We chose this 14 day cruise for its itinerary as we had only every visited Bruges before. Never started a cruise from Southampton due to the difficulties of getting down from the North driving with a stopover was our best option to ensure we got to the ship on time. This proved to be a good choice as it took 7 hours to get within 2 hours away the next morning due to traffic.
The check in at the Mayflower terminal was very well organised with our car collected when we arrived to be waiting on our return. The ship was familiar to several other cruises that we have been on so finding our balcony cabin was easy, which we found it to be as expected with good size double bed, shower /toilet room, good storage space, TV and fridge which had three bottles of water (chargeable). TV had several English channels plus films should you wish to stay in you cabin.
We brought the permitted two bottles of wine on board for the cruise any extra wine or spirits would be confiscated and given back at the end of the cruise. We later found out from fellow passengers that this rule was not being applied and they were bringing wine etc at each port of call.
As the average cost for a bottle of wine at dinner was around $35 including the 15% service charge we would have saved a lot of money over the 14days even paying the $15 corkage. The overall cost of drinks on the ship were the most expensive that we have every experienced on any cruise ship or 5 star hotel around the world. When you consider that they do not pay any duty or vat the pricing is off the scale with only two draught beers available in some bars one being Newcastle brown, your only option was to have a can or bottle with a standard can of Boddingtons costing $5.95 plus 15% service charge.
A good way to get better value is t buy a bottle of wine which has 5 glasses at a cost $25 as opposed to 5 glasses at $8 each both plus 15% s/c. They do have a happy hours in the wheelhouse every day from 3 – 4 and at the Skywalker at 10.30 if you are still awake. The deals is buy one drink at full price and get one for $1, speaking to the staff they said the previous cruise the extra drink was free.
As moat people were on shore most days I suspect the opening times were not very well attended it would have been better to have a later time before dinner.
We found at some bars practically around the pool areas there was an absence of waiters which meant you had to go to the bar to be served and at no time did the bar staff offer to have the drinks sent over to your table and for your convenience they charge your 15% etc. Overall we found lot of the staff did not seem to be interested in going out of there way as they believed they would not receive any tips. Staffs in the wheelhouse bar and the two evening restaurants were the exception very professional and gave good service. We were offered the drinks packaged when we booked at just under $40 each per day and when we boarded the ship this had gone up by $10 even at their very high prices you would have to be a drink a lot to get value for your money.
Food in the De Vinci & Michelangelo restaurants was expellant with the flexible dinning we meet some lovely people from all around the world this coupled with great service made each evening memorable. The breakfast in the Horizon and Cafe Caribe was a little frenetic trying to find a table.
With plastic plates we found by the time you got to your table the food was going cold. If you used the restaurants for lunch the same problems would arise and over the cruise not once were we asked would we like a glass of wine /beer with our meal. We did not try the three themed restaurants Share supplement $39, Crown Grill supplement $29 and the Salty dog $19.
When you purchased any drinks you were not required to sign and on several occasions you did not receive receipt. You could check and print your account at terminal by customer relations or log onto your ID of phone FOC. Gratuities for the cruise other than the 15% service charge were not compulsory and opted out preferring to tip the staff who gave us the best service such as the cabin steward ad dining room staff.
We tried room service once in the morning for tea/coffee sadly it arrived cold so we gave up and walked up two floors up each morning and brought hot drinks to the cabin. That same day when we got back in the afternoon from trip the tray was still there and the cabin was not cleaned.
Phoning the number for the steward got no response when I phone customer services I was told to hang on before I could explain why I was calling. I was left hanging on for 35 minutes, I left the phone off the hook and when down to customer service only to be told they had no way of knowing if a gusts was holding on. The room was cleaned an hour later and as a way of apology we were left a large dinner serving tray with a four chocolates and a note of apology.
Entertainment overall was good in the main theatre with the exception of a poor guitar playing comedian and a very dodgy hypnotists. The remainder of the entertainment was very good with some very talented performers and the resident ships staff headed by Kevin Joy the cruise director putting on some great shows. A range of quizzes/trivia games in the bars plus dancing and bingo which again was expensive at $25 for two cards.
There was a great emphasise every day on promoting fine art with several auctions taking place mostly I suspect at the prices they were being sold for our American friends this together with the daily jewellery news letter and demonstrations made a lot of us Brits feel very poor. We do not go on a cruise to buy fine art and jewellery and found that the effort that was being made could have been better use entertaining the guests particularly at sea days they could have put on an afternoon show in the theatre.
Other services such as internet were again very expansive with tea or coffee with your cake $3/5.
Duty free was a joke up to 60% off was stated not sure what they were basing their pricing on it certainly was not UK shop prices which were a lot less. It was noticeable that there were no price tickets on the shelves these could be found on an A4 sheet by the till, I suspect that they alter pricing depending on the cruise.
When you left the ship at each port we found the staff to be totally uninterested and never once did any staff say good morning or have a nice trip this was repeated when you arrived back on board with only the last shore visit one member of the crew welcomed us back. The crew mix were from all corners of the world and not sure if this worked as we found some gave the appearance that they did not want to be on the ship.
Ports of Call:
We did not purchase any trips from the ship due to the high cost and at a lot of the ports you can walk into the town. We did buy from our cruise travel agent Cruise,co.uk a two day trip to St Petersburg and Tallinn.
Zeebrugge/ Bruges we paid €10 for a coach from the ship to Blankenberge which had the local Sunday market and fair from their we were able to get a train for €5 each return to Bruges station with the centre of town 20 minutes walk or you can hope on one of the local tourist busses for €2
You can walk from the ship to the Little Mermaid in 10minutes the centre of the town would take you a further 30minutes if you are fit. We used the combined hop on hop off Red bus visit all of the main sites.
The port is a little way to the centre so we used the combined hop on hop off Red bus and river ferry which we were able to the main site including the Royal Palace and the not to be missed Vasa museum. Cost for the combined ticket €35 each
The only bad day of weather with rain all of the day. The centre of the city is well within walking distance but due to the poor weather we paid the €10 for the ship bus to the town, you could get a walk on bus but did not believe that with the weather you would see much.
The organised tour company “Tour De Force” ensured you had a tourist visa, we did not have to queue at passport control and were meet by our young very knowledgeable guide for the two days. Lunch on the two days was arranged at an extra small cost. A very tiring first day with lots of walking but little queuing at each stop as our bus only had 28 people we were able to get some priority at each stop, we did notice the ship trips were large coaches and speaking to fellow passenger that night they had some queuing. The trip cost was less than £200 each plus the cost of the meals.
The old town is in easy walking distance from the port we did however use a pre arrange walk on Red bus to see the main site before getting off at the top f the old town. One word of warning sadly at the old town battements were there many of passengers from the three ships that were in port a lot of Romanian pick pockets were operating, I myself had my mobile taken out of my from shoulder bag but luckily I felt the movement and the woman dropped it on a ledge in front of her and I was able to retrieve it back. The cheeky person just smiled and waked a little way in the crowed we were able to warn a lady that she was in her bag again she just blow a kiss and walked on. Sadly we did see several other pick pockets operating in the area but no police presents.
The town is within easy distance to walk. We did take a taxi to the station to catch a train to Gdansk cost 22 Zolty return. Good service took 40 minutes. Nice old town but not a great deal to see.
Money: We get some local currency for Copenhagen, Stockholm, Poland and Russia just enough to buy some food or drinks. All counties took the euro including Russia but not sterling so do not both changing into rubles.
As your ship account is in US dollars your credit card will be charge at the ships special rate unless you opt for your card to be charge in $ and let you bank covert the rate. When we left the ship there rate was $1.21 to £ our Nationwide credit card was converted at £1.308 yet one more money making scheme from Princess. They should change their statement “Come Back New” to Come Back Poorer.
Standard cabin as expected for this size of ship. Good size and comfortable bed. Fridge with water on arrival in the cabin but no tea coffee making facilities which is always nice.
Shower toilet as expected. Towels were changed twice a day and overall with the exception on one day the cabin was well cleaned.
Bus from ship to Blankenberge train o Bruges é5 return town 20 minutes walk or you can hope on one of the local tourist busses for €2View All undefined undefined Reviews
Hop on hop off bus.View All 7 Drottningholm Palace Reviews
We are able to see all the main sites and some not on the normal routes, very pleasant way to see the city at a low costView All 54 Stockholm Old Town Tour Reviews
A great way to tour the city at your own speed to capture the real feel of the city.
Would recommend a must visit to the Vasa museumView All 128 Vasa Museum Reviews
Due to weather only had a brief visit to the city
Excellent two day tour with very good guideView All 114 Amber Room Reviews
Excellent two day tour with very good guideView All 226 Catherine Palace Reviews
Excellent two day tour with very good guideView All 210 Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood Reviews
Excellent two day tour with very good guideView All 378 City Tour Reviews
Excellent two day tour with very good guideView All 5 Constantine Palace Reviews
Excellent two day tour with very good guideView All 377 Hermitage Museum Reviews
Excellent two day tour with very good guideView All 114 Peter & Paul Fortress Reviews
Excellent two day tour with very good guideView All 231 Peterhof Palace Reviews
Excellent two day tour with very good guideView All 113 St. Isaac's Cathedral Reviews
Excellent two day tour with very good guideView All 7 Stroganov Palace Reviews
Excellent two day tour with very good guideView All 65 Yusupov Palace Reviews
Not a lot to see but interestingView All 90 City Tour Reviews
Nice city bur beware of pick pockets in crowded areasView All 189 Old Town of Tallinn Reviews
Public transport very good and cheap.View All 60 Gdansk Old Town Reviews
InterestingView All 1 Long Market Reviews
Brief visit due to entrance chargeView All 2 St. Mary's Church Reviews