North Americans should be warned that this cruise is specifically for Australians; many of whom use it as transportation around Australia to visit family members. The ports are nothing to speak of with very little to do at most of them. We saw more war memorials than we've ever seen in our lives, but at some ports that was the highlight. The people were very polite and very excited to have a cruise ship in port. But we didn't fly 7,500 miles to visit a woman's garden or look at cows and cabbage fields!
We understand Princess is just introducing cruising in Australia, but we had no idea they wouldn't offer the things we've come to expect from a Princess Cruise. There was no Elite Lounge, no Chef's Table, a laughable excuse for a steakhouse (a curtained off part of the buffet), no Sabatini's, terrible nightly entertainment (with the exception of the production shows), and an overly casual style of dress.
After speaking with both the Captain's Circle Hostess and the Cruise Director the first week, we were informed someone would be getting back to us to discuss our issues with the cruise. No one ever did.
The seas were extremely rough at least half of the time (we're bruised from being tossed around the ship...particularly in our bathroom). And it's not terribly appetizing to see "barf bags" splayed attractively across many flat services (including the Maitre D' station of the restaurants) and attached to every stairwell.
The one positive note was that the food was very good. In fact, some of the best we've ever had on a ship. The dining room was at least half empty most nights, as the Aussies seem to prefer to eat at the buffet and certainly don't believe in getting dressed up! My husband brought a tuxedo and I brought several dressy outfits. After the second formal evening, we gave up on wearing them. Many passengers considered a short-sleeved sports shirt with a pair of slacks and a tie to be formal; which it was when you compare it to the t-shirts and flip/flops (thongs) they wore most nights.
The entertainment, as I said, was very disappointing. In general, it was extremely juvenile. Aussie humor is much different from ours...in a Three Stooges/slapstick kind of a way. Many of the terms that were used in the jokes were Aussie specific and we didn't have a clue what they were talking about. The highlight (actually low point) was the evening the entertainer sat on a folding chair with a strong light aimed at him and made shadow puppets for our entertainment. I kid you not! The Aussies loved him. We found it insulting. There was a movie every night, but I don't necessarily consider that entertainment worthy of a cruise line. I can watch movies at home. The singers were terrible and would be boo'd off most stages. They perhaps would have been acceptable had they not been leaping about (literally one singer leapt from one side of the stage to the other as he sang...no dancing...just leaping) or dressed in crazy costumes. And Australians apparently think it's perfectly acceptable to sing along with any entertainer on stage...even if they can't sing. The passenger talent show had several acts that were far superior to those presented by the stage each evening.
The passengers tended to be in the 70-90 age range with a huge number of walkers, wheelchairs and canes (sticks).
I suppose the cruise served its purpose...we saw Australia, but would have enjoyed a trip to Australia far more had we gone on our own and spent more time in Sydney and more time at the Great Barrier Reef. Lesson learned!
We have also been told that cruises around Japan (which we were very interested in booking) are handled in a similar way. Food, entertainment, announcements all geared toward the Japanese consumer. I'm glad we were warned. We'll either look at other cruiselines for a similar trip or do a land-based trip and skip the convenience of cruising all together.
PORT (AIRLIE BEACH): We took a Sail the Whitsundays cruise that was very nice. The catamaran is clean and fairly spacious. The lunch they served was excellent. Unfortunately, it rained (monsoon rains) the entire day, so we weren't able to see as much as we would have liked, but the staff was exceptionally friendly and accommodating. Do NOT do the Great Barrier Reef trip from this port if you can do it from Port Douglas!! This port has a smaller platform and a two-hour catamaran ride in each direction, which gives you less time at the Reef.
PORT (Port Douglas): We took a Great Barrier Reef tour from this port and loved it. It's a 90-minute catamaran ride to the platform. The platform was fabulous and beyond our imagination. It included a lovely buffet lunch, the opportunity to snorkel (all gear included in the price), or scuba dive (if you are certified), ride a glass-bottom boat, view the reef and fish from a tunnel underwater (like in an aquarium), and take a helicopter ride (additional charge) over the reef. Truly a magical day and a highlight of our entire 35 days in Australia.
PORT (Benoa, Bali): Took an Elephant Safari and loved it. The day is long and included a stop for shopping in a small town, which wasn't worth the time. The Elephant Safari is high up in the mountains and probably can't be safely done on your own (due to time restrictions). The Elephant Safari included a lovely buffet lunch, a 35-minute ride on an elephant with the handler sitting on the elephant's neck and answering questions or talking about the elephant and his/her training. Another highlight of our entire trip!
PORT (Perth): Went to the Aquarium of Western Australia. It was fabulous.
PORT (Bunbury): Couldn't dock due to winds and bad weather.
PORT (Albany): Went to the Albany Wind Farm, which was very interesting. We've never been close to a wind thingy (I don't know what they are called...windmill? turbine?), but we sat on a bench underneath one and could count the revolutions and hear how quiet they are. It was interesting.
PORT (Burnie, Tasmania): Not sure why the ship even bothered to stop here. A VERY small town (under 20,000 people) with very, very little to offer. A ride around the countryside to see cows, sheep, and vegetable fields; a trip to Preston Falls (small if you've seen other falls), and a stop in Penguin (the town) to see a 12-foot statue of a penguin. No actual penguins...just a statue of a penguin.
PORT (Hobart, Taxmania): Very nice botanical gardens (can spend several hours here), nice city drive, a fun visit to the Cadbury chocolate factory, which included an entertaining overview of how chocolate is made and a visit to the outlet store to buy chocolates that aren't available in our part of the world. And the most delicious hot chocolate I've ever had in my life. What could be bad about cream with melted chocolate it in topped with whipped cream?
Sydney is a beautiful city with lots to offer. We wish we would have had more time there. We took the hop on hop off bus one day and saw a great overview of the city, but I thought it was a little pricey at over $25 per person for the day. Had we had more time, we would have done a harbor tour and would have seen a performance at the Sydney Opera House. We stayed at the Harbour Rocks Hotel, which is only five minutes from the port. The hotel was very nice...spacious rooms and a delicious breakfast. But the elevators were under service (March 2012) and it was difficult to manhandle our luggage up and down the cement emergency stairs.
One of the few highlights of our entire 35-days in Australia. Adelaide is a charming town with very, very friendly people. We were greeted by seniors who offered to answer any questions, gave us coupons, and gave us a small stuffed koala...they couldn't have been nicer.View All 7 City Tour Reviews
Cleland Wildlife Park was recommended by an Australian and was fabulous. You are in large (10+ acre) enclosures with the kangaroos and wallabees. They will eat out of your hand and you can pet them and really observe them. You can also pet and feed a koala and see Tasmanian Devils up close. After three weeks in Australia, this was the first time we'd seen any of these animals. Australians were surprised to hear us say that as they consider kangaroos to be pests that eat their gardens and populate their golf courses.View All 7 Cleland Wildlife Park Reviews
A nice sea-side town with some cute little shops and small restaurants. Wouldn't have been a disppointment if we missed this stop, but it was fine.View All 3 Glenelg Reviews
Haigh's Chocolates was very nice, but they were unprepared for two buses arriving at the same time on Good Friday. But they rallied and helped everyone with their purchases very efficiently and provided some very nice samples after pulling some staff from the production floor to pass them out. The chocolate is great and we wish we would have bought some chocolate covered dried berries. The samples were yummy, but we didn't taste them until after we'd made our purchases.View All 1 Haigh's Chocolates Reviews
A nice lookout, but we were there on a windy, foggy day. We had lunch at a restaurant on Mount Lofty and it was delicious.View All 7 Mount Lofty Reviews
I can't believe we spent more than a half day of time and saw three dingoes and a bird show. There were no kangaroos, walabees or koalas at this park. It wasn't that we didn't see them...they aren't there. There is a SMALL aquarium where we saw some ducks swimming underwater and a crocodile standing so still in the water, he looked plastic. There is a little tram that drives around the park to get you from display to display, but it's quite crowded and there is a wait each time you want to take it. The birds of prey show was fine, but there were only three birds in a 45-minute show. The handlers are informative and it might have been better had there not been two small children banging away on the aluminum benches. Even after the handlers repeatedly said, "That noise is very distracting to the birds", the parents did nothing and the show was ruined for all of us. A huge disappointment.View All 10 Territory Wildlife Park Reviews
This is basically a garden center in Jenny's yard. You can look at the orchids, but you can't buy them and take them home, so what's the point? She did serve tea and scones on her porch/veranda, which was nice but nothing special. Wasn't worth the effort of going there.View All 1 Jenny's Orchid Garden Reviews
A very nice view of the area and Surfer's Paradise. But when you've been up in some of the tallest buildings in the world, the view from the 26th tallest building in the southern hemisphere isn't all that special.View All 1 SkyPoint Reviews
Surfer's Paradise is pretty...especially when viewed from SkyPoint, but it's a beach.View All 1 Surfers' Paradise Reviews
This was very nice. It's a lovely hotel and the tea was exceptional. I'm not sure if you can do this on your own, but it was part of the cruise line tour.View All 1 High Tea at Palazzo Versace Reviews
A pretty city, but we were there on Easter Sunday and nearly everything was closed, but at least traffic was good!View All 22 City Tour Reviews
We went to two gardens and I can't remember which was which. I believe the Royal Botanic Gardens were fairly flat and beautifully laid out in a formal style. Fitzroy Gardens was more natural and extremely hilly. At one point, the guide didn't notice that two elderly people went to sit on a bench because they couldn't make it any further up the hills. But he had the bus pull around to pick them up so they didn't have to continue to walk.View All 1 Royal Botanic Garden Reviews
One of the most beautiful war memorials we've ever seen. The view from the top of the memorial (about 80 steps to the top) is fabulous...a true 360 degree view of the city and surrounding gardens.View All 2 War Memorial Reviews