Some recent reviews of Emerald Princess have been very critical, so I will try to be as impartial as possible when writing this review, in the hope it will be of assistance to others considering a cruise on this ship. Comparisons are made ... Read More
Some recent reviews of Emerald Princess have been very critical, so I will try to be as impartial as possible when writing this review, in the hope it will be of assistance to others considering a cruise on this ship. Comparisons are made with similar cruises in the last 18 months on Celebrity Reflection, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria. In addition to these cruise lines we have cruised with Azamara (brilliant) and P&O (standards on downward spiral). In total we have now been on 21 cruises over the last 14 years.
On this particular cruise it would appear that Princess were trying to rival their sister company, P&O, to see how many wheelchairs, electric scooters and mobility aids they can amass on one ship. To be fair, anyone with mobility problems will always favour cruises out of Southampton, instead of enduring flights, transfers and all the associated hassle.
With so many wheelchairs etc. on board is the space taken up in the relatively small lifts. There were also the those with electric scooters who drive them straight into the lift, thus blocking the doorway and preventing the really disabled, in wheelchairs, from entering. Otherwise, with a large ship like Emerald Princess, there is plenty of room for everyone.
SHIP - Emerald Princess is starting to show her age (launched 2007), although the constant maintenance, tended to keep most areas looking presentable. A lot of the deck furniture, is however, past its use by date and looking a bit shabby. For instance, the tables and chairs on the aft deck, aft of Cafe Caribe, have the fabric of the chairs coming apart and the table tops are badly stained. Although the waiters clear the tables and place new napkins and cutlery on these tables, they do not routinely clean them. In Cafe Caribe and Horizon self service restaurant, they do at least give the tables a quick wipe when clearing them.
HYGENE – With Norovirus so common on cruise ships, we were surprised at the lack of precautions. We are used to being “invited” to use the hand sanitizers when coming on board and when using the restaurants. There was no such precaution on Emerald Princess. As a result around 10% of passengers did not bother to use the sanitizers. Regrettably it is the very same passengers with no desire to clean their hands who are unlikely to wash their hands after using the toilet and thus spread germs. When you use the serving tongs and spoons in the self service restaurants, these germs will be transferred to your previously clean hands.
TIP – My routine is to use the sanitizers before and AFTER visiting the self service areas.
In the main restaurants, with those who fail to use the sanitizers, there is another potential for the spread of germs. By providing each table with a basket of bread there is the possibility of spreading germs where someone with unwashed hands moves the bread around to find the variety of their choice. This is further compounded, because I have seen the bread left in a basket when the table is cleared, used to fill new baskets for the next diners. I prefer the system on Cunard ships where the bread is served to you individually, thus making the process more hygienic. Of course there is also the potential for the spread of germs via the salt and pepper pots, etc., etc. All this could be overcome by the crew members on the doors directing everyone to the hand sanitizers. Perhaps Princess do not adopt this procedure until AFTER an outbreak of Norovirus, by which time it will have ruined the cruise for countless passengers.
For anyone still reading, I will be addressing the many positive features of the cruise in due course.
CABIN – We had a standard balcony cabin. It is of reasonable size and the décor, while a little dated, was attractive. The use of large mirrors helps to increase the sense of space. While the carpet was regularly swept, a thick build-up of dust remained in some corners.
There was plenty of hanging space and ample hangers for most people, although we always bring some extra hangers. Drawer space, shelves and cupboards were also plentiful and greater than that we have experienced on Cunard and Celebrity.
A common failing on this and other ships, is the lack of strong enough lighting for shaving or applying makeup. Those of you under 50 may not appreciate that as you get older you need much stronger lighting as your eyesight deteriorates!
The shower room was also a reasonable size, but lacked storage space, an area where Celebrity excel. Also Celebrity is the only cruise line where we have experienced a night light, so that you do not wake your partner when using the bathroom at night.
The age of the ship was apparent, with cracked and missing grouting on the tiled floor in the bathroom. There was also a worn shower attachment which would not stay in a higher position. The temperamental vacuum toilet failed a few times, apparently because either the system was blocked (not by us!!) or the vacuum pipe had come loose.
The flat screen TV was a reasonable size and picture quality was generally good. The remote control, was worn, with some buttons no longer working. When I mentioned this to our cabin steward, he told me to use alternative buttons.
BED LINEN AND TOILETRIES – During the refit this year, new mattresses had been fitted. They are described as Medium Firm with a pillow top. We found them reasonably comfortable, although a little on the firm side, but different people have different preferences.
There was good quality cotton bed linen and a reasonably lightweight duvet.
Both feather and polyester filled pillows are provided and we found these comfortable.
Bathrobes are provided on request.
The bath towels were adequate, but certainly not bath sheet size, nor could they be described as light and fluffy, but showed only minimal wear.
Shower gel and shampoo/conditioner dispensers are provided in the shower, plus a bar of soap. A tube of body lotion and paper tissues are provided.
HYGENE – Bearing in mind that the beds and pillows are used daily by a succession of passengers for at least 50 weeks each year, I find it surprising that neither mattress protectors, nor pillow protectors are used.
CABIN STEWARD – We found our cabin steward to be friendly and efficient. He soon learnt when we went to breakfast and dinner and the cabin was cleaned during these periods. Unlike Celebrity, “Please make up my room” cards are provided. Bearing in mind that each steward has 19 cabins to clean singlehandedly, he did a good job.
FOOD – This is one area where Princess have always excelled within this price bracket of cruising. In our opinion they continue to do so. There was a very good selection of food both in Horizon self service and the main dining rooms. There is also a grill, pizzas and ice cream available. The quality was generally good, although we have found that better quality cuts of beef are used for the steaks on Celebrity and in particular, on Cunard.
There were some very good soups, particularly the chilled ones and the pastry chefs remain excellent,
There was evidence of cost cutting, with, for instance, very small glasses used for fruit juice at breakfast, but the waiters did ask if you wanted a second one. The jam and marmalade is not provided in individual pots, but is served to you at the table. A sensible arrangement, reducing waste and we found it to be very good quality.
On Formal Nights there were the usual Lobster tail and Beef Wellington, etc. on the upgraded menus.
We found that special requests to deviate from the menu would be accommodated where possible.
WAITERS – We were on anytime dining and therefore saw a variety of different waiters at dinner as well as breakfast. (Which we ate in the main restaurant) The standard of service differed greatly, from those who provide the absolute minimum, to those who excelled, giving advice, making sensible recommendations and generally made sure you enjoyed your meals. We soon found it beneficial to be seated in the areas with the best waiter service.
At busy times, particularly during breakfast, there were simply not enough waiters to cope with the demand. This resulted in very slow service, but it did improve after a week, with extra staff brought in from other areas.
ANYTIME DINING (No time dining) – A letter in our cabin assured us that with Anytime Dining we could reserve a table at a time to suit us. On the first day, I tried to make a reservation and was told on the first day you had to just turn up to be seated. As a result there was a queue and delays, particularly if you wanted a table for two, which are thankfully numerous.
On the second day I was told I could only make a reservation for 5pm for any night during the cruise. Apparently, when the ship is full, or almost full, reservations are not possible.
TIP – Try to arrive at less popular times, before 8am for breakfast and before 7:30pm for dinner and not on the hour or half hour. Otherwise you are given a pager in the evening, with common waiting times of 20 – 30 minutes.
DRESS CODE – What dress code? Other than on formal nights the dress code was smart casual. This was described as what you would wear to a nice restaurant at home. It appeared that many took this to mean what they wear to collect their kebab takeaway. Tee shirts and shabby jeans were common, with stomachs hanging over the waist bands. Not a pretty sight. On Formal nights a majority of the men wore dinner jackets or dark suits and the women were is smart dresses. A minority decided that an open neck shirt and jeans was formal enough for them, with their women dressing down as well.
DRINK PRICES – The prices of drinks remain very high and even the drink packages are very expensive, unless you are an alcoholic, who drinks all day and night, in which case they are good value for money! Looking around the dining room each evening it was obvious the grossly inflated prices prevented the majority from buying wine. On average I would estimate that 1 in 5 tables had drinks and these may have been purchased within a package, or from on board credit.
SUN LOUNGERS – Yes that old chestnut. There were instructions that sun loungers could not be reserved and any towels or property left on them would be removed after 15 minutes. Nevertheless, towels, books etc., were in place from early morning, with the same people reserving their favourite places each day. As we are not serial sun worshipers, it was not a problem for us, but on this ship there are limited areas protected from the wind and these were in demand.
SECOND CLASS CITIZENS – If you have not paid the grossly inflated prices to take the tours organised by Princess, any right you have to get off the ship in port is taken away from you! When the ship is anchored and tenders are used there will be long delays in getting ashore. You must first wait for all the passengers on tours to leave, then wait in the allotted area after collecting your tender tickets. In Corsica, the ship arrived at 12:00 and we eventually stepped ashore at 2:45.
The problem is only going to get worse, with the ever larger ships unable to dock in the small ports. Then with the larger number of passengers on board - 6000+! – it will take even longer to get ashore.
Why do those of us who want to go ashore independently put up with this “Second class citizen” treatment from the cruise companies?
TIP - I believe the answer is to arrange your tours independently in advance. Time and again we have found we can arrange an identical tour, with a smaller group, for as much as half the cost charged by the ship. Many of these tour companies also guarantee to get you back to the ship on time. Having booked your independent tour, tell the ship you are being met ashore at a certain time and insist on leaving with their tours. If they fail to permit this, tell them they will have to refund the cost of your tour!
SHUTTLE BUSES – This continues to be another scam. With the larger ships, they are unable to dock close to the towns, but are usually in a commercial dock some way from the main port. For instance, in Barcelona the terminal for the larger ships is a 30 – 45 minute walk from the Southern end of The Ramblas. We were told that shuttle buses had been arranged, for which we must pay $5 each way. To buy the tickets it was necessary to join a long queue, followed by another queue to wait for and then board the buses. What we were not told was that the town provides a shuttle bus at a cost of 3 euros each way. There are also taxis at a cost of around 10 euros each way, for 2 – 4 people.
TIP – Use alternative transport in Barcelona. You can use the port shuttle bus into town and then a taxi from wherever you find yourself when you want to return. I would not however recommend a taxi from the centre of the town, as traffic congestion could make it more expensive.
In Marseille we had to pay $7 for the shuttle bus, charged to our accounts. Having charged us, we were told that Princess could not be held responsible if the shuttle bus failed to get us back to the ship on time! More long queues to board the shuttle buses at both ends.
ENTERTAINMENT – This is an area where there has been serious cost cutting. No well know acts any more and very limited live music playing around the ship. Whether you like the shows in the theatre is very subjective, so I will leave it for others to comment.
MOVIES UNDER THE RAIN - Princess are keen to claim you can watch "Movies Under The Stars". Unfortunately if it is cold or raining, the open deck is not an ideal place for a movie theatre.
VALUE FOR MONEY ? – Princess appear to have made decision to reduce the prices of their cruises to a point where they will fill all the cabins, thus having a captive audience from which they can make up the difference with highly inflated prices for tours, drinks, photos, etc., etc. It is of course up to you what you choose to spend on board, but this cruise, at around £78 per night, per person, for a balcony cabin, offers excellent value for money. It would have cost considerably more 10 years ago, which is probably one of the reasons cruising has become so popular.
Would we cruise on Emerald Princess again? If the price and itinerary suit us, yes. In fact we have already booked another cruise! Read Less