flight home on AA included 14 hours to Chicago and 4.5 hours back to LAX. It was long but uneventful and certainly not Cathay Pacific quality but it was OK. The Bad In order to compete with other lines Princess will have to step up its customer relations. For example, when we boarded no one paid any attention to us: no welcoming drink, no help with bags leading to our room, no directions to our room. This is a small thing but it sets the tone. The ship is supposed to have been refurbished but it shows some wear. One of the Jacuzzis is badly scarred and the wood decking is deteriorating. One thing we noticed is that you almost never saw anyone doing maintenance. Compared to the Azamara Journey in which the crew was constantly doing maintenance, this was surprising. Although much of the food gets high marks there was one thing I could not understand. A high point of the dining experience for me is the veal and lamb dishes. On most cruises, a veal or lamb dish is one of the choices almost every night. For some reason the Ocean Princess did not serve veal until the 5th night and lamb the 6th. We always had beef, chicken, fish, and vegetarian dishes but veal and lamb were scarce. This is one sign of the cutback in food quality that the Princess is practicing. After that, except for a lamb stew once, lamb or veal seldom appeared on the menu. We finally got lamb in the dining room on day 11 and veal on day 12—delicious, but a bit late. On days at sea we usually ate breakfast in the dining room and the food was fine but there was a very limited menu. For example, no corned beef hash or French toast, two of my favorites. The breakfast buffet had a much wider selection and was typical buffet food. There were often log jams because of the placement of certain food items like the butter. At the omelette station the main cook had his fire too hot and would cremate half the omlette even if you asked for it soft in the French style. It would be half burnt and half raw. Maybe he was new at it but he could not get the knack. One day there was a replacement cook and he cooked it just fine. In days at sea we usually ate breakfast in the dining room. They said they had bran muffins on the menu but when we asked for them they always said they did not have them. When we asked the Maitre de he said he would get them for us and he did after a 10 minute wait. One morning I just went up to the buffet to get the bran muffins and bring them to the dining room. It seemed odd that they had a pastry tray full of donuts, croissants, Danish and other pastries but no bran muffins. We asked why the could not make a few less donuts and a few more bran muffins but we did not get a satisfactory answer. We could get along without the bran muffins but it seemed odd to have them on the menu and not be able to deliver them. One thing that bothered our dinner table mates who drink wine with dinner. For the first 6 nights they ordered a wine off the menu that cost $22. On the 7th night they were informed that the wine they had been drinking was no longer available but they could substitute a different wine that was similar for more money ($26 a bottle). They felt, and I concur that the substitute wine should have been offered at the same price as the original wine. It seemed "tacky" to charge them more when it was the ship that was at fault for not having an adequate supply of the wine listed on the wine list. The ship daily bulletin called the "Princess Patter" was poorly organized and composed. For some reason it did not include the eating hours for the restaurant or the buffet. When I asked about this their answer was that it had been included in the first day's bulletin but not subsequent days. There is also a large blue book in each cabin that contained information about the ship but nothing on the dining hours. Finally, the front desk sent me a card that listed the dining hours. The card should have been in the Blue Book in everyone's room. The "Patter" seemed to be more concerned with its advertisement's for the spa, bingo, casino etc. than providing information to the passengers. For a 16 day cruise there were no news bulletins delivered to our staterooms. This is quite unusual and is just another example of Princess's "pinching pennies" which results in a decline of service. On one of our ships tours to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) the guide gave us only two minutes to take one outside photo of the Rex hotel in order to preserve a full 40 minutes for a shopping stop at a lacquer factory and showroom. After 5 minutes we had seen enough and there was nothing else to do in that downtrodden neighborhood. As I cooled my heels waiting for the shopping to end I thought about how some of these minutes could have been used to allow us to see the lobby of the Rex. This is one of the problems of ship's tours the obligatory "shopping stop" that always overrules all other considerations. This is the one ship's tour that I would have to rate as unsuccessful. The general decline in service that almost all cruise lines have suffered from since the advent of automatic tipping about 10 years ago continued. It is not so much that it is so bad as it is the indifference since the automatic tipping. The experience is not the same. In all of our cruises over the last 10 years the only one where the service was as good as the pre-automatic tipping era was the Azamara Journey The Ugly On day two my wife arranged to buy $100 worth of minutes on the internet. We wasted 36 minutes trying to send one E-mail that failed. The next morning we tried to get some clarification on how to do this from the internet person and we asked her to restore the 36 minutes we had lost the day before. She restored 6 minutes to our account so we were out 36 minutes (about $15 worth). Not only did her attitude stink, but we felt she should have restored the whole 36 minutes instead of being argumentative and combative. We spent over $7000 to Princess on this cruise and we are being chiseled out of $15 of internet time. It makes no sense and shows a lack of supervision of staff by management. The self-washing situation could have been a worse disaster than it was except for the forbearance of the passengers who organized the process. Four dryers and four washing machines were available but two of the dryers were almost always broke to cause a huge backlog in the drying process. If the Ocean Princess is going to roam the seas with 30 day cruises it needs to create a 2nd laundry room and make sure the dryers are maintained and working at all times. Most passengers had to spend at least a half a day to do their laundry, hanging out in the laundry that was like a sauna and some had to wait until the next day to have their clothes dried after washing them. My wife tried to rectify the situation by going through the front desk and talked to Adrian and her supervisor Randall. After about 30 minutes and sticking to her guns she got Tony to come down to the laundry room. He saw how bad the situation was with 25 passengers milling about trying to dry their clothes. He brought two guys from the laundry room to bag up the wet clothes of about 8 passengers who were waiting for the dryer. They took them to the ship's laundry to dry them and returned them to our rooms later in the day. If Princess is going to offer 30 day cruises as this was, they need to have more than 2 dryers working. They need to create a separate washing room with more dryers than washers (drying takes 45 minutes and washing takes 30 minutes. This is another example of the "higher ups" not thinking. Smoke often wafted into our room and we would go to the dining room often smelling of smoke. We told the front desk about this problem but they said they could do nothing about it because Princess policy allowed passengers to smoke in their rooms. 16 days of smelling smoke was a long trip. I don't remember a ship allowing smoking in the rooms for at least the last 10 years. When we were on this ship in 2003, I don't remember smoke being a problem but we could have been in a section of the ship that was non- smoking or that people were not smoking. Princess better adopt a no smoking in the rooms policy fast as other lines have done or they will lose lots of business. There was also a problem in the 4 shady areas around the pool. Smoking was only supposed to be allowed in two of these but frequently the smokers occupied all 4 areas. Non-smokers who wanted to sit in the pool area in the shade were out of luck and had to endure the smoke. The initial show of the ship's singers and dancers was so bad we walked out. It was a tribute to Motown and they could not pull it off. It was embarrassing. The last day they did two shows that were a tribute to travel (Ports of Call) and Cinema. These were actually good but the Mowtown experience overshadowed everything. I am not sure we would book Princess again unless the price and itinerary were out of this world. There is no comparison to the Azamara Journey, the same ship but a much superior operation. Princess higher ups need to take a cruise on the Journey to see how it should be done. In the competitive cruising industry Princess should do better. They did better when we first cruised the Tahitian Princess in 2003. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
This review is primarily a travelogue of what we did in the various ports on our 36-day cruise. It was marketed as two 18-day cruises, "The Land of Fire and Ice" (NYC-Dover) and "The Top of the World" (Dover-NYC), so I ... Read More
This review is primarily a travelogue of what we did in the various ports on our 36-day cruise. It was marketed as two 18-day cruises, "The Land of Fire and Ice" (NYC-Dover) and "The Top of the World" (Dover-NYC), so I have reviewed each segment separately. Only one port (Qaqortoq) was included in both cruises. For more details about us, please see the companion review. Day 18 (Wednesday, August 12) Dover, England (Turnaround Day), on EDT+5 The TP docked at the Western Docks (www.whitecliffscountry.org.uk/pdf/dover-map.pdf). We left the ship around 7AM and hiked to the White Cliffs Visitor Centre. From the Cruise Terminal, walk out to the A20. At the second roundabout, turn right towards the waterfront. Walk along Waterloo Crescent then Marine Parade towards the Eastern Docks Ferry Terminal. Before you get to the Ferry Terminal, use the pedestrian crossing to cross over to East Cliff, there are some signs if you look hard. Continue on Athol Terrace to the steps that will lead you up to the Visitor Centre. This area is somewhat run-down; obviously more locals than tourists go this way. The White Cliffs Visitor Centre (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-thewhitecliffsofdover.htm) was not open that early but we had downloaded maps of hikes to the South Foreland Lighthouse (www.kent.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/C5C7D63B-875F-4EA5-94F9-0841E09E1E29/0/walksineastkentsouthforeland.pdf or www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/white_cliffs_-_wildlife_walk.pdf). On the way to the lighthouse, we took the more developed, inland path. At the entrance of the lighthouse property (which also was not yet open when we reached it) there is a marked footpath that leads along the wall on the north side to trails closer to the cliffs. We took those back and found a spot where we could get down to the beach and look up at the cliffs (www.discoveringfossils.co.uk/dover_kent_fossils.htm). To return to town, head back down the same way you came and along East Cliff until it joins the A20. Take the first right at the Leisure Centre (#4 on the map); near the parking lot behind the Leisure Centre are the interesting ruins of an old church and a pub called "The White Horse." Between the pub and the ruins is an alley way, which leads to steps that will take you straight up to the Dover Castle (www.english-heritage.org.uk/server/show/nav.14571). When you buy your tickets, be sure to ask about the tour of the "Secret Wartime Tunnels" (included in the price of admission). After this 10-mile day we decided we deserved a nice Foster's and a hot shower! Day 19 (Thursday, August 13) At Sea, on EDT+5 We spent the day recuperating after all the hiking in Dover. In the afternoon, there was a Cruise Critic get-together in the Tahitian Lounge. Tonight was the Captain's Welcome Cocktail party and the first of three formal nights on this leg of the cruise. Day 20 (Friday, August 14) Dublin, Ireland, on EDT+5 The TP docked at the Alexandra Basin, Dublin Port. The ship offered a shuttle downtown for $5 pp each way; it stopped on Kildare St. near Trinity College and National Art Museum. We had considered walking but a Cruise Critic member who was on the previous Dover-NYC cruise advised against it. This was good advice because there was not much to see along the route that made it worth the long walk. The shuttle did pass the Famine Memorial and the Custom House. After getting off the shuttle, we walked around St. Stephen's Green and Merrion Square. We had bought a Dublin Pass (www.dublinpass.ie/dublinpass/) before we left the US, so our next stop was the Old Kilmainham Gaol (www.heritageireland.ie/en/Dublin/KilmainhamGaol/) and a good dose of Irish history. Then we were off for a pint at the Guiness Storehouse (www.guinness-storehouse.com) — everything you ever wanted to know about brewing beer. Next we crossed the River Liffey to the Old Jameson Distillery (www.jamesonwhiskey.com/Heritage_Old_jameson_distillery_Tour_info.aspx) to learn all about making Irish whiskey and have a "wee nip." John served on a taste panel comparing Jameson with Scotch and sour mash whiskey; he was the only one to admit he preferred the Jack Daniels. Finally we took a student-led tour of Trinity College (www.tcd.ie/Library/old-library/tour-attractions/), which ended at the Old Library (www.bookofkells.ie/) and a peek at the Book of Kells illuminated manuscript plus a visit to the really interesting Long Room in the library. Note that the tour meets in the courtyard next to the main gate, not at the Old Library. The cost of the tour including admission to the BOK is €10 (BOK alone is €9). By this time in the afternoon, there not a particularly large crowd for either the tour or the viewing of the Book of Kells. We planned our walking route using parts of the following walking tours (especially the iWalks brochures), so we actually were able to see quite a lot. However, the port visit here was entirely too short! www.visitdublin.com/multimedia/DublinPodcasts/iwalk.aspx?id=275 www.frommers.com/articles/5058.html goireland.about.com/od/dublinandleinster/ss/walkdublin.htm Day 21 (Saturday, August 15) Greenock, Scotland, on EDT+5 This was the first of several ports where we were competing with the Maasdam for dock space. Fortunately, there was room for both of us at the dock at the Clydeport Ocean Terminal. We awoke to pouring rain and live bagpipe music. The Iverclyde Tourist Group welcomed us warmly with pipers and abundant advice on attractions in the area. They offer 3 different free tours (£5 pp donation suggested) (inverclydetouristgroup.co.uk/tours) in the Greenock area. We took the tour to Newark Castle in Port Glasgow (www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/propertyresults/propertyoverview.htm?PropID=PL_221&PropName=Newark%20Castle). The castle dates from the 1500s and is only now being restored but was interesting because of several spiral staircases — one up to the battlements, which we of course climbed. After getting back to Greenock, we went to the Old West Kirk (www.owkgreenock.info) and had a tour there. We had intended to walk to some of the other sites of interest (inverclydetouristgroup.co.uk/showcase) but it was just too miserable in the rain. We returned to the ship to have something to eat and make a sandwich for the 9 hour bus tour to Edinburgh for the Military Tattoo (www.edinburgh-tattoo.co.uk). We investigated going on our own but decided that the logistics made this one worth doing through the ship. The Tattoo has never been cancelled due to weather and the forecast was for rain, cold, and strong winds! Also, the seating is notoriously cramped (the Scots must have very narrow butts, shoulders, and knees). The ship's tour office suggested taking something to pad the seat; cushions are rented at the venue for £1 each. We decided to take pool towels inside the 2-1/2 gallon zip-lock bags we use for packing. We figured we could use them to dry off when we got back to the bus after the performance. The Tattoo is such a popular event that the traffic was horrendous; it took 3 hours to get there (versus only 1-1/2 to get back). On the other hand, we took a roundabout way through the Scottish countryside and got to see at a distance Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle (site of Robert the Bruce's great victory at Brannockburn), and the Wallace monument (above the site of his great victory at Stirling bridge). The crowds were enormous (it reminded me of Mardi Gras); fortunately the seating is reserved. The Tattoo program itself was fantastic (www.edinburgh-tattoo.co.uk/programme/program_2009.html but without the RAF medical rescue) and the setting is outstanding with Edinburgh Castle illuminated in the background. We understand now why it is described as a "must see!" Fortunately, it did not rain but the wind was over 25 mph and John was sure the spotlights creaking above our heads were going to blow down and kill us; the flags at the top of the stands were flapping so hard they were making loud snapping noises. Our guide expressed concern about the kilts being blown around. We were bundled up well in fleece, wind jackets/pants, hats, and gloves, so we were comfortable enough. Umbrellas are not allowed, so we also had plastic ponchos in case of a real downpour. Our group was very prompt about returning to the bus and we got back to the ship just before midnight. I didn't see any flags — good thing I bought one in Halifax. Day 22 (Sunday, August 16) At Sea, on EDT+5 We spent the day relaxing after our late night at the Tattoo and getting ready for the Faroe Islands tomorrow. Day 23 (Monday, August 17) Torshaven, Faroe Islands, on EDT+5 We were supposed to dock in Torshaven (www.visittorshavn.fo/UK/index.asp?pID={FE442432-1421-4E80-815E-D87A12234B21}) but the Maasdam beat us to it, leaving us to tender. In the morning we hiked all around town and had culture shock when I tried to buy a flag for my collection. For a little 3x5 inch flag, it was $38! Needless to say, I passed on that. The Old Town in Torshaven was interesting with all the grass-roofed houses. In the afternoon, we took a bus/boat tour to the Vestmanna bird cliffs (www.faroeislands.com/Default.aspx?pageid=9817) on the other side of the island. This was another tour we considered doing on our own. However, the timing was very tight and we were afraid that the ship would reserve all the seats on the only tour that would fit the port schedule. The boat went right up to the sea cliffs and sailed through several sea arches and through a cave that must have been at least 100 yards long. The nesting season was over, so we did not see many birds in the cliffs. We saw puffins in the water and in flight but they were too far away to get a decent picture. On the way back from this tour, we saw someone mowing his roof. Day 24 (Tuesday, August 18) Seydisfjordur, Iceland, on EDT+4 We were scheduled to tender in Seydisfjordur (www.sfk.is/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=122&Itemid=1) but the dock was free. We hiked on our own to the Vestdalur Nature Reserve (www.frommers.com/destinations/seydisfjordur/4112010020.html). This is a valley with a series of plateaus. At each plateau, the river makes a gorgeous waterfall (or 2 or 3). At the top, is a lake (Vestdalsvatn) that is frozen most of the year. Although we encountered some snow on the hike, the lake was thawed. The trail starts about 1-1/4 miles north of the village center, past the youth hostel; there is a sign marking the trailhead and showing area trails. We had printed out and brought this map www.simnet.is/ffau/kortindex_enska.html, which shows the trail going along the north side (away from town) of the Vestdalsá River. The "trail" was not very well marked and we had to ford several streams and walk through boggy areas. On the way back, we took a different trail (#44 on the trail sign) that was better marked (green stakes with yellow tops) but only slightly less soggy. However, the views of the waterfalls are much better from the trail on the north side of the river. BTW, you can sport the boggy areas from all the bog cotton (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Cottongrass). There were sheep all over the valley. After the hike, we discovered that in addition to mud our boots were covered in a light layer of wool that we collected out of the grass. After that hike, we walked around the town a bit to see the old wooden buildings and then up to another waterfall (Budarafoss) that was right next to the ship. Back on the ship, we discovered that the top of the refrigerator is a good place to dry your boots. Day 25 (Wednesday, August 19) At Sea, on EDT+4 We spent the day resting up from hiking 5 hours yesterday! Although it was overcast, we were able to see the huge Vatnajokull glacier and lava flows along the coast. We also had good views of the Vestmanna Islands and Surtsey (an island formed by an eruption in 1963). Day 26 (Thursday, August 20) Reykjavik, Iceland, on EDT+4 Reykjavik (www.visitreykjavik.is) was another port where we and the Maasdam could both be accommodated at the dock (Skarfabakki Pier). I had arranged a private taxi tour for us and 3 other couples (Paul929207, Sydney1a, Cycmom) with Hreyfill (www.hreyfill.is/english/). Our driver/guide was Hjorleifur Hardarson (or Hjorlei, approximately pronounced Hurly), owner of taxi #487. John and I had visited Reykjavik previously; on that trip, we rented a car and drove the "Golden Circle." This time, we wanted to see something different, so we booked the "South Coast Spectacular" tour. This took us along the southern coast of Iceland (www.heimur.is/heimur/upload/files/kort/islkort2009-bakhlid.pdf) to the southernmost town of Vik. Along the way, we saw lava fields, views of the Vestmanna Islands and Surtsey, waterfalls (Urridafoss (Salmon Falls), Seljalandsfoss, Skógarfoss (really gorgeous!), and many unnamed ones), glaciers (Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull), and sea stacks/arches (Dyrholaey). We made a photo stop at the Skógar Folk Museum to see turf-roofed houses. On the way back to Reykjavik, we saw Gluggafoss (Window Falls) near Fljotshlid and more unnamed waterfalls, stopped at the Sólheimajökull glacier tongue, and even got a peek at the most active volcano in Europe, Mt. Hekla. (Hekla means "cloaked" or "hooded" because it is usually covered with clouds.) Our final stop before returning to the ship was a thermal field in Hveragerdi, which is used to heat greenhouses that grow most of the vegetables (like tomatoes) and flowers sold in Iceland. The only vegetables that seem to be grown outside are potatoes. We also passed several geothermal energy plants and natural thermal areas. Hjorlei was not as talkative as the driver/guides we had for Akureyri and Lerwick and he did not have a loud voice or microphone like the others. However, he was willing to answer all our questions at length, spoke excellent English and seemed genuinely pleased to be showing off the beautiful scenes in Iceland. Also, there was no problem modifying the itinerary (www.hreyfill.is/hreyfill/en/taxi_tours/south_coast_spectacular/) on the fly. Note that the banquet mentioned in the itinerary is no longer offered but we did have a quick snack break at Vik although most of us brought sandwiches from the ship. Day 27 (Friday, August 21) At Sea, on EDT+3 This was the day of the Princess Grapevine and also the Captain's Circle party so free drinks! Tonight was the second of three formal nights on this leg of the cruise. It was a nice day to relax and finish my library book, Stephen Colbert's "I Am America (And So Can You)." Day 28 (Saturday, August 22) Cruising Prins Christian Sund, on EDT+2 This was a fantastic day! Even though the Maasdam left Reykjavik before us, the TP went through the sound first and had a beautiful, sunny day. She went through later after the clouds had rolled in. We saw the Greenland ice cap, tidewater glaciers, hanging glaciers, sheer cliff faces, a fishing village, and several packs of seals hunting fish. The last Dover-NYC cruise was unable to get into the sound due to ice, so we felt lucky to be able to see the gorgeous scenery. The trip through the sound took all day and by the end we were exhausted from the unrelentingly beautiful sights. Day 29 (Sunday, August 23) Qaqartoq, Greenland, on EDT+2 This was our second visit to this port; see the previous review for more information and links. Captain Kent took the scenic route from Prins Christian Sund, so Maasdam beat us here — they got the close anchorage and we were further out. This time the Qaqortoq residents had several shows and demonstrations (for a price); guess it wasn't worth the trouble when it was just the TP. If you want to hike, download a map (www.greenland.com/content/english/tourist/towns_regions/south_greenland/qaqortoq/map_of_qaqortoq); the tourist office has a more detailed free map of the town but it does not show the trails. Anyway, this time we took the second trail from the bottom right (at the back of a construction site), walked up and down the ridges, and almost came back on the trail at the bottom right. Again, we had to make our own trails because they are not marked very well (or at all, mostly). After that, we walked around town a little to see the fish market and the fountain (under repair); we went back to the ship a little early. The captain had moved the departure up an hour because high winds were expected at 4pm. They came in right on schedule as we left the anchorage. He had been worried because there was a large iceberg right between us and the Maasdam. Day 30 (Monday, August 24) At Sea, on EDT+2 We really had some rocking and rolling last night! Today we had the "Most Traveled Passenger" luncheon. We moved up to the second from the bottom table. At the luncheon we found out that the captain is navigating the TP among **4** low pressure systems, one of which is the remains of Hurricane Bob. Relaxing on our balcony this afternoon, we saw spouts of 15-20 whales. From what we could see of the backs and fins, they were probably Minke whales. Day 31 (Tuesday, August 25) At Sea, on EDT+2 The people who went to the "Most Traveled Passenger" luncheon yesterday were allowed to visit the bridge today. As before, this was top secret. I got to sit in the captain's chair! Day 32 (Wednesday, August 26) St Pierre, France, on EDT+2 Both the TP and the Maasdam were supposed to be in St. Johns, Newfoundland, today and in SP&M tomorrow. However, the authorities in SP&M realized that it would be an incredibly bad idea to have both ships in port on the same day; of course the Maasdam got to keep her original schedule and the TP had to alter hers. We found out after we returned that the Maasdam was not able to dock in SP&M and had to skip that port. Anyway, SP&M (www.visitspm.com; map at www.st-pierre-et-miquelon.com/english/cartes.php) had a free shuttle downtown to the tourist office; this is actually very walkable and we felt foolish taking the shuttle. We walked around the harbor, up to Fort Lorraine, the Cross, and the War Memorial; that took about an hour since each was not particularly extensive. Then we spent about 1/2 hour on a successful (thanks to Paul929207) search for a SP&M regional flag (the official flag is the French tricolor). We almost gave up on hiking as rain and high winds were threatening. On the way back to the ship we passed the carousel, the Sailors' Memorial, the Pointe aux Canons, the lighthouse, and the salines (fishing stations). Eventually, we decided to chance it and ended up hiking about 4 hours --- over to the other side of the island. We could not find any trail maps for SP&M online; the tourist office has a more detailed free map of the town (somewhat better than the link above) but it does not show the trails. The tourist office does have a large display with trail descriptions. Next to each description is a button that lights up the trail on the display. We tried taking photos of the display and direction but they were very hard to view once we were on the trail. We went up the road to the reservoir but lost the trail pretty quickly (we should have gone clockwise around the reservoir instead of counter-clockwise). We took off north cross-country and eventually saw the plank bridges on the Devil's Cape Trail from a high point. We hiked that trail for about an hour, then backtracked and took the Henry's Beach Trail. Then we backtracked to the main trail and took it back to the road above the ship. These trails were marked with paint blazes and had plank bridges over most of the boggy spots. At the very end of our hike, we finally found a trail kiosk with a map of the trails in the area of the ship. If you want to hike, here are our suggestions. From the ship you will notice a road heading uphill behind the abandoned building at the dock. To get to that road, you have to walk out of the dock area and make a sharp right when you reach the main road. Take the uphill road until you see the kiosk with the trail map. Follow the Devil's Cape Trail until you reach the junction with the Henry's Beach Trail. The Henry's Beach Trail makes a loop on the map to return to the kiosk but we were told at the tourist office that this section is closed. Backtrack to the Devil's Cape Trail and continue on it to the north side of the island and eventually into town on the Anse à Pierre Trail, ending on Rue Brue. Walk around town and then head back to the ship along the main road. BTW, from the ship you will have an excellent view of Ile aux Marins (Sailors' Island). It didn't look irresistible to us but if you want to see it, you can either take the ship's guided shore excursion for $59 pp or take the ferry on your own for a couple of euros pp. If you go on your own, the ship may have booked all the ferry tickets (not as likely with a small ship like the TP). If you are willing to take that chance, ferry schedules and last-minute tickets are available at the tourist office. Bobtroll and his wife went on their own with no problem and provided this information. Day 33 (Thursday, August 27) Sidney, Nova Scotia, on EDT+1 This itinerary change wouldn't have been any problem if it had been announced in advance. However, the passengers were not informed until the beginning of this leg of the cruise. This left us unable to do our usual intensive research on the port. We considered renting a car and driving the Cabot Trail to the Cape Breton National Park but the distances involved made that iffy. In the morning, we stopped at the Sydney (cbisland.com/index2.php) tourist office in the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion to pick up a city map. It was an attractive city but we did all three of the walking tours in about an hour. In the afternoon, we took a ship's tour to Fort Louisbourg (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/ns/louisbourg/index.aspx). It is sort of like a French Colonial Williamsburg but a bit later in history. Our guide made this special with a lot of amusing anecdotes and the ship's tour was well worth it. When we got back to the ship, we were supposed to sail immediately but the wind was too strong. And the harbor pilot went off duty at 6PM. So we were stuck here until 5AM the next morning. Why couldn't we have had an overnight someplace like Dublin or NYC? Day 34 (Friday, August 28) At Sea, on EDT+1 This is the third and last formal night on this leg of the cruise and also the Captain's Gala cocktail party. We had some rough weather today from the remains of Hurricane Danny. Day 35 (Saturday, August 29) At Sea, on EDT+1 The Cruise Critic people had another group lunch today. We saw dolphins from our balcony! Day 36 (Sunday, August 30) NYC, on EDT We arrived about an hour late but had no trouble catching our flight and were back home by late afternoon. I still need flags from the Shetlands, the Faroes, and Greenland. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
There's an old adage that states "If it ain't broke don't fix it." Captain Ravera and his crew aboard the beautiful Tahitian Princess maintain the old world charm of cruising that is so terribly missed on many of ... Read More
There's an old adage that states "If it ain't broke don't fix it." Captain Ravera and his crew aboard the beautiful Tahitian Princess maintain the old world charm of cruising that is so terribly missed on many of the other cruise ships. Granted the mega-ships offer more activities and if that is what you are looking for it's wonderful but if you miss the attention to detail, a slightly slower pace and fine dining with a service staff that is at your beck and call the Tahitian Princess is where you would want to be. This is our 2nd cruise aboard the Tahitian Princess and I must say it felt as if we were coming home again. Captain Stephano Ravera, who is probably the most popular and most loved captain aboard any ship in any fleet in the world, continues to be visible and welcome all of his passengers to his "Beautiful White Lady." Once on board it doesn't take long for you to lose your passenger status and quickly become part of the Tahitian Princess family. What continues to resound in my mind is the captain's constant remark that he treats his guests as he would want his parents to be treated on any given cruise. On July 7th we boarded the Tahitian Princess in Dover, England. We had arrived at Gatwick Airport on July 5th since my husband, the "Crabby Old Guy", and I don't like to take the chance of having our luggage arrive late and not have it with us when we board. Dover is a quaint little port town and you have the option of staying at a local B&B or the Ramada Inn. We chose the Ramada Inn which is about 4 miles from the town and we were not disappointed with our choice. The town of Canterbury, which may have a few more hotel options and a bit more scenic, is about a half hour away by cab or bus and is perfect for a day trip if you have the time. Our embarkation went smoothly and we boarded the ship at 11:30 AM and the cabins were ready, cleaned and open to all passengers. We dropped off our carry-on luggage and went to the buffet to have a delicious lunch. After lunch we returned to our cabin to find our luggage in our room which was a nice surprise. There is no doubt the Tahitian Princess operates like a fine tuned instrument and the Captain and crew seem to anticipate all of their guests requests even before being asked. Our muster station was in the lounge and we were told that it makes it much easier for the passengers to have a place to sit comfortably in the event that they would ever have to remain at the muster station for an extended period of time. It was absolutely lovely to sit on the balcony facing the White Cliffs of Dover and watch the locals' fish from the pier prior to our departure. July 8th was a relaxing sea day and at mid-afternoon 25 members of the Cruise Critic Roll Call met in the Library for a Meet and Greet. Captain Ravera and the Passenger Services Director, Giacomo Manfredi, stopped by to welcome us all to the ship. Pictures were taken and ideas on excursions were exchanged and as the norm in these days of technology internet friends met in person for the first time aboard the Tahitian Princess. That night was our first formal dinner and a funny anecdote was told by one of our tablemates. Apparently he was having some difficulty tying his tie so he stepped out into the hallway and fortunately for him an older gentleman and his wife were passing by. He asked the gentlemen if he could please help him with his tie. The gentleman stood in front of our friend and immediately tied a perfect knot. Our friend's wife said "I thought you would have had to stand behind him to tie it" and he replied "Oh, no I do this every day...you see I'm an undertaker." Once again, truth is stranger, or in this case funnier, than fiction. July 9th we docked in the port of Dublin, Ireland. We opted to take the Princess shuttle ($5.00 a person one way) into town. Once there we took the "Hop On Hop Off" bus which loops the entire city while the bus driver gives a great commentary about this bustling, modern and beautiful city. We hopped off at Saint Patrick's Cathedral and after a visit there back on and back off, at the Kilmainham Gaol (the now closed infamous 19th Century city prison), for a quick tour. After these rather contrasting views of Dublin, we found a traditional Irish Pub for a lunch of fish-and-chips and, of course, 'a wee pint' of ale. Shopping was next on our to-do list and then a trip back to the ship. (If you are not in the mood to tour another large city you may find a tour through the countryside more appealing and there are many fantastic ones to choose from.) July 10th we woke to the melodious sounds of bagpipes from a bagpiper in full dress who had come to the pier to welcome the Tahitian Princess; a wonderful welcome to Scotland. So far Mother Nature has been considerably kind to us with unseasonably sunny and warm days on this cruise. We decided to take a Princess organized tour of the countryside in Scotland and try the high-road and the low-road and visit Loch Lomond! At 8:30AM a charming kilted Scotsman, named John, escorted us onto the coach with a hearty handshake and smile and our adventure began. We drove through the lowlands to a wool factory and sheep herding demonstration. The demonstration was give by a burley, sun-worn shepherd. We were all so amazed at the ability of the border collies to rein in the sheep. Of course, a few of us (including me) couldn't resist volunteering to help out the shepherd with a little exercise in herding. Since they train the dogs first by herding geese the shepherd thought it would be an interesting as well as an entertaining sight to have six of us tourists try to herd the geese. Well, after chasing a gaggle of geese all over the field and working up a sweat we decided herding should definitely be left to the dogs and the shepherd. After a short drive we were taken to a local hotel for an American/Scottish lunch. It was fine but unfortunately with all of the marvelous local foods to sample we had a rather nondescript chicken and vegetable plate. The one item of local cuisine was the dessert, a wonderful dish made of oats, cream and honey topped with fresh raspberries. From there we were off to the highlands. This area of the countryside is amazing, and a more beautiful sight I can't imagine. Experiencing the towering mountains that overlook lush green fields covered with purple heather was definitely a beautiful site which I will never forget. After experiencing our full sized tour bus driver expertly negotiating the narrow windy highland roads going up the mountains I was really thankful we hadn't decided to rent a car and drive it ourselves. Now I know for sure where the term Braveheart originated. We also made a brief stop at a farm for a quick visit with Hamish, a Highland Bull. Hamish, a local movie star with Harry Potter film credits to his name, stood tall and proud with a rack of curled horns that was most impressive and the hairiest face you've ever seen. I had a chance to feed Hamish some fruit and Hamish returned the favor by "sliming" me as my 8 year old grandson would say. All in all it was quite an experience. Next on our tour was an hour's cruise on beautiful Loch Lomond and then a return ride to the ship. I would definitely recommend this tour to everyone. After returning to the ship we were informed that, unfortunately, the pesky Norovirus that seems to love cruise ships so well was now discovered on board. The Tahitian Princess crew was efficient, effective and professional while following full procedures to contain the virus. So as seasoned cruisers we began to wash and wash and sanitize our hands as we went to and from activities and meals. The efforts of the crew were taken to heart and while a bit inconvenient at times we all complied with the containment procedures and carried on having a relaxing time of it. July 11th the entire ship awoke to the news at 7AM that there was a medical emergency and a passenger was being airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in Glasgow. The Royal Navy and Air Wing conducted the transfer both swiftly and efficiently. The nature of the passenger's illness was not announced but we were assured that it was not due to the Norovirus. Fortunately, there were no new cases of the Norovirus reported today and it seems that only 10 passengers were stricken with the virus. If all goes well we shall drop from a red alert to yellow in the next few days and everything will go back to normal. Despite all of this commotion, the professional way it was all handled did not significantly impede our ability to have a relaxing and scenic cruise up the coast of Scotland. We are traveling up to that part of the world, just below the Arctic Circle, at that time of the year when the sun is visible almost the entire day - the Midnight Sun. So, yes indeed, the sun is beginning to set around 9:30 PM. It is very odd to be finishing dinner at the late night seating just as twilight begins. By the time we reach our northern most point we should have less than 3 hours of night-darkness. On the bright side the casino will finally open today since the UK does not permit gambling in their waters. Interestingly enough, I have found that on the longer cruises you have more time to develop friendships with the passengers onboard. On the shorter cruises it's a bit more hectic as everyone is scurrying to find the perfect tour, activity or just the layout of the ship. My husband, The Crabby Old Guy, and I have been very fortunate to meet many wonderful people from different countries and all walks of life. The one thing we keep reminding ourselves is that laughter is universal and, believe me when I tell you, that we have had a lot of laughs on the Tahitian Princess. In the evening many of us congregate in the casino at the nickel or quarter slot machines and I think we are having a tournament to see who can lose the most money the fastest. You know the routine...bet 20 credits and win 2. The odd thing is that we celebrate our 2 credit wins together and with a laugh. I guess it's like looking at a glass half empty or half full. LOL July 12th was a Sunday and we found ourselves in the town of Torshavn, located on the Faroe Islands off the coast of Norway. Never heard of them, well neither had any of us but that is part of the grand adventure of cruising in this part of the world, a new, far away place that few have heard of and fewer have been able to visit. As in many of the European countries, most of the shops and restaurants here were closed; this was a bit of an itinerary scheduling disappointment. (By-the-way, for those of you cruisers on the July 25th TP sailing from NY to Dover, you will be in Bergen on a Sunday and according to Passenger Services Director, Mr. Manfredi, the town market and shops will be open.) Torshavn is an extremely picturesque port town. It's a simple walk from the pier to the town and many of the houses have roofs covered with live grass-growing sod. This custom is a holdover from early settlement days when the heavy sod helped keep the walls steady in the wind and help sop up rain. Unfortunately, one of the locals told us that insects love to nest in the sod which is why newer homes mostly have regular roofs. After a 10 minute walk from the ship dock we found the town square down near another pier. There was only one shop and a small cafe open. So there sat most of the Tahitian Princess passengers having a nice pint of the local brew or a coffee and enjoying a lovely sunny day. There were some passengers who opted to take tours either by cab or the ship's tour to the outlying parts of the island. I was very surprised to see how expensive the food and clothing was and most of us purchased very few souvenirs. A relatively simple three course meal of salad, cod and desert at one of the two local hotel restaurants was $90.00 US per person. A chicken Panini was about $11.00 US at an outdoor sandwich stand. While certainly a scenic stop and nice place to stretch our sea-legs most of the passengers agreed that the double whammy of stopping at a town that did not seem to care if we were there or not and landfall on a Sunday was a bit of a downer; a longer stay in another of the wonderful larger ports, such as Scotland or Reykjavik might have been more interesting. That evening we had reservations for dinner at Sabatini's Trattoria ($20 per person surcharge). What a great place to eat. My one suggestion to those of you who have never eaten at Sabatini's before is to make sure you have a light lunch that day. The food is well prepared and you have a taste of everything on the menu, (8 antipasti, 4 pizzas, 2 soups (including a fantastic saffron flavored cioppino) and 3 pastas). Your only decision is what entrEe and dessert (the apricot pie is delicious) you would like. If you are a brie lover, as I am, make sure you taste the baked Italian brie. It seems to be creamier and softer than the French brie and ohhhhh so good. I will try and post a copy of the menu when I get home at the end of the month but in the mean time there is a sample menu posted on the Princess website. I heard that there is some talk about "simplifying" this grand menu, I hope that whatever changes made will be only minor as this is a fantastic value in an age of "plus-pricing". Cruising in the North Atlantic and into the ports at the top of the world provide some stunning and unique scenery. The mountains, glacial areas and lava fields are beautiful in their rugged and other-worldly vistas. Captain Ravera and his crew took great care and time to cruise close to these areas to afford all unforgettable views and some simply stunning photo-ops, thanks to the TP bridge crew for all of that hard work on our behalf. July 13th found us in our first of two ports in Iceland, Seydisfjordur. As we entered the fjord between snow capped mountains the beauty of this part of the world was just breathtaking. Now, for some reason that name of the town just didn't roll easily over the tongues of the majority of English speaking passengers onboard. So after we all butchered the name multiple times we now refer to it as "The-S Town". It doesn't help that the Icelandic language has several different letters in their alphabet than we do and therefore you really can't sound out most of their words. So what is the best way to get from point-A to point-B, do what The Crabby Old Guy and I do...keep a map handy and just point to the places you want to go to. Don't worry, they already know you are a tourist, LOL, and the good folks in all of these lovely towns are very willing to help you find your way around. The town center is a short walk from the pier (less then 5 minutes and you will be standing in front of the town pharmacy) and has only about 750 residents. Imagine, the docking of the TP more than doubled the number of people in that area. But Seydisfjordur is an absolutely delightful place where the town's people were very welcoming to us and the prices of good quality gift items and cafe food are quite reasonable. If you are in the mood for lamb, a local favorite, check out the braised lamb with root vegetables luncheon at the local hotel near the beautiful Blue Church. It is local lamb that has heather incorporated into its diet and the taste is phenomenal in its simplicity. Thankfully, Mother Nature continued to smile on us with lovely weather. There are tours available for the area but we opted to just walk through the town on our own. As you leave the pier and reach the main street, the first yellow house with a green roof on the right hand side (a little tourists shop) has an exhibition by Adalheidur S. Eysteinsdottir. This woman has been sculpting for fifteen years and models her sculptures after 1000 year old sheep that were brought over from Denmark. She has a unique way of using small bits and pieces of wood to create her sheep. She has exhibited in New York and Canada and is now making plans to bring her exhibition all over the world. You can check out her website at www.freyjulundur.is. July 14th was a sea day and most of us just rested up for our next port of call, Reykjavik, Iceland. That evening was a formal night and we met a very dignified gentleman dressed in a proper tuxedo. On his lapel, though, were 9 different pins. When I asked him what they represented, he explained each briefly and when he got to the last one he, straight facedly replied "You see this little penguin? Well, it cost me $25,000 on my cruise to Antarctica." July 15th. I can't begin to count the number of tours that are available to us during our 18 day "On the Top of the World", cruise. However, one tour in particular has been the butt (pun intended) of many discussions and jokes among the passengers, officers, crew and staff aboard the T.P. The Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik, Iceland is a spa done up in Scandinavian modern style where clients pay to take a dip in geo-thermal heated mineral water contained in a man made lava pit. The Crabby Old Guy insists on referring to this beautifully exotic and luxurious place, picked by Conde Nast as one of the top geo-thermal spas in the world, as a place where you bathe in a rock bed filled with industrial waste and pay a nice hefty price for it. In good sanitary style the spa management requires each patron to take a shower "with no clothing on" before you enter the Blue Lagoon waters. Some how this too offended Crabby's sensibilities as he felt somewhat insulted by the notion that he needed to clean up before getting into the "algae mineral pit"; some guys just do not get it. Of course all of the hype about this shower protocol captured the imagination of all and folks began to speculate. Deep questions such as; just who takes a shower with their clothes on? And will the Blue Lagoon make me look like a Smurf if I stay in too long? Etc. Many of us also began to wonder if Iceland, being the liberal minded country that it is, would only have co-ed shower rooms (this one was mostly a source of speculation by the guys onboard). The women onboard even went so far as to plan, if necessary, to have their husbands stand in front of them in the shower room. By the way all shower rooms are separate and gender specific, thank you. Many of us ladies and the more enlightened of the men, felt it would be a sin to travel all these thousands of miles to Iceland and not experience the Blue Lagoon. So bright and early, 7:15 AM to be exact, we all boarded our bus with our bathing suits and towels packed (tip to others, bring flip flops and a robe too!) and had a 45 minute drive through a rather desolate lava strewn countryside. It was almost eerie to be driving for miles without seeing at least one tree. The land, due to volcanic activity, is filled with lava rock and almost reminds you of the craters on the moon. Our tour guide informed us that it would take at least another 200 years before the area will be filled with trees. We finally reached our destination and believe me we were all still rather clueless regarding what to expect. Thankfully, when we got into the facility, everything was quite civilized, modern, ultra-clean and very pleasant. We were given a high-tech wrist band with a microchip to wear which we were told was used to scan our lockers and lock them. The Crabby Old Guy, who is not a swimmer, was hoping that it was also a means to track him in case he got lost in the Blue Lagoon. No matter what your age is we all did a quick sprint (the sprint was definitely faster than most of us have moved in a good number of years) from the locker rooms into the lagoon. The air temperature was 53 degrees F and felt a tad bit nippy to be walking around in our bathing suits, even when dry. The water was an eerie murky opalescent blue and I'm guessing that it was at least 100 degrees F but it felt wonderful. We were on the tour with two couples who we met onboard the first night. The six of us were floating in the lagoon when we saw a man with his face covered in white just like a mime. We thought he had put on some zinc oxide since it had become quite sunny. The next minute we saw him with a group of his friends and they too had white faces which led to a comment by one of our friends that they belonged to the Marcelle Marceau tour. It wasn't long before we discovered pails filled with white silica that you ladled into your hands and then smeared all over your face for a Blue Lagoon facial. One of our friends, Carol had been swimming off in the distance when she returned and saw us all in white faces. The look of shock was priceless! We all decided that we must have a photo of all of us in our white masks; the kids will never believe that we would do this without proof positive! After returning to the ship and a quick on-board lunch we decided to take a ride into Reykjavik by taxi. The cab driver told us we had to taste one of their famous hotdogs at what translates into "Town's Best Hot Dog Stand". He told us that this stand, which has been there since the 1930's, is where locals go after being away from home to get a right proper hotdog. So as we stood in a rather impressive line of locals (it was after all 2PM) we spotted a photo and a cartoon inside of the stand of Bill Clinton eating one of their hotdogs. Imagine that. The cab driver had told us they don't like to tell people that the following week President Clinton suffered a heart attack. The hot dog tasted like a mix between an American hotdog and a sausage and the mustard they use is a khaki color and tastes completely different than our mustard and more like a honey base product. The dogs were also frequently served with mayonnaise or "bread crumbs" (which really taste like those fried onions you get from a can and use on green-bean casserole). We walked for an hour or two around the main district shopping area and found the prices to be rather high. July 16th was a sea day- translate - another eating-sleeping-reading-meandering day on board the Tahitian Princess. Everyone was very excited about entering Prins Christian Sound in Greenland the next day. Sadly, the excitement didn't last long when the Captain announced that the Sound would be closed due to a large number of ice floes and icebergs that came down from the Arctic and now surrounded the entrance to the sound. We also were encountering rather substantial wave action and gale force winds that made navigation very perilous and once again those of us who have sailed with Captain Ravera before were very thankful that he was at the helm. July 17th at 8:00AM Captain Ravera, who had been on the bridge since 4:00AM that morning monitoring the seas, the weather reports and working with an on-board Greenlandic pilot, brought us as close as safely possible to the entrance of Prins Christian Sound and many of us witnessed for the first time up close and personal huge icebergs surrounding the entire coast line of Greenland like the rings of Saturn. New words were added to our vocabulary such as "bergie bits" (floating ice bigger than a piano), and growlers (sort of the size of a person). Massive pieces of polar ice were also being moved all around us by 50 knot winds (gale force) and we watched in amazement at the raw spectacle of Greenland's snow and ice covered mountain coast. Parallel to the coast were two belts of ice floes and it didn't take long for us to realize this wasn't a Disneyland ride, this was the real deal. It was a time when all of us, once again, appreciated having a professional crew on a well managed ship to give us as good a view of the land as possible but to keep us all safe and comfortable in some fantastic weather. This was all very dramatic and many of us sitting in the Tahitian Lounge watching the area were at times in awe and at times somewhat tense when a wind or wave gust took the ship. Crabby of course didn't help matters as he continued to hum the theme song of the Titanic in my ear. One other modest observation to share. It's interesting to note that there is very little animal life to be seen in this region. It is not at all what you see in Alaska or the Antarctic. July 18th was supposed to be Qaqortoq, our only port of call in Greenland. Once again Captain Ravera announced that due to weather and a belt of ice directly in the path of our port we would not be able to dock in Greenland. Disappointment could be heard throughout the ship but we all understood that his decision was made for our safety. Still many wondered how if the Sound and the port are closed to the ships more often than open and whether Princess Cruise Lines Corporate should add a note to the itinerary stating the possibility of closure. Many people felt a bit frustrated that after visiting the Faroe Islands on Sunday when everything was closed and then missing out on Greenland only to have an additional port in Canada be added (Sydney, Nova Scotia) it was not the itinerary they had traveled from as far away as Australia for or had hoped or paid for. Everyone was thankful that Captain Ravera was at the helm and looking out for our safety and we are quite aware that Mother Nature can be fickle at times but it would have been nice to be informed from the start that there was a very large possibility that these two events could be cancelled. Several people onboard told us they have taken a similar itinerary and have also been closed out of the sound before. One couple even mentioned this was the fourth time that they had cruised to the Sound only to have it closed. At any rate, when life gives you lemons you might as well enjoy some lemonade so we are now looking at three continuous days of not so scenic cruising in the rather cold and foggy North Atlantic heading to St. John's, Newfoundland which we should arrive on the 20th. But there are some bits of good news. Due to the diligence of the crew and the passengers the Norovirus onboard has been contained and we are now at yellow alert which is the norm. The food is great, the ship is comfortable, the entertainment staff is working hard to put on some additional activities and the well heeled and well traveled companion guests on this rather eventful voyage are most interesting to talk with. July 20th was a great day for all of us onboard the Tahitian Princess. It was the first time in four days that we didn't wake up to a cold and foggy North Atlantic Sea weather day. As we pulled into St John's, Newfoundland, at the eastern most tip of the American Continent, it was as if a miracle occurred... the sun was out and the passengers onboard all had big smiles on their faces. Everyone seemed to be stepping a little more lively and even though many of us aren't morning people until our first cup of coffee or tea, we were all chattering happily and laughter could be heard all over the ship. Kudos to Captain Ravera and his staff who worked vigilantly on the bridge both day and night to get us safely through the icebergs, gale force winds and fog. There were times in the past three days when the fog was so thick that you couldn't see the water. At 4:00AM of the morning we were to dock at St. John's, when most of us were sleeping Captain Ravera was called to the bridge by his officers. While the fog horn blew every 5 minutes warning other ships of our position the ship, again this is no Disneyworld ride folks, was safely guided through the proverbial pea-soup. When I asked the Captain how he managed the long hours on the bridge, he smiled and said, "It's part of the job, madam." The Newfoundlanders were unbelievably welcoming to the passengers on the TP. We woke to the sounds of a fife and drum and when we disembarked there were two beautiful and friendly black Labrador dogs and a black Newfoundland dog to greet us. Many of the passengers took advantage of a photo-op with the dogs. We were also greeted with the firing of two cannons at the entrance of the harbor. Okay, there were quite a few jokes being made as to where the cannons were being aimed. Anyway, it was quite a nice welcome that made our journey there seem even more of an event. At 9:15AM my husband, "The Crabby Old Guy" and I boarded a van with a few of the nice people we met on board and were off through the beautiful countryside to get on a boat for whale sightings and a look at Puffin Island. (Some of us were shocked when in Iceland we saw roasted puffin on the menu.) Once on the boat they announced that a pod of 11 to 15 humpback whales and a calf were spotted in the fjord, so we took an unexpected brief detour to go whale watching. The commentator on the boat said whale watching is 90% patience and 10% luck. Let me tell you it was definitely our lucky day because for more than an hour the whales performed as if they were in a show at Sea World. One mother and calf both breached the water at nearly the same time; it was an incredible sight to see a 30 to 40 ton whale rise out of the water and jump 10 feet in the air. So much was going on that many of us missed incredible photo shots all around the small boat. It wasn't long before we all agreed to meet back onboard the TP and swap photos. Interestingly enough the majority of us had taken the cruise to see Puffin Island and the whale watching was just secondary, but at the end of it all we agreed that the highlight of the trip were the whales and even 100,000+ birds on the sanctuary island as fantastic as that was, could not top the whale watching experience. After we spent over an hour watching the whales we headed back on the original course and sailed out to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve and North America's largest Atlantic puffin colony...what an amazing sight that was! Over a hundred-thousand (who do you think counts all of them to verify the tourist script?) puffins, seagulls and kittiwakes were perched on and flying in huge warming flocks around the rocks and inlets of the sanctuary island. The puffins looked like miniature penguins all lined up in the crevices in the rock. I was surprised to learn that the puffins only keep their colorful orange beak for three months during the mating season. Once back onboard the TP most of us headed for the buffet. Although many of us planned to take a stroll through the town which, by the way, is very hilly the urge to take a nice relaxing nap seemed to work for many others of us. You must remember that we all wanted to be bright-eyed and alert when we made our after dinner donations at the casino. July 21st we docked in the French Territory of St Pierre et Miquelon. The town provided us a complimentary shuttle (a yellow school bus) to take us into the heart of the town which was about a 10 to 15 minute ride. The town was a beautifully quaint fishing village that had much of the charm of a French-mainland town. Outside the information center was a lady playing old French songs on an accordion while inside the attendants were handing out maps and samples of the local berry liqueur.The weather was sunny and beautiful and it was just pleasant to take a leisurely stroll through the town. The shops were open in the AM and PM but, keeping with good French tradition, even when the cruise ships are in port, most of them closed between 12:00 noon and 2:00PM. We were told that cod fishing was the island's main industry. For any ladies interested they now also sell cod skin pocketbooks and wallets which are quite attractive. Oddly enough the cod skin resembles the snake skin bags and wallets that were so popular years ago. Many of the ship's passengers were trying to get a signal on their cell phones, but to no avail. One of our dinner companions was told that there are no cell phones on the island. When she asked the information hostess how they were able to get by without cell phones she quickly and earnestly replied, "It's a very small island." ah, such a French answer...LOL. One passenger on hearing this story did reply that, "Our teenagers would be revolting and sending up smoke signals." This evening was the one "Chef's Table" on this cruise (on this length voyage there are usually two but with Mr. Norovirus on board one had to be cancelled). Unfortunately, we were not able to do this food-as-theater event but from what we hear it is well worth the $75-80 per-person charge. The meal, which begins in the galley with a tour, includes champaign and wine pairings with appetizers and then everyone goes to one of the specialty restaurants for the remainder of their specially prepared gourmet meal. The entrEe is the chef's choice, and usually includes lobster, veal or lamb and all served in a grand style. Passengers are given a souvenir photo with the chef and Maitre de Hotel and a beautifully hand printed menu. Seating for these events are limited so if this sort of fine dining event is of interest inquire of the Maitre' de Hotel or the call the dining reservations line early on. Oh, one final note of calm about our Norovirus visitor, particularly for those coming aboard for the July 25th sailing out of New York. I spoke with the ship's Senior Doctor, Dr. Lana Strydom, just today (July 23) and she told me that since 7/17 all has been normal on the gastrointestinal front! Food service and all amenities on board are back to a blissful state of enjoyment. They all did a great job in containing this thing. July 22 was our last port-of-call in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Sadly, it was a foggy rainy day and for the first time on this voyage we had to tender into the port. Many of the passengers decided to just go into the town and walk around while others took tours of the city and Bell Museum. "Crabby" and I decided not to brave the elements and to stay onboard and get a few things done, like our laundry. After a relaxing lunch at the buffet (I am going to miss these lunches) I met with Silvio Zampieri, the Maitre D' Hotel. Silvio is probably one of the best Maitre Ds I have met on any of my cruises. I know last year several of the passengers had problems with the previous Maitre D' well, let me tell you, for those of you considering to take a cruise on the Tahitian Princess, Silvio is a breath of fresh air. We sat and chatted for awhile and Silvio told us that there was a change of scheduling and he was supposed to be on vacation with his wife, Laura and two little boys this cruise and instead he was here working. I can't even begin to imagine the sacrifices made for those who have chosen to work on these cruise ships. Silvio proudly took out a picture of his two little red headed boys and the look in his eyes spoke volumes about just how much he missed them! However, he said they and his wife would be joining him on the ship in Halifax. He couldn't be more excited and I wished that we could have been there to see this reunion. I asked Silvio how he dealt with difficult passengers on a day-to-day basis as well as supervise some sixty-eight personnel and with a smile on his face he only said, "It's my job Signora, it is not always easy but it is what I do to make sure that you all have a pleasant cruise, and besides, most of my staff are good hard working people and most of the passengers are a pleasure to deal with." Yet, there are the difficult passengers that all of the crew on all of the ships need to accommodate. It never fails to amaze me how some people can't make a request...they just demand. Later this evening as we sat down at our table and I started to think about all the amazing people we had met on this voyage. A couple from Germany, Peter and Martina, a couple from Australia, Richard and Carol, John and Lisa from Florida, John and Sally, Bob and Elaine and Penny and Don, Pat and Mike, Carolina and oh so many more. What made this trip so wonderful was that we met people who we would love to have as friends for the rest of our lives. Perhaps, the length of the cruise gave us more time to enjoy the companionship of so many others. On a seven day cruise you have fewer sea days and less time to spend with other passengers. We have decided that we really enjoy this length cruise for many reasons, including the people meetings, and it won't be our last extended cruise. Peter thank you for the collage picture. July 23 was a day at sea and the countdown to our "return to reality" had begun ...less than 48 hours till we disembark. Chef Michael Borns and Maitre D' Hotel Silvio Zampiere gave a funny and well staged - and succulent - culinary demonstration in the Cabaret Lounge and followed with a tour of the ship's galley. Aside from learning some new cooking techniques the banter between the two was very funny and left all of us laughing as we walked out of the lounge into the Casino. I just love the fact that on every cruise ship after you have seen the evening show you walk directly into the Casino. Don't you think this positioning is little like having the milk displayed in back of the supermarket...location, location, location! Now if only the slot machines would cooperate just once this trip and pay for this great adventure. Okay, can't I dream? Crabby says my dreaming is costing him a small fortune, LOL. Today we decided to go to the Steakhouse Restaurant for their "Traditional English Pub Luncheon" (no charge). I ordered the Fish and Chips and Crabby had the Bangers and Mash and we were both delighted with our choices. I would recommend keeping an eye on the daily events to see when these special theme meals are being presented, they are a great break from the dinning and buffet lunches on these longer trips. After lunch Crabby had to go to the library to return some books and I chose to wander over to the Casino since I was determined to see at lease on of those darn slot machines finally pay off...or maybe NOT! On the way I bumped into JJ King, our Cruise Director. If you have never sailed with JJ before you're missing a real personality. For you Baby Boomers out there I would describe him as a cross between Cary Grant and Fred Astaire, and he sings with the style of an accomplished crooner! Yes ladies, he's charming, debonair and sniffle, sniffle...happily married to the Manager of the Boutique Shops onboard. There I go again dreaming, oops just kidding Crabby. As you can see I'm definitely a people person and love to ask questions (I blame it on my age). I asked JJ what led him to a life at sea. He replied "I come from Kent, England and have been with Princess Cruise Lines for 23 years. I first started out as an entertainer and singer. When you are a land based entertainer you spend a good deal of time auditioning for and waiting for your next job. At sea, well, we get to do what we love every single day, entertain people." When asked about some of the difficulties of his position JJ said that on the World Cruise they had 56 Cabaret acts to schedule and manage. This means setting up rehearsals as soon as the act boards, getting the staging right and dealing with the entertainer's needs and personalities. Princess Corporate Offices assigns the entertainment onboard each ship and the Cruise Director and his assistant directors have a lot of logistic issues including saying some prays that they all make their flights and show up at their designated port to board the ship and entertain on time and with their equipment. On this cruise one of the entertainers arrived on the ship without his luggage. Quickly, JJ had to find an outfit for him to wear. A few hours later the wonderful pop-violin musician was all outfitted in his signature white attire, he was dressed in a pair of officer's white pants, a shirt from the boutique and a borrowed tie with some sequins glued on to it and he was on stage entertaining all the passengers. When for some reason or other the ship cannot get into the port or has to divert the Cruise Director and his staff are scrambling to create and fill time with unplanned events for the entire day. What I found most interesting about JJ was his ability to manage all the entertainment on the ship and still be very visible and take the time to sit and talk with the passengers. Also, Princess, particularly on this type of upscale cruise, does not inundate passengers with countless "advertisement" announcements during the voyage. The best cruise directors, like JJ, provide just the correct amount of PA- delivered information to help you know what is going on but not so much that you feel you just stepped into the middle of a Circus Midway. JJ and team, thank you for a job well done! Oh! I don't want to forget to give a special mention about Frankie, the Assistant Cruise Director who also can be seen working hard all day and into the evening all over the ship. Late one evening as we were leaving the Casino Lounge Frankie was diligently putting away all of the Karaoke equipment. I asked Frankie "When do you sleep?" He laughed and said "When the job is done." Frankie was known by many of the passengers we joined on the cruise and all loved having him on board. Frankie not only oversees many of the programs on board he also MC's several of them. He has over 17 years experience at sea conversing with passengers and making their voyage very comfortable and enjoyable. We would love to cruise again with Frankie, and if any of you see him on a cruise, say "HI" to him for Crabby and I. July 24 is our final day at sea. It's hard to believe that 18 days could pass so quickly. According to the map we are just off the coast of Maine. It's going to be a very busy day and the Tahitian Princess is rocking and rolling and not just with activity-it is a bit wavy out there in the Atlantic. Oddly enough this is probably the roughest seas we have had in the 18 days. Perhaps, the seas are waving farewell, (ouch! Bad pun). Early that day Crabby was busy packing and I was going to see what sales were going on in the boutiques today. Yep, the tee shirts are all on sale. Some great jewelry sales but my dear husband would throw me overboard if he saw an exorbitant amount (according to him) on my cruise card. You know, I should just buy a piece of jewelry and charge it to that darn slot machine by the door. Can't wait for Crabby to see my casino credits, oops! This afternoon the Crabby Old Guy is giving a seminar on...and you won't believe this...drum roll..." A Behind The Scenes Look At The Marketing of Viagra"! Yes, Crabby worked for Pfizer and was amazingly involved with the birth of the world's most incredible sex drug. Yes, there were plenty of chuckles during the talk as he described how the churches, Congress and many celebrities were involved in getting the drug to market quickly. He did request that no one ask a personal question in regard to taking Viagra themselves and made sure that everyone knew there would be no samples...LOL. I was just happy this talk was given on the last day since poor Crabby, can you image if it was the first day would have spent the entire trip answering questions. Well according to Frankie, who MC'd, and JJ the seminar was just great. He had over 200 people there and they all seemed to enjoy it. Considering the rolling of the ship it was a great turn out. Good job Crabby! Let me tell everyone before I receive a 1000 emails complaining about my calling my sweet husband The Crabby Old Guy. He was the one who gave himself that name. He reads all my blogs and reviews them before I publish then and very often will remind me of a funny story about himself that I missed. Dinner this last evening was going to be very special night. We had decided a few days before to invite some of the people who had become friends to have a farewell dinner with us at Sabatini's Trattoria. I also invited Captain Ravera and the ship's physician Doctor Lana Strydom to join us. We were all so pleasantly surprised when the Captain and the Doctor sat down and joined us. The company of friends, food and conversation was wonderful. We exchanged email addresses and reminisced. We had shared so many adventures and laughs in the past 18 days that we all agreed that we had to stay in touch. Nello, one of the wonderful dining room supervisors, and Silvio stopped by and we thanked them for their fabulous service. It was an interesting feeling to know that we boarded the ship in Dover and did not know any of the passengers onboard and we were now leaving with the feeling of family members leaving a reunion. July 25 arrival New York. The Statue of Liberty never looked so sweet. Breakfast would be the last meal we had onboard the Tahitian Princess - for this trip. Entering the Buffet on Deck 9 was bittersweet. Good-byes and hugs were seen everywhere. We all wanted to hold onto one more moment on this amazing cruise. My wonderful friend Carol (an artist from Australia) surprised me with a pastel of a beautiful dolphin. Carol, it is hanging in my office and I will cherish it forever. Captain Ravera, and crew, once again you have given us a memorable and safe cruise. It was a privilege to be invited to dine at your table. Hopefully we will meet again on the Ocean Princess (the new name for the Tahitian Princess when it leaves dry-dock in November). We appreciate the hours you stood on the bridge through the fog, icebergs and rough seas while we slept comfortably in our beds. You are a Captain of Captains! Ciao and Warm Hugs, The Savvy Old Lady Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
John and I (Carolyn) are retired university professors in our late fifties, who have been cruising since October, 1991. We are Elite Captain's Circle members on Princess but have also cruised on Holland America, Royal Caribbean, ... Read More
John and I (Carolyn) are retired university professors in our late fifties, who have been cruising since October, 1991. We are Elite Captain's Circle members on Princess but have also cruised on Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Costa, and Commodore. Most of our cruises have been in the Caribbean but we have also cruised to Alaska, the Panama Canal, the Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Russia, Hawaii, French Polynesia, South America/Antarctic Peninsula, the Far East, and the Amazon River. For shore excursions, we prefer nature and wildlife tours that involve hiking, snorkeling, or SCUBA diving. In particular, we will hike for miles to see waterfalls, volcanoes, caves, or other interesting geologic features. We also enjoy lighthouses, forts, castles, and anything else we can legally climb up on for a good view. Both of us are natives of New Orleans and, as such, are interested in good food and good times. Our preferred souvenir is a small regional or national flag. One this trip, I was seeking flags from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Greenland, Sheltands, Faroes, Scotland, and St. Pierre & Miquelon. This review is primarily a travelogue of what we did in the various ports, including links to tourist sites and maps. As is our custom, we mostly took self-guided tours/hikes or private tours arranged with other members of our Cruise Critic roll call. However, we did take some Princess tours when timing or availability was a major issue. We had previously visited only one of the ports (Reykjavik). We booked this as a 36-day cruise. However, it was marketed as two 18-day cruises, "The Land of Fire and Ice" (NYC-Dover) and "The Top of the World" (Dover-NYC). Thus I have reviewed each segment separately. Only one port (Qaqortoq) was included in both cruises. Day 0 (Saturday, July 25) NYC, on EDT John and I flew to NYC on Friday afternoon and spent the night (on Marriott rewards points) at a Fairfield Inn near LGA. The next morning, we taxied to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal with hopes of a fast embarkation so we could hike across the Brooklyn Bridge. We arrived at the terminal about 11AM and checked in quickly. However, we had to wait in the Platinum/Elite lounge for over 2 hours before we could embark due to an extensive Coast Guard inspection of the Tahitian Princess. By the time we made it to our cabin, time was getting short and we decided to save the hike for another visit. In case you are interested in trying the hike, these are the instructions that Coo359a2 obtained from the General Manager of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal: Exit the cruise terminal at the Pioneer and Conover Street gate. Go two blocks to Van Brunt Street and make a left. Take Van Brunt for several blocks to Union Street. Make a right and go to Columbia Street. On Columbia make a left. Follow Columbia all the way to Atlantic Avenue. Make a right onto Atlantic. Go a few blocks and make a left onto Clinton Street. Clinton becomes Cadman Plaza. Follow Cadman Plaza to Old Fulton Street. At Old Fulton make a right onto Prospect Street. There is a pedestrian stair case to the bridge in that area. Total walk from the terminal to the bridge is about 2.5 miles. The bridge itself is about a mile walk. You might want to think about following Court or Smith Streets as they have some nice shops, restaurants, and bars along the way. All the streets along the route I gave you have sidewalks that are in good shape. If you want to cut down some of the walk, you could take the B61 bus which stops outside our terminal on Van Brunt Street and Pioneer Street. Take it to Atlantic Avenue and Court Street and you will cut off about 2 miles of your walk. (Note: Coo359a2 bought bus tickets at the little corner quick stop on the street straight from the ship. For more information on pedestrian access to the bridge, see transalt.org/files/resources/bridges/brooklyn.html.) For a self-guided walking tour of the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, check out www.brooklynhistory.org/publications/download/Brooklyn_Heights_tour.pdf or www.galttech.com/research/travel/brooklyn-heights-promenade-walking-tour.php. Day 1 (Sunday, July 26) At Sea on EDT+1 The first full day was a sea day and we were in dense fog all day. In the afternoon, there was a Cruise Critic get-together in the Tahitian Lounge. Tonight was the Captain's Welcome Cocktail party and the first of three formal nights on this leg of the cruise. Day 2 (Monday, July 27) Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, on EDT+1 We were supposed to dock at Pavilion 22 in Halifax (www.cruisehalifax.ca/our-city/halifax-seaport.html) at 7AM but that was delayed due to the low tide. Then the Captain announced that the Customs & Immigration officials thought we were arriving at 8AM and were not even at the dock yet. We finally got off the ship at about 8:30AM and hiked along the waterfront boardwalk and over to the car rental agency to pick up our compact car, which turned out to be a Sebring convertible. Unfortunately, it was foggy and misty all morning so we did not bother trying to put the top down — we just took off along the Lighthouse Route (novascotia.com/en/home/planatrip/gettingaround/scenic_travelways/lighthouse_route/default.aspx) for Peggy's Cove (www.peggyscovearea.com), hoping to get there before the tour buses. The fog was even worse at Peggy's Cove but we could walk up to the lighthouse and see it and the gigantic granite boulders. In some ways, the fishing boats and lobster traps in the village had a special beauty in the fog. We continued on along St. Margaret's Bay and the fog was not as dense there. We left the Lighthouse Route at Upper Tantallon and returned to Halifax along the main highway. By now the fog had cleared and it was warm and sunny. We stopped at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery (www.halifax.ca/history/titanicfvc.html), where over 100 Titanic victims are buried (including "J. Dawson" — J. for Joseph or James, not Jack). It is a lovely cemetery with lots of trees. Next we dropped off the car and hiked up to the Halifax Citadel (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/ns/halifax/index.aspx), just in time for a guided tour. It was fun to watch the reenactors (dressed in kilts) trying to teach some kids under 7 how to march in formation. On the way back to the ship, we walked through the Public Gardens and the Victoria Gardens. We also stopped at an Atlantic Superstore near the dock to pick up some sunscreen, wine, and granola bars. I was able to find flags for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in the cruise terminal and a flag for Scotland at the Citadel. Back on the ship, almost everyone returned on time except for two older men. An officer had to go fetch one of them away from the shops. When the ship left, the Captain announced that some of the passengers had used calendars instead of watches to tell time. Day 3 (Tuesday, July 28) At Sea, on EDT+1.5 We had some sun in the morning and John actually saw a whale spout (I was brushing my teeth and missed it). Later the fog moved in again. Day 4 (Wednesday, July 29) St. Anthony, Newfoundland, Canada, on EDT+1.5 It was foggy all night but it was pretty clear by the time we started tendering into St. Anthony (www.town.stanthony.nf.ca/attractions.php) at noon. We had hoped the dock would be the municipal dock but it was one furthest from where we wanted to be (Fishing Point Park) and near the "downtown" by the Grenfell Handicraft Center. Once we got off the tender, we headed for Fishing Point and the trails there (www.town.stanthony.nf.ca/Hiking_trails.php); that took 23 minutes at fairly fast pace. The trails were quite nice, especially the Santana Trail to the top of the headland — only 477 steps to a great viewpoint. After hiking all the trails there, we went back towards the dock and did the Tea House Trail around the Grenfell House; it has nice lookouts. After that we headed for the Harbour Trail but we were getting tired, so we decided to punt on that and go back to the ship about 4PM. The last tender was at 4:30PM and the ship left at 5PM — no stragglers today. Day 5 (Thursday, July 30) At Sea, on EDT+2 Today was the "Most Cruised Passengers" luncheon; this is for the 40 passengers with the most days on Princess. The Captain's Circle host, Sylvain, told us we barely made the cutoff with 282 days; we were just happy to have made it. BTW there are supposedly 674 people onboard and 80% are past passengers. There is a new perk for Elite members — a special lounge with snacks and a $5 special drink. John and I have been twice but it doesn't seem very popular; only 2 or 3 other couples were there. The snacks are not very special either although the smoked salmon yesterday was very nice. Also, there are wordy signs in the Internet Cafe explaining that you cannot get bonus minutes (like the embarkation special) unless you buy an internet package that costs more than the complimentary Platinum/Elite package. Day 6 (Friday, July 31) Qaqortoq, Greenland, on EDT+2 The people on the previous cruise (Dover-NYC) could not get into this port because of ice. We arrived in Qaqortoq (www.qaq.gl/index.asp?lang=eng&num=45) at noon, grabbed the first tender, and headed out to hike the mountain behind the town. If you want to hike, download a map (www.greenland.com/content/english/tourist/towns_regions/south_greenland/qaqortoq/map_of_qaqortoq); the tourist office has a more detailed free map of the town but it does not show the trails. Princess does not offer any tours in Qaqortoq but there were some local tours listed on a board outside the tourist office. The weather was sunny and cool when we started to hike but we were down to shirt sleeves by the end. The trails were supposed to start behind the high school (#1 on the map). We found something that looked like it might be a trail and headed up. I would call it a "slightly improved pig track" but John said that would be an insult to pigs. There was nothing to mark the trail except a few cairns near the top. Occasionally though there was some litter and a shotgun shell, which told us people must have passed that way sometime in the last 50 years. Fortunately, there are no trees and few bushes of any size; it is easy to see where you want to go even if you can't see a trail. Anyway, we first took the "trail" past the lake but did not go all the way to the green triangle (that's on the next fjord), only as far as the saddle between the hills. This is where we first encountered midges. We had brought DEET wipes and also no-see-um head nets that drape over our hats (www.coghlans.com/catalogue/productList.php?catID=11) because we had been warned they would be needed at Lake Myvatn in Iceland. However, all of that had been left back on the ship and we had to resort to vigorous swatting instead. We then backtracked to the second trail shown from point #1 to the top of that peak (about 1000 feet high). The views from the top of the ocean and all the icebergs were spectacular! No luck finding flags here, The tourist office had patches but the only flags were "party picks." They suggested that I try the grocery stores. I finally found paper flags about 8x10 inches in pack of 10. I decided to try to find one in Nanortalik. Day 7 (Saturday, August 1) Nanortalik, Greenland, on EDT+2 Today we had a full day in Nanortalik (www.nanortaliktourism.com/uk/home.html) so we did not even get up until the Captain announced that tendering had started. The tender ticket system was abandoned today because there was no huge demand to go ashore (unlike yesterday). However, we thought the scenery around Nanortalik was even more beautiful than at Qaqortoq. Princess does not offer any tours in Nanortalik but the tourist office had a number of activities scheduled (for a price). Princess did not seem to know anything about these activities; an announcement was made about them after the ship had started tendering and they are listed on the Nanortalik web site. We had downloaded a map (www.nanortaliktourism.com/uk/map.html) and copies were available from the tourist office. We climbed up the second highest mountain, Quassik or Raven Mountain. Again, we encountered midges but this time we were prepared. The DEET did not seem to have any effect; the midges seem to like "tourists with DEET sauce". We did use the netting and it works but obscures your vision. Plus you look like a real dork. However, it beats midges in your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Take my word for it, they do not taste good but are high in protein. We originally planned to walk back down the trail to town and then take the trail along the coast to see the fjord. However, the trails here were only slightly better than the ones in Qaqortoq. We decided that if the Greenlanders didn't care about marking their trails, then we did not care about staying on them. So we simply hiked down the opposite side of the mountain to the fjord and walked along the shore back to town. There were some small bergs grounded on the beach and we got to touch one. John saw one further out calve and another split — I was not looking and only heard the crack. Again, the trail (such as it was) appeared and disappeared but we made it back after about 5 hours (John estimates we hiked at least 9 miles). There have been a lot of icebergs — in fact the Captain said that he had to thread his way into Nanortalik very carefully. It has been interesting seeing so many weird shapes. Not much sea life although John did see a seal yesterday leaving Qaqortoq; by the time I got my binoculars focused he had dived. Also, the wildflowers are gorgeous; we took a lot of pictures of those. The wild blueberries were ripening in both Greenland ports and were delicious, much better than the midges. There were no flags here. There were high winds in the Denmark Strait so we did some rocking and rolling during the night. The Captain made an announcement to the cabins and public areas at dinnertime that anyone prone to motion sickness should pop their pills, slap on their patches, or snap on their bands in preparation. Day 8 (Sunday, August 2) At Sea, on EDT+3 Tonight was the second of three formal nights on this leg of the cruise. The Captain's Circle Cocktail Party was held tonight. Day 9 (Monday, August 3) At Sea, on EDT+4 Tonight we did the Chef's Table for the third time. We had previously done it on the Emerald and the Pacific. It was outstanding, as usual. The people who went to the "Most Traveled Passenger" luncheon on Thursday were allowed to visit the bridge today. This was top secret! Day 10 (Tuesday, August 4) Grundarfjordur, Iceland, on EDT+4 This was our first of 5 ports in Iceland. As we sailed into the harbor, we could see Kirkjufell mountain, reputedly the most beautiful mountain in Iceland. We took the first tender ashore and walked into town; I was told that the town provided a free maps and a shuttle later in the day. In all our cruises, this is the only port for which Princess did not provide any port guide. Although we had doubts (given the difficulty of arranging it), our rental car was available once we found the office and someone to fill out the paperwork. If you want to rent a car (the availability is very limited), get the details from the tourist office (www.grundarfjordur.is/default.asp?tre_rod=002|&Sid_Id=10283&tId=1&qsr) well in advance. Bobtroll and his wife joined us on our tour of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, so we opted for a slightly larger Toyota Avensis instead of the Hundai Getz that I had originally reserved. First we drove east on Hwy 54 (www.bigmap.is/resources/Images/6238_bigmap2008_1.jpg) to see a tall waterfall just outside of Grundarfjordur. Then we made a U-turn and drove towards Olafsvik, stopping at the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall and reflective pool near Kirkjufell. There are many waterfalls all along the coast road. About 5 km before Olafsvik, Hwy 54 turns inland and becomes a gravel road. We think the bus tour went that way but we did not. We continued along the coast on Hwy 574 until reaching Hwy F570 (also a gravel road) just before Olafsvik. Here we turned left (south) towards the town of Arnarstapi. Hwy F570 passes through the Snæfellsjökull National Park (english.ust.is/Snaefellsjokullnationalpark). The volcano is the setting for Jules Verne's "Journey to the Centre of The Earth." As we crossed the volcano, we could see parts of the glacier but the top was hidden in the clouds. The road was a little rough but the rugged volcanic scenery was fascinating. On the southern side of the peninsula, we rejoined Hwy 574 and turned left (east) towards Budir for a couple of miles. We stopped at the Raudfeldargja ravine just north of the highway; this is an unbelievably narrow gorge that was cut into the east side of Mt. Botnsfjall by the Sleggjubeina River. It is supposed to have elves and many birds during nesting season; we did not see any elves or many birds. We only walked a short way into the ravine because of the amount of water flowing out. Further east we could see the Hnausahraun lava field. We turned west on Hwy 574 to Arnarstapi. By now we the clouds were dissipating and we were getting good views of the glacier. At Arnarstapi, we caught up to the ship's tour. Here, we took a short hike to the coast and along it for about a mile towards the Arnarstapi harbor. There is a sculpture of Bardur Snæfellsas (a demi-troll who protects the area from evil) above the beach at Arnarstapi. The coast is lined with magnificent lava formations, columnar basalt, ravines, natural bridges, and grottoes. One landmark is a large arch with a hole alongside called Gatkettur. More formations surround the pier. Continuing clockwise around the peninsula towards Hellnar, we passed through the Hellnahraun lava field, which stretches from the sea up to the glacier. Turning off the main road, we followed a steep dead-end road to Hellnar, with its picturesque hoof-shaped harbor and tiny pebbly beach. To left of the harbor is a sea cave, Badstofa, known for its special light exposure and colorful interior (we did not have time to hike to it). Valasnos, a freestanding rock, extends east of the bay. The National Park Visitor's Center is here; there are displays and some brochures and maps on the area. Hellnar is the birthplace of explorers who settled Vineland and had the first European child there. As we left Hellnar, we passed Lake Bardarlaug, an explosive crater from the close of the last glacial epoch. The crater is said to have been the bathing pool of the Bardur Snæfellsas. Driving further west along Hwy 574, we stopped at Malarrif to see a lighthouse, the basalt pillars of Londrangar, and the hill Svalthúfa. The latter two are the remains of a crater, which has been eroded to its present form by the sea. The farmers in the area never made or make hay on the hill, because it is said to belong to the elves living in the area. Younger lava fields surround this old crater ruin. About 10 km west of Hellnar is the turn off for Djupalon, where a short steep trail took us to Djupalonssandur, a beautiful pebbled beach with the remains of a shipwreck. On the beach there are also 4 big stones, which people used to test their strength in the days of the fishing stations: Fully Strong 154 kg, Half-Strong 100 kg, Weakling 54 kg, and Bungler 23 kg. Weakling marked the frontier of wimphood; any man who couldn't lift it was deemed unsuitable for life as a fisherman. The stones were actually less impressive than the beach. After another 4 km, we saw the Holaholar Crater (113 m), believed to be an elf town/community. We drove through the wall of Berudalur Valley and into a natural amphitheatre inside the cone. We did not have time to hike to the top of either this crater or the Saxholl crater, which is a little further down the road. Next we turned east onto the gravel road up the Eysteinsdalur valley, which runs alongside the Móðulækur river, towards the Snæfellsjökull glacier. We hiked to the waterfall Klukkufoss, just a short distance from the road, before returning to Hwy 574. We took another detour from the main road to Skarðsvík, an attractive little bay with light-colored sand and then the long road to Öndverðarnes for relics of fishing and domestic occupation and a lighthouse. It turned really cold and windy here. An ancient well named Fálki was a water source for the residents of Öndverðarnes that was supposed to have three flavors — fresh water, sea water, and wine. I didn't get to find out for sure about the well as it was dark in there and I didn't bring a flashlight. Retuning to Grundarfjordur, we had time to drive through the town and visit the church before returning the car and walking back to the tender dock. Day 11 (Wednesday, August 5) Isafjordur, Iceland, on EDT+4 Our day in Isafjordur (www.isafjordur.is/english/) was a bit of a disappointment. We had planned to hike to the Gleidarhjalli shelf above Isafjordur in the morning (www.vesturferdir.is/index.php?k=3&p=140 Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We just complete the Tahitian Princess June 19th Land of the Midnight Sun cruise from Dover to Dover. Ports included Stavenger, Tromso, Svalbard - cruising Magdalena Fjord and stopping in Ny Alesund, Honningsvag, Murmansk, Gravdal, ... Read More
We just complete the Tahitian Princess June 19th Land of the Midnight Sun cruise from Dover to Dover. Ports included Stavenger, Tromso, Svalbard - cruising Magdalena Fjord and stopping in Ny Alesund, Honningsvag, Murmansk, Gravdal, Trondheim, Geiranger, Bergen. The cruise was a total of 18 days. We changed our clock a total of 3 hours forward and got the 3 hours back returning to Dover. We are frequent cruisers and have cruised on Princess a total of 5 times, mostly on ships like the Crown and the Emerald. This was our first time on one of the Princess smaller ships. We are in our 60s and the age of passengers on this cruise skewed older than we. There were 3 children on the cruise. We had early dining at a table for 6, with amiable dinner companions. The makeup of passengers was about 40% British, 40% American and the rest Canadian, Australian and other nationalities. We flew to London and spent one night there. We took the train from Charing Cross right to Dover Priory. A short 7 pound taxi ride took us to the dock by 11 am. The Dover boarding area is fabulous and the people there were so friendly and accommodating.  We boarded shortly after noon and went directly to our cabin, a port oceanview on deck 4.  We checked at the front desk for any upgrades available (including paid ones), but they said they were fully booked. We found the location of the cabin to be good during the high seas we experience on the way to Svalbard. Although we felt the seas, it was not much at all and would book a midship oceanview again. (We found out later that a number of passengers were upgraded, including a cruiser who was moved from an inside to a balcony, gratis). The cabin was small but adequate.  The bathroom was acceptable, but had one of those small showers with curtains that can be uncomfortable.  We had filled out the cruise personalizer and also had our travel agent fax Princess asking for bathrobes, egg crate and Coke in the room. None of those items was there and when we finally found our steward just before 5 pm, we asked him to bring them.  The bathrobes and egg crate did show up, the Cokes never did.   The room had adequate storage for all our clothes. We used the safe for our valuables. We did have a problem in that the bedding was very old and stained. The sheets and duvets were actually coming apart in several places.  We asked the steward to replace them.  The sheets were changed mid-cruise but the torn duvet stayed on the bed.  Also, the carpet in the room had significant staining and our couch was very dirty with crumbs, stains and signs of wear. You could smell cigarette smoke.  We were told by the steward there was nothing he could do. He did eventually put deodorizer in the room and the cigarette smell was better. We met another couple who actually refused to move into their 7th deck balcony until all the soft goods in the room, including the drapes were removed and replaced to eliminate the smell of smoke and the ripped condition of the bedding. This ship is in desperate need of drydock to replace the room furniture bedding and drapes. It is scheduled for drydock Nov. 19 and will return as the Ocean Princess. Let's hope they replace the cabin furnishings. We went to the front desk to reports these conditions and found one of the most annoying issues on the cruise. The front desk staff's attitude was totally uncaring, non-responsive and frankly rude. Other passengers also expressed frustration with trying to deal with the front desk staff. Captain Ravera was very outgoing and it was common to see him throughout the ship speaking with passengers and staff. He did an excellent job telling us about high sea conditions and what to expect. He obviously loves his "White Lady" and during the cruise of the fjords turned the ship 360 degrees under waterfalls and in the fjords to afford all the passengers a wonderful view of the scenery. Other ships officers were not visible. The tour desk and Robbie the Tour Director had lots of information on the tours itself, and he was very visible and accessible. The port lecturer Hutch gave basic information on the ports, but nothing that you couldn't read in a tour book.  We were a bit surprised that he kept saying, "I haven't been able to get that information," on a number of ports.  It was as if he had been put on the cruise at the last minute without prior preparation. This was unfortunate, as a large number of passengers wished to do ports on their own and had little information besides the published sheet for each port. We were blessed with wonderful weather on this trip. The sun shone and the temperature was in the 60s many days, with the exception of the Arctic circle where it was cooler, but not cold. The ports themselves were interesting and provided a great contrast of the geography in that area of the world.  The mountains, waterfalls and fjords in the Geiranger area are among the most beautiful in the world. These contrasted to the stark dark mountains and snow in Svalbard.  The cruise in Magdalena Fjord on Svalbard was very interesting and began in a foggy mist and ended with peaking sun.  The temperature in the area hovered around 32 degrees.  When we docked in Ny Alesund on Svalbard, it was snowing lightly and 32 degrees. This is a research station with about 30 people living there in the winter, and 120 in the summer months.  We had to stay on the marked roads which were very close in the little village, because of the threat of polar bears.  There were men armed with rifles accompanying us during our few hours on shore.  We found out that less than 10% of the population of the world has visited this site and that 4 times as many people visit Antarctica as visit here. We felt very special to be able to experience this interesting place.  Unfortunately, we saw no polar bears, but did see a whale and reindeer. The arctic terns were nesting and dive-bombed anyone approaching too closely.  There is a small souvenir shop and a post office in Ny Alesund, both of which were mobbed by passengers looking for a memento of their visit.  Murmansk, Russia presented quite a contrast to the other areas.  First of all, a Visa was required to visit the city but if you were on a ship excursion, it was included.  This required a great deal of paperwork and coordination by the ship's staff, which was appreciated.  However, after the ship was cleared, the return of passports to the passengers became a free-for-all,  uncontrolled by the purser or anyone else.  Murmansk has 16 days of sun in a year.  We were fortunate to have a bright sunny day about 65 degrees. Murmansk is a gray barrack-like city which is the center of Russian submarine activity. Unfortunately, the tour guides were not allowed to speak of that aspect of the area.  We toured the city museum, were supposed to go to the Cathedral but there was a funeral in progress, and saw the WWII war memorial and cemetery. There was no time for shopping or other activities.  This is one city that we can say, once is enough.  Been there done that. One of our most favorite stops was Honningsvag where one can visit the North Cape, the most Northern place on the European continent.  Passengers also could take a boat trip on a birding excursion which we heard was also very good, or a trip overland to a gallery and Christmas shop. Gravdal, Lofoten Islands was probably the most beautiful place and a surprise to most everyone.  This is a "don't miss' spot if you are doing the Norway cruise.  The water, beautiful small fishing villages, mountains and waterfalls are awe-inspiring and picture postcard gorgeous.  We truly enjoyed this port. Bergen was also great with lots of energy and a wonderful fish market and Bryggen old town area.  We did most of the ports on our own with the exception of Murmansk, and found it easy to do after reading good tour books and doing computer research. The inconvenient part of the cruise was the timing of when we made ports.  Unfortunately, Stavenger, Honningsvag and Bergen all were ports on a Sunday and most of the shops and some sites were closed.  As for the ship itself, we found we truly enjoyed the smaller sized ship and would definitely prefer to cruise this sized ship over the larger ones. It is a stable ship and handled the seas well.  We found the lounge entertainment of the duos and piano player very good.  The evening shows we attended were good, not great, but the singers and dancers really tried. If you like big production shows, this is not the ship for you. To be honest, food was a real issue.  The breakfast buffet was good and we have no complaints.  However, lunch in the Panorama buffet was chaos. Because the weather was nice but not warm, many people wanted to sit inside. There simply is not enough space in the seating area of the Panorama to accommodate the number of passengers.  There was no attempt by the staff to help people find seats and there actually were people standing up eating their meals. Also, some excursions returned after 2 pm and we found that the buffet often was shut down early with nothing to eat.  Food in the dining room was adequate, but there was a constant problem with overcooked meat. We and our tablemates had to return food a number of times because although ordered medium rare, it was well done. The three times we ordered fish, it was soggy (with the exception of the fish and chips at lunch which was excellent). This has to end up being really expensive to Princess and they must be able to come up with something better.  We ended up ordering a lot of Caesar salad and fettucini alfredo, the "always available" foods. The chicken dishes were good. Our waiter did the best he could and was very pleasant. Head waiters Nello and Mauro were great also. The real problem was the specialty restaurants. We always look forward to dinner at Sabatini's.  It has been one of our favorite treats. However, we found the dinner there to be, frankly, awful.  The menu is entirely different on this ship than on the big ships like the Crown and Emerald.  The antipasto is ok, but the pasta course is no where near the quality of the other times we ate at Sabatini's.  The main course was a disaster. Both of our entrees were terribly overcooked. They serve pizza like in the buffet for a course.  The desserts were ok.  The restaurant was basically empty. Service was ok. The steakhouse was the same.  The menu is not at all the one on the other ships.  The appetizers are quesadillas, etc. The meat again was seriously overcooked - rib eyes. They do not have the chocolate molten cake. We were very disappointed and would not do them again with these menus.  Service was ok. Internet service actually was better than we expected.  There was outage while we were deep in the fjords and in Svalbard and outside of Murmansk, but good reception otherwise. WIFI worked well in the room when service was available. Cell phones also worked well most of the time, except in the Arctic area and Murmansk. Andrea in the Internet area is absolutely super helpful and cheerful.  She was a real asset to have onboard. Disembarkation went smoothly and we were off the ship by 8:30 am and off to Heathrow by train.   Things we liked: The club-like feeling of the Tahitian Princess Captain Ravera The library space Ice cream in the buffet The Ports The mix of nationalities onboard Speaker Captain Wells who talked on naval issues The Midnight Sun which made days seem longer   Things we did not like: Soft goods in room needed cleaning Food in the specialty restaurants Sunday ports and short afternoon only port visits Smell of smoke in common areas and halls Lack of other lectures on history of area Art auction taking up most of the Lounge and blocking views   One other point.  Our cruise was June 19th to July 7th.  This is about as early as one would want to do this cruise, because of the weather and the viewing of wildlife such as polar bears, seals, whales, etc.  The seas were high going up to Svalbard when we went. While we had good weather, reviews and posting of earlier sailings on other cruiselines talked about rain, bad weather and higher seas. Sailings this date and beyond would seem to be optimal. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Land of the Midnight Sun  st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; ... Read More
Land of the Midnight Sun  st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} This was my first cruise on one of the smaller Princess ships. I've been on all the other sizes, the Dawn, Sea, Coral, Island, Golden, Grand, Emerald, and Diamond. I flew from SFO to Heathrow (London) on Virgin Atlantic and it was a great flight, on time and good food. I got my air through Princess so I let them deal with any flight problems if there are any. I took the Princess transfer to Dover and arrived at the ship at around 3:00pm. Getting on the ship was a breeze! Since there are only 675 passengers on the ship I felt like I was the only one there getting on the ship. The staff at the port were great, very friendly helpful. The Tahitian Princess is one of 3 of Princesses small ships and it is completely different from any of the bigger ships. It has what the industry calls the "small ship feel" which is completely different from any other Princess ship I have been on. For most of the 18 days on board the ship it felt like there were only 50 other passengers total. There were almost no lines to anything, it was very calm and quiet almost anywhere you went on the ship and it takes almost no time to get anywhere on the ship. Since they bought it from Radisson the dEcor throughout the ship is a lot more like a small upscale hotel with dark rose wood paneling, wrought iron and brass railings, crown molding and everything is noticeably smaller. The ceiling heights are lower, giving the ship a much more intimate feeling. Most everything was clean and shiny. I had an inside cabin on the 7th floor and it was clean and well maintained and the cabin steward was great. The public rooms are great and the ship is extremely easy to navigate and it only takes a minute or two to get anywhere on the ship. Since this is a much smaller ship there is no giant theater to watch the usual nightly shows in. What they have is a lounge called the Cabaret Lounge in the front of the ship. It has both a stage and dance floor. The stage is rather small with enough room for the band with a little left over. So for the nightly entertainment the various performers would spill out onto the dance floor and give us an up close and personal show. The production shows felt quiet different since they were out on the floor right in front of you dancing away. Again the ceiling height is low which adds to the sense of intimacy. The entertainment was great with one exception and that was the hypnotist. I've seen this sort of act on another Princess cruise and I think they are terrible. The production shows were the usual variety; we also had some great singers, comedians, a piano player and a great violin player. I used the internet cafe almost everyday and at times I had to wait for a terminal, since there were a few days where we didn't have a satellite signal when the internet came back up everyone wanted to use it. The ship is going into dry-dock in November and the name will be changed to the Ocean Princess since it no longer is just sailing around the South Pacific. It's itinerary is all over the world, so if your up for an adventure this is the ship for you. The Food Since I have food allergies I eat both breakfast and lunch at the Panorama Buffet everyday.  For breakfast I usually have fruit and hot cereal of which there is always an abundant supply of fruit, my favorite being the papaya of which you may have to ask for, sometimes they had it out, sometimes not.  For lunch I made a huge salad of which there was always a great selection of veggies to choose from.  I like to put cranberry sauce on my salad and the Panorama Buffet staff always made sure I had some everyday. One thing I have found on cruise ships is that you can ask for almost any food item and the staff will get it for you, they almost never say no! One of the great things about this style princess ship is that the Panaram Buffet is in the back of the ship with plenty of inside seating as well as on the back you can sit outside on the deck overlooking the the ocean while eating.  As long as it wasn't raining or too cold I ate out there for every breakfast, lunch and snack for the whole cruise, it's wonderful and scenic. For dinner I had the second seating in the main restaurant. This way I don't have to rush to dinner and have the same waiter and table mates each night.  All the dinners were great every night. I order a special salad, sautEed vegetables and a yam for each night, while choosing between the various fish, lamb and chicken items.   For dessert I either had a bowl of berries, or they made me an Apple Tart Tatin. Like I said if you ask they will make it for you. The head waiter was exceptional and since there were less people on the ship the service was always fast and efficient. The Service I found the staff to be very helpful, it seemed every time I turned around there was someone with a name badge asking if they could get me something. Everyone from the Passenger Services Desk to the Deck Crew was willing to go the extra mile to help. My cabin steward had my cabin clean and well stocked all the time and she was always around most every time I was going to or leaving my cabin. The crew seems a lot happier, calmer and more personable than on the bigger ships. Lotus Spa and Gym I hit the gym almost every afternoon - I lift weights rather than do cardio so there were no real problems waiting for the machines. The equipment was enough for me to do maintenance workouts. I was there at 4-5pm and there was never any waiting for equipment. Everything was clean and worked! The locker rooms are very well done and they include a steam room. The one thing I miss on this small ship is the wrap around Promenade deck where you can walk 3 times around and it's a mile. On this ship the walking track was up on the 10th floor and it took 16 times around to get in a mile. Excursions and Ports I booked tours through Princess for peace of mind regarding schedules and getting back to the ship on time. If it's a Princess tour, they'll wait for you if it's late getting back to the ship. We were always right on schedule, arriving spot on time at every port. We tendered a few ports and it was a breeze, no waiting in line. We were given assembly times for our pre-booked tours and they were orderly and we got off the ship without too much delay. All in all the process was organized and smooth. We had mostly sunny weather at each port which was great! Since this was an 18 day cruise we had a number of great ports all in Norway except one in Russia. They were as follows; Stavanger which was sunny and beautiful, a great city to walk and enjoy the sights. Flaam which has a great sail in thought the Fjord, the weather was great, I rented a bike from the local tourist bureau and rode up the valley following the train, lot's of great waterfalls, rivers, beautiful houses and the bike was a great way to get around. Tromso also has a great sail in through the Fjord, the weather started out cloudy and then cleared in the afternoon. I walk over the main bridge and rode up the cable car which gives you a fantastic view of the entire area. The sail out was amazing, sunny and warm. Magdalennfjord (scenic viewing) is on the island of Spitzbergen which is 600 miles south of the North Pole! I must have seen at least 15 huge glaciers, absolutely amazing. Ny Alesund is a small international research town complete with Polar Bears and arctic fox (we didn't see any wild life except for a reindeer, although they do have signs warning you of the Polar Bear danger). Since this is such a small place there were no excursions, everyone just walked around the small community. There was a museum, a post office and a souvenir shop. The weather was a bit of everything, some snow flurries, some sun and some low clouds, the temperature was around 35 degrees. You really felt like you were out in the middle of nowhere! Honningsvag is a small fishing village at the top of Norway. One of the most striking thing about the area is that there are no trees anywhere because during the winter there is no sun so the trees can't grow there. I went on a Bird Safari which was great. We boarded a boat and went out amongst the small islands in the area where thousands of birds call home. It was a great narrated tour, it was as if we were in an open air zoo with an amazing amount of nesting, flying, swimming birds. Murmansk (Russia) The best part of this port was the sail in, we passed a number of Russian naval ships, submarines, an aircraft carrier and some nuclear powered ice breakers. The Russians like to feel important so they make the immigration process a big deal. First we had to hand in our passports, then retrieve them when we were getting off the ship and have an immigration official look at our passport and then look at us to see if pour pictures matched, then when we returned to the ship they would look at our picture again and look at us to see if we matched. Fortunaltly the officials doing the looking were attractive women so I didn't mind at all (of course I'm single so I enjoyed smiling at the women in charge and one of them smiled back, the other kept her frown going the whole time). The city itself is a typical gray depressing Russian city. Most of the buildings were built in the 50's and 60's when communism ruled. The tour guide said most of the huge apartment buildings were temporary and would be replaced in 20 years. Now it's 40 to 50 years later and the buildings are falling apart. It was like we were in a time warp from the 60's. Gravdal is a beautiful area. I took an excursion that took us to a few of the other islands and various fishing villages. This place had some of the most beautiful scenery of the whole cruise. One of our stops was voted the most beautiful place in the world by Newsweek magazine, it was amazing. Trondheim has a great sail in and the city is easily walkable and beautiful as well. I walked around the city with another couple enjoying the typical Norwegian buildings and colors. There is a great church that you can climb up a zillion stairs and get to the base of the steeple for some great views of the entire city. The weather was great, sunny and warm! Geiranger has the best sail in of all. We had completely clear skies and warm temps the whole day. On the sail in the captain slowed the ship and we enjoyed at least 100 magnificent waterfalls because of the late thaw the area was having. At the 7 sisters waterfall the captain spun the shin around so everyone had a great view no matter where you were on the ship. The town was great, lot's of people enjoying the great weather. I found my way up to the Fjord center and asked an employee there about hiking up the hill for a better view of the area. I'd seen on the internet some amazing photos of people at the top of the Fjord looking down at the water. I was directed to a great trail right off the road and up I went finally getting to an over look that was breathtaking. Again the weather was warm and sunny, picture perfect! The sail out was great as well. Bergen was warm and cloudy most of the day. It's a great city to walk and take in the sights. The fish market is great with lot's going on and some great food to be had as well. Since it was a Sunday there was a lot of live music going on in the main pedestrian walkway. Disembarkation On the mornings of disembarkation I usually get up eat breakfast and find a nice lounge chair either on top deck if it's nice or down on the promenade deck and wait there for my time disembark. Princesses new disembarkation procedure works beautifully. I was off the ship and on my way back to Heathrow in about 5 minutes. Of course it helps when there are only one forth the amount of passengers getting off the ship. Summary As with all other Princess cruises that I have been on, this one was equally enjoyable, you know what you're going to get on a Princess cruise. The staff is always helpful and friendly, the ships are always clean and nice, the food is always great, the atmosphere is always casual and relaxed, the entertainment is always professional and varied, everything is usually always on time and the price is always competitive. I always feel well taken care of on a Princess cruise. I'm already planning my next few cruises (South Pacific in September on the Star Princess and the Caribbean on the Grand Princess in January) and yes I will definitely cruise with Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
This cruise was wonderful from start to finish.  The embarkation and debarkation were smooth, easy, and fast.  The ship is so beautiful that I took pictures of several of the public rooms.  The service throughout the ship was not only ... Read More
This cruise was wonderful from start to finish.  The embarkation and debarkation were smooth, easy, and fast.  The ship is so beautiful that I took pictures of several of the public rooms.  The service throughout the ship was not only helpful and friendly, but they seemed genuinely happy and eager to be helpful.  I did not eat in a specialty restaurant as the food and service in the dining room were so good.  The buffet was mostly good as well.  There were a few times, such as Asian lunch, when I didn't find much I wanted.  On those occaisions, I had pizza, which was consistently good.  The grill for hamburgers and hotdogs is right there as well.The entertainment I saw was good.  We only had three production shows instead of 4 due to 'technical difficulties'.  The three I saw were enjoyable, and the performers are certainly talented and hardworking.  They brought in two local groups for us, one on our overnight in St Petersburg and one on our overnight in Dublin.  Both groups were a lot of fun to watch as they did traditional music and dancing.  The piano player/singer in the Casino bar was also very good.  The cooking demonstration was much more fun than others I have seen due to the fun personalities of the head chef and maitre d'.I had a balcony cabin which was definitely a good size (although I travel alone, so two people might not agree with this).  There was a lot of storage including a good number of drawers as well as a number of shelves in the bathroom.  The balcony, deck seven, was completely covered from above, and you can't see the ones below either.  There are walls between the balconies next store almost completely closing you off and giving a real sense of privacy.  My room got flooded one night when a pipe burst in the hallway.  Once I let them know that, I was in another balcony cabin just down the hall within about 20 minutes to sleep the rest of the night.  The next day, they helped me move my belongings to the new cabin as the other one still had some clean up needed.  They apologized several times, providing me with a free load of laundry for anything that got wet and a bottle of wine.  I plan to send a letter to Princess to compliment them on the handling of this situation.The cruise started from Stockholm.  I arrived the day before.   The morning before boarding, I had time to walk around Old Town.  Old Town is not just for tourists.  There are a lot of businesses and apartments there.  I walked around the small streets and alleys, walking up to the palace to take pictures.Helsinki was the first port, and we were only there in the afternoon.  There are some nice sights there, and the ship docked right in the center of town.  Don't miss the Rock Church, it was amazing and beautiful.  I was on a private tour, but it should be easy to do this city on the HOHO. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
I am Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. My E-Mail is: hagglawphx@aol.com should you wish to contact me. This was our 24th cruise, and like most of our fellow passengers, our first trip to French Polynesia. It was also Princess' ... Read More
I am Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. My E-Mail is: hagglawphx@aol.com should you wish to contact me. This was our 24th cruise, and like most of our fellow passengers, our first trip to French Polynesia. It was also Princess' swan song for the inter-island cruise route; purportedly because of a dispute with the French authorities over higher port fees. As far as we know, only Regent Seven Seas' Paul Gaugin and the Windstar fourmasted sailing vessels will do the seven to ten (or eleven) day island tours. Getting there and aboard We let Princess do the transportation from Phoenix. They booked us on the later Air Tahiti Nui flight from LAX which left at 4:30 P.M., and with the two hour time zone difference, landed us in Papeete 8 1/2 hours later at 11:00 P.M. This small airline does a pretty good job with its passengers. The food in economy class was quite edible, and they, like all good Frenchmen, poured wine without charge. An efficient bus transfer and pretty rapid check in got us into our cabin just after midnight. The ship Tahitian Princess was one of the Renaissance ships number 1 through 7. When this cruise line folded after September 11, 2001, they were up for grabs. Oceania bought three, then Celebrity two others to form Azamara cruises. The Spanish company Pullmantur bought two, but sold them to Princess who renamed them Tahitian Princess and Island Princess. They are small, 32,227 grosstons, but neat, elegant and very conveniet to get around for the maximum 680 passenger capacity. We had sailed on Oceania's Insignia twice and Nautica once, so we were very familiar with it. Our cabin was 7046. Decks 6 and 7 are mostly standard verandah cabins. Deck 8 is for mini-suites which are about 50% larger. Deck 4 has window cabins in addition to the passenger service desk and excursion booking desk, while 3 has 15 porthole cabins. Larger suites and a few inside cabins are scattered about. Deck 5 has the Cabaret Lounge, a low-tech showroom venue, forward and the main dining room aft with shops, a lounge and the small casino in between. Deck 9 has the spa and gym (with a private spa jacuzzi)forward, the pool area midships and the buffet aft. Deck 10 has a very nice lounge area forward with another dance floor and great viewing, a jogging track around the midships, and the lovely library found on all these ships, as well as the two specialty restaurats aft. There is a small open sun deck forward on Deck 11. Where is Tahiti anyway? French Polynesia consists of 5 island groups scattered over an area the size of Western Europe; that is, about 1300 miles east to west and 1100 miles north to south. Papeete is the capital and located on the island of Tahiti. It is about 4050 miles southwest of Los Angeles, 4640 miles due west of Peru, 2640 miles due south of Hawaii, 2480 miles northeast of New Zeeland, and 3870 miles slightly northeast of Sydney. In short, it is in the middle of a very, very big ocean. The actual land mass of all 118 island is small; 1544 square miles. The city of Los Angeles is 469 square miles by way of comparison. But then, all of French Polynesia only has a population of 280,000, 70% of whom live on Tahiti. The 5 island groups include four which are volcanic uplift islands, much like Hawaii. These four are, the Society Islands which includes Tahiti, Bora Bora and most of the tourist spots; the Australs and the Gambier groups, south and east of Tahiti, and the Marquesas, about 875 miles north. The 5th group is the Tuamotu Archipelago, which are all atolls, coral reefs with small islands (motus) forming a central lagoon. The islands can have fairly high mountains, Mount Orohena on Tahiti is 7334 feet high; but the highest point on any atoll is about 10 feet. The islands are definitely French. There is some local autonomy with a legislative body, but the people vote in French national elections, elect delegates to the French National Assembly, and are totally part of France when it comes to military affairs, the justice and court systems, education, tariffs and national taxes. French is the official language, spoken by all, but sunce the 1980's the teaching of Polynesian (Tahiti variety) has been taught in the schools and is used by many in addition to French. While nominal Polynesians comprise over 75% of the population, with Chinese and Vietnamese (brought here when that country was "Tonkin" French) about 12-13% and the rest French from France; the French attitude to relaxed integration makes the amalgem of races quite interesting. We were interested when we found out that two of our guides were a fairly young French girl and man who had come here from France in the past 12 years. The weather never varies much all year long, or during the day. It is much like Hawaii, always in the 70s or 80s with high humidity. Although we were supposed to be in the rainy season, we were affected by rain only once. Sail day We got up the next day to find our luggage outside. We unpacked in a liesurely manner after breakfast and then in the afternoon took a ship's tour of Papeete and part of the island of Tahiti. We visited the museum home of James Normal Hall, one of the "Mutiny on the Bounty" authors, a lovely waterfall slightly inland and a few other sights. Our guide had moved to Tahiti from Los Angeles about 15 years ago to marry a local girl. I am not sure if she is French or Polynesian. He provided a good deal of useful information on the history and present days status of these islands. Traffic in Papeete can be quite bad. This tour was a worthwhile introduction to the islands. Huanihe This was our first stop. We anchored in a beautiful bay separating the two parts of the island, and tendered ashore. We took a local form of transportation called "Le Truck" which basically is a medium sized truck with covered wooden benches in the back. It provides transportation, and serves sometimes as a school bus all over the islands. For $5.00 we went about fifteen miles to a small local town where some of the group went to the beach, and we strolled around the residential area, admiring the school and the neat, well cared for small homes, all with open doorways framed with colorful drapes. The crime rate in French Polynesia is very low. The inhabitants are froendly and relaxed. There is not much of a tourist industry on Huahine; the population engaged mostly in agriculture and fishing. After a sea day we arrived at Rangiroa, a huge atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago whose lagoon is about 20 miles across and 40 miles long. There are about 240 islands (motus) along with the reef as the atoll is 175 miles around. The main island where we visited is only about 500 yards wide, although it does have an airport. We came into the lagoon through a pass, accessible at the afternnon high tide, and anchored a few hundred yards off the lagoon side shore. This atoll is a divers' and snorkelers' paradise. I participated in the latter activity the next day. The water is warm and unbelievably clear, and the fish population large and varied. Edith did take a van provided by one of the dockside vendors to a Black Pearl Farm, which was mostly a store. This is really a spectacular place and well worth the trip away from the other islands. After a second, and last sea day, we arrived at Raitea. Like most of the Society Islands, it is surrounded by a coral reef which protects it from the ocean. This particular reef also encloses another island called Tahaa. The lagoon however is deep enough to allow docking at a pier so we could walk ashore into the town of Uturoa, which is the second largest city in French Polynesis, but still pretty small since the whole island only has 12,000 people. Here I did ship's drift snorkeling excursion off Tahaa in a pass between two small motus in the coral reef. One of the motus is privately owned and occupied by a Relais Chateaux Hotel with rates starting about 1100 Euros per day. We were caught in a rainstorm returning to Uturoa, but arrived without incident. Edith visited a true pearl farming operation and a vanilla farm. Black Pearls and vanilla are French Polynesia's principal exports, but fall behind tourism which provides about 25% of the cash income. Again we stayed overnight and sailed the next morning to Bora Bora arriving about noon. This is a very beautiful island, marked with two steep twin peaks. It was the "model" for Bali Hi in James Michener's "Tales of the South Pacific" and the subsequent play and movie. The U.S. Navy had occupied Bora Bora during WWII and built the airfield there. Bora Bora has a large lagoon with a number of fairly good sized motus as part of the reef. These are the sites for several five star hotels, along with one or two on the main island. They make this island the center of the high end tourist trade, and the town into which we tendered, Viatape, had some first class jewelry and artifact stores to cater to these hotel guests. We had arranged for a tour on the internet which took us the next day completely around the island in the lagoon, with stops to snorkel, feed some sting rays, and have an "island lunch" on a motu. This was a five hour excursion, and very delightful. We sailed for Moorea at5:00 P.M. arriving the next day. Moorea is very close to Tahiti, about 10 miles at the closest point. We tendered ashor and selected a peirside vendor for a FWD tour of the interior. It was marked by a trip up a hill with a magnificent view of two bays, and a trip to the local high school of agriculture, with its large, productive farm. We also visited a Polynesian "temple" whci is essentially a small square formed by a stone wall about 30 inches high. There are many of them scattered around the islands. Our guide was Polynesian, but spoke English pretty well and was friendly and informative. The price was quite reasonable also compared to a ship's tour. At 4:30 we sailed away to Tahiti, arriving at the pier in Papeete at 7:45. We skipped the entertainment that night to pack. Disembarkation Day This was a unique experience. Our flight; which had many of our fellow passengers, did not leave until 11:30 P.M. So Princess provide space in one of the specialty restaurants to store our carry on bags, and allowed us to remain as guests on the ship all day, even though we had to vacate our cabin at 8:00. This allowed us to have a liesurely breakfast and the lunch at the buffet. It turn out we ate with a couple that had embarked earlier that day for the trip to Fort Lauderdale that would arrive on January 15. We actually got off in the morning to arrange for a FWD tour through the Tourist Office; which we boarded at 2:00 after lunch. We went deep into Tahiti, between the mountains into some beautiful valleys studded with waterfalls, along a river. Most of where we were was national park, but even the privately held land was untouched. Our guide was the young French man who had come to Tahiti about 10 years prior, and after he relaxed he was entertaining. There were six of us on the tour, including one couple from France. This was a very enjoyable trip. We got back to the ship in time for dinner in the buffet, and then picked up our carry on bags and went to the Cabaret Lounge at 7:30 to await transportation to the airport. When we got there we had to wait for a while before they opened the ticket counters. The check in was fairly easy, and the security a little more relaxed than in the US, even when it came to my steel hips. There was some wait of course until we boarded at 11:30; but we arrived at LAX on time and would have made our Phoenix connection easily; except for the fact that we we bounced from our flight and had to wait another three hours. Entertainment on Board There were four "Production" shows with two singers and six singer/dancers in the Cabaret Lounge, which provide a pretty close up view. For once the sound was well contriolled and enabled us to enjoy the music more than on many prior cruises. There was also a juggler comedian, a singer comedian, and a magician comedian; all reasonably okay. There was one folkloric show by natives from Riatea which was entertaining. There was a guest lecturer fro Moorea who was very informative and entertaining as well. He had moved with his father to N+Moorea when he was 10, in 1965. Food Princess is pretty good in this department, although not quite up to Celebrity or Oceania, nor of course, Crystal. (Does anyone beat or even match Crystal?) The coffee is poor and the orange juice watered. The bakery department, headed by a young Swiss chef, was superb. There are two specialty restaurants, one Italian and one sort of a steak/chop house. They were open on alternate nights and had a $20.00 pp "cover charge". Reservations were suggested. This is in sharp contrast to Oceania, which has these restaurants open every night with no extra charge. Service and care of the ship Princess has always had a first class operation insofar as shipboard services and care of its ships are concerned, and Tahiti Princess was no exception but for the room temperature, which we felt was chilly and not subjet to thermostat control. The Master was always around the ship, often on the P.A. system, and of seemingly boundless enthusiasm for his job. That was a nice feeling. The cabin steward was quiet and efficient and our waiter, a young Italian, was very friendly, hardworking and generally efficient. We missed having the daily satellite newspaper. We received satellite CNN (mostly poitical stuff), so I know of no technical reason why we could not have had a newspaper. We missed the string quartet or trio playing classical music. Even Carnival had this as do Celebrity, Oceania and Crystal. Passengers We had only 620 passengers out of a possible 680, but a higher number of children than any cruise we could remember, even though these ships have no facilities for children, and there were no programs designed for them. There was one extended family group from Utah with 48 members, a number of them children and teen agers, but they were well behaved. In fact there were only two children who were annoying, running around the buffet area. We think the water activities available on the islands kept the children busy and happy. There were 28 nationalities among the passengers, so this was a cosmopolitan group, and also a fairly good number of young adult couples, some of whom were certainly honeymooners. All in all, it was as diverse as any cruise we have taken. Conclusion This was one of our more memorable cruises; attributable largely to the beauty and charm of the islands and the people. It is one we would want to repeat if we can locate one with a reasonable cost basis in the future. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Ocean Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 3.0 N/A
Dining 4.0 4.1
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.5
Fitness & Recreation 4.0 N/A
Family 2.0 4.2
Shore Excursions 4.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 3.0 N/A
Service 4.0 4.6
Value for Money 4.0 N/A

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click