We had just returned from our 2 months stay in the bay area of CA with a 10 days cruise to Mexican Riviera. We already had another cruise booked to Cuba in November. We missed home. As such, were not going away again for a while. It so ... Read More
We had just returned from our 2 months stay in the bay area of CA with a 10 days cruise to Mexican Riviera. We already had another cruise booked to Cuba in November. We missed home. As such, were not going away again for a while. It so happened, as I was browsing thru Hawaii cruises, that was to be our cruise in 2019; I noticed balcony prices were just a bit over the Ocean view, which seemed strange. Checking further, we found they had been reduced to half price for whatever reason. It took us a few days more to get OK for me to turn around and fly again to CA from my medical care team. We decided to do this cruise to HI, Samoa and Tahiti - a dream we had never thought to come to fusion! What joy it was to book the tickets, yet unreal that we were truly going! I researched a little about and French Polynesian Islands and was happy to learn of over nighting in Bora Bora.Wished we also over nighted in Honolulu and Maui. No idea why Princess does not over night as much, which should give a break to all the crew allowing passengers to enjoy the port stops to the fullest.
Embarkation was delayed by 2 hours due to no fault of Princess, we understand. However, it would have been good if Princess land staff would let us know what caused our over 2 hour wait in a crowded loud hall with people standing and sitting on the floors. As time passed, would be passengers got hungry and grouchy. Many had snacks brought from home while those without simply sat there. Conspiracy theories were started. All this negativity need not have started had we been notified the ship had arrived from South America and the Customs office had been very trying on all the non-US citizens! Embarkation went fast once it got started.
We expected a huge crowd in Horizon buffet but, it was manageable and after food in the belly, many seemed to be happy campers. There was no hand wash sinks here. The food was OK, crew was nice, service oriented. Everyone of the crew from cabin steward thru wait staff was surprised what caused the delay, which meant nobody was informed!
The ship is newer than our last 2 cruises with Princess on Coral and Grand. It looked beautiful. The best part about the ship to me personally, it was steady without much rocking or swaying. I get sea sick and wear the sea bands which work great. We had a cabin in between mid ship and (closer to) aft. A 631. The AC worked fine, the door to the balcony was flawless. However, the drawers on the bedside table was a battle to open. The cabin was smaller than our usual Mini Suite or Grand's balcony cabin on 10th deck. We were on 12th Aloha deck. At first, it concerned me a little because we do have to spend 28 days in this cabin and made us question if we made a mistake. But, everything fitted in the closet with extra hangers brought in by the cabin steward and shelves and we breathed a sigh of relief.
Evening dinner time was a major chaos and snafu. All because many of us were wait listed for first seating with no seating arrangements. It was amazing to see the head waiters handling and managing everyone so beautifully with seating for that night and a note to return the next day for our permanent seating. We enjoyed our meal. The next day, we found the first seating to be noisy and switched to second one. Only disadvantage to this being, the waiters were a little lax about being there to greet and seat you. Advantage was they were relaxed and we had fun conversations, no rush to finish our dinner and also we could run out quickly on those days when there was a good game show at 9 p.m. We could be served fast if we so wished. The food was great as per many passengers but, when you have diet restrictions, it becomes a little difficult for the chef to cater to a tasty cuisine when they need to cook and served over 3,000 paying guests.
Yes, the ship was full. As such seating in the Explorer's lounge where popular and most game shows were held every night, it became a battle with other passengers to find a seat. The lounge has the capacity of a few hundred while passengers are 3080 with many interested to participate and many others to watch the fun! We heard from other passengers how they come in to play the Trivia game, sit there till all the game and other activities are done, skipping dinner to eat something from the International cafe or one of the partners would bring food from elsewhere. We did not want to go thru all that trouble. As such missed out on many happenings in the Explorer's lounge. Formal entertainment in the Princess Theater was another mess - though, there were 3 rows of disability seats, even before the Physically challenged arrived, they were taken by healthy folks, leaving most of us no seats since all the rest were filled to the rim, with many standing in front of poles, against the wall to watch! Many complained and finally on last couple of shows, Princess made arrangements for 3 shows instead of 2 performances. However, 10 p.m. was not very popular and we ended up attending this one to relax and enjoy, which worked out good for us after second seating at 7:45 p.m. Entertainment was of quality with singers and dancers of ship's Productions team, famous/ popular musicians that also sang. a couple of comedians, a ventriloquist comedian, hypnotist that everyone enjoyed. Hence the lines for a theater that accommodates over a thousand perhaps (?) with paying guests at over 3,000. This theater would have been fine for fewer sea days but, 18 of them, everyone wanted to be entertained and lines were long, bickering was loud! The star gazing activity was awesome with the sky close to the ship's 18th deck after we crossed the equator. The staff member made it very interesting too giving us stories and the weather was perfect for it.
There were many different presentations on Destinations, how the islands were formed, volcanos, variety, similarities and differences, vegetation on the islands besides the animals, extinct, endangered, history and culture. Various other topics such as DNA, GE and Ford - car manufacturer history, Jo Bennet murder mystery, etc. thru Discovery@sea program was also interesting. The content was truly great, but, the presentation was not up to par. My husband kept falling asleep, due to repetitive sentences, same words being mentioned over and over in a sentence, and monotony of speech, etc. But, then the presenters were really old too. Miley and Tui, the Hawaiian ambassadors were excellent with up to date information.
There were many activities, with way too many interested folks. Spanish class was seriously taught and learnt, with a good sense of humor by LoLo, cruise director's staff. There were arts and crafts classes with the ship's crew and Hawaiian ambassadors. I too learnt to play the Ukulele from the Hawaiian couple that taught us. Even after they left the ship, we continued our lessons with Ian he ship's guitarist. It was enjoyable and fun with Tui and Ian truly taught us all the how to tricks. I sincerely learnt more from Ian than Tui but, loved playing with the cheerful and fun loving Tui. Miley, Tui's wife taught Hula dance and we had a joint performance. Wish more passengers came to watch us as the quality was truly fantastic as those that did attend told us. We enjoyed all of them. There was zumba twice a day, and other exercise programs for those interested. Most women and some men were interested in arts and crafts and the small conference room could only hold so many people. The cruise Director's staff could only have 1 or 2 sessions, after signing up first come first served. Running, lining up to get tickets was a pain in the neck when you are there to relax! Later on when this pattern discontinued, arriving 10 minutes to the start of the class meant, no room to sit or the class being started already and us turned back, without any more classes to be held. When there was enough supply of the craft, and we could join in, some women would not want to share the easy to include 4 persons table to accommodate one more. It was always the women of color that were friendly and generous. This ship seemed to have many folks from South East USA, some from Canada and a few from UK besides many from CA fortunately. The fun loving Californians were the best with an open mind and friendliness. A few of the others seemed to have their noses up in the air turning face to some of our greetings, when asked if we could join them at the table for arts and crafts, would refuse!!! It surprised me, not having seen this behavior on past cruises. Some of the cruise director's staff was also a little rude, which I found to be unacceptable, though, we wrote it off to long hours of work. Imagine if the wait staff or cabin steward behaved this way.........
The negative? 28 days is a long time with 18 sea days interfacing same folks despite over 4000 people on board including the crew. We noticed quite a few arguments, disagreements among passengers and poor crew also being picked on. Not an easy situation. This made me not want to take any more long voyages, such as the world cruise!
Medical center is another story. When we went there, it surprised and scared us that the medical staff did not know what was Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia. I will give credit however for knowing a much more rarer disease called Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. I liked their open mind to learn and be prepared to face if there was an emergency, despite the necessary drug not on hand, they had something close and similar,for treatment of a rare form of hemophilia, should I were to have a gusher with no clotting ability; which was a relief. After reading the article on cruise critic about Medical centers on cruise ships are more like an Urgent care center, I truly feel perhaps a little upgrade may be necessary on longer voyages to save more lives in an emergency situation, when no land is available within a few hours flight. Just look at the average age of passengers on longer voyages! Its better to invest in saving lives than hiding facts on mortality rate.
As always, lotus spa had excellent masseuse and we enjoyed their services, though at a higher rate. The salon service was well used and busy staff tried to fit us in. The quality of products used was excellent. The place was clean, except for the fact that non spa users messed up the locker rooms and rest rooms with wet swimming clothes and showers. This needs to change with separate rest rooms for them. These passengers do not have to shower in the Lotus spa locker rooms, when they have their own cabins IMHO. This is a major issue on Princess ships.
Public rest rooms were clean when due to the urgency, we HAD to use them. There were people assigned only to public rest room cleaning, who did a pretty good job, both in men's and ladies sections on all the decks.
Service by the cabin stewards goes without saying as everyone has experienced mostly nothing but, the best! Wait staff, despite the stress are really good, caring and go out of the way, walking extra mile to please passengers. After I was ill, I requested a spinach - arugula smoothie for medical reasons. In spite of the chef not being able to prepare at breakfast, one of the head waiters went and prepared it every other day for me. Hats off Princess!! Our head waiter at dinner was also extra vigilant to make sure my no garlic and no salt restrictions were followed to the T. When steamed vegetables came and I found it difficult to eat, he took the trouble of persuading the chef to make it more tasty with special sauces on he side or by grilling, etc. That is a big kudos to these gentlemen. I am sure all the rest of the head waiters were just as good! Even in Horizon Court, chef came out and prepared special meal for me after hearing my needs on a couple of days when we ate dinner there.
I liked the fact that room service is still complimentary, although, the menu is not varied. Its awesome to have warm milk and cookies, fruit in the room without having to pay for it.
Shore excursions were all filled up by the time we booked our cruise - sort of last minute, 4 weeks prior to the sailing. As such, can't complain. It turned out to be great in a couple of ports where we could not get any shore excursions. Had we known before hand, we would have opted to rent taxis and do our own tours. We were able to see more in less time and only what truly interested us, spend more time where we wanted to, etc. Read Less