As seasoned cruisers (11th cruise with Princess and 17th overall), we enjoy the Princess experiences: traditional cruising, many dining experiences (ranging from casual to Michelin), personal and expertise service, cleanliness, familiarity and excellent itineraries. Hence, we are enormously loyal to Princess and chose this cruise merely for the joint holiday itinerary to one of our favourite countries to cruise to – New Zealand – from hometown of Sydney. The itinerary included a new port, Picton, which was a lovely surprise, otherwise the itinerary was all familiar. This was our first time on the Emerald Princess and we enjoyed the ship very much; it is fairly new and well arranged.
Hotel Information: The mini suite stateroom was spacious for two people, though we have sailed before with 3 and even 4 passengers. Not a complaint about the room. Customer services officer, Steven Ross, was a credit to the cruise line and one of the senior shining staff members on-board. I strongly recommend pre-organising credit card info for the cruise prior to embarkation, to avoid purser's desks queues. A big stateroom qualm was the fact my parents, vacating in the stateroom next to mine, had significant difficulties with their cruise card, being unable to enter their cabin. Pursers desk staff tried to be helpful with remagnetising the cards but this issue continued for the entire duration of the cruise! Their advice offerings were considerate e.g. separate cards from one another or keep away from phones, never even applied. The technician who came to inspect the cabin door tossed the blame to another department and it buck was continually passed along so the easiest way my parents found to deal with it was queuing up for re-magnestiisng on a daily basis.
International Café: As huge fans of the International Café concept, we love time spent there! Sadly, the lack of seating was a perpetual problem. We were often scrambling to find space or seats in the café. Unfortunately, it’s just one of those things but I do believe adding additional space in the atrium or including additional chairs would help the situation. Fellow passengers shoving aside others to snab a table, of which I was once already sitting at with a family member, is a lowly reflection of fellow cruisers etiquette.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: No major complaints, Princess usually do a seamless job especially at the Overseas Passengers Terminal in Circular Quay, Sydney making the whole process even smoother, however disembarkation was the most unclear we have experienced in a little while - staff were completely lost in directing passengers to exit and there was no signage or indication of the disembarkation portal.
Dining/Club Class: Biggest highlight for our cruising experience was the introduction of Club Class for platinum, elite and suite passengers. With additional dining privileges for breakfast and dinner (and sea day lunches) this suited us superbly. Dining times can be allocated for the same time, to the same table and waiters, if passengers prefer (which we did!). The service was out of this world incredible! Our waiters Mylosh and Matt, and head waiter Razvan went above and beyond their call of duty to satisfy our dining wishes. Their service was a notch above. We certainly support CC's introduction.
We never have major complaints about the dining experience on-board Princess. Food is generally tasty, well cooked and there's plenty of variety at the dining facilities. My biggest issue was the overspicing of dishes, Princess seems to be going overboard with that. We enjoy the Princess style of certain dishes like the orzo salad (International café), salmon bagel for breakfast, pancakes, escargot and chocolate chip cookies - in my humble opinion, most places I dine at can't beat Princesses standard for these food items. I definitely recommend Share, the new speciality restaurant by Curtis Stone. The Michelin style menu was faultless - the pork ravioli and sea scallops are to die for! The view up there is also spectacular so I suggest booking for a 7pm or 8pm seating to watch the sunset.
Gym/Spa: Plentiful and diverse gym equipment with operational TV screens attached. Morning stretch classes and ab workouts were enjoyable but a tad short; Georgi was excellent with diversifying the routines each day. Yoga (paid class) was pleasant but a little too easy. Had an amazing facial by Lyndsay; she knew exactly what to do to make my complexion glow and I am so glad to have met her. Natalia the hairdresser was also great with her work. Alfie the manager seems to be doing a brilliant job!
Tender: Tendering services seemed to have improved from previous cruisers which had countless issues with immobile passengers attempting to get on-board lifeboat vessels, causing accidents and MAJOR delays. Glad Princess are sticking to their policy for whatever reason!
Captain: Must add that Captain Bill Kent did an excellent job steering the Emerald Princess. Despite rapidly changing weather, gusty winds, listing, uncooperative propellers and the silly season, Captain Kent kept the ship well informed. He was very personable, engaging in ship activities like the Christmas mass service, judging the gingerbread house competition, tender operations and partaking in tours.
Christmas Vibe/Entertainment & Activities: A wide array of Christmas activities and entertainment was available this cruise, providing a lot of fun, such as gingerbread house decorating, cookie decorating, Christmas card making, Christmas movies, carolling and mass. This left a very homely and warm feeling. Some of the activities were poorly timed, either clashing with meal times or other major events but overall very enjoyable and had a ball choosing what to do! Atmosphere and decoration on-board was amazing, even stunning! We often cruise over the holidays and this cruise exceeded all expectations - the ambience by décor and staff's friendliness was amazing.
Otherwise entertainment was a massive anti-climax! The MUTS was a flop; we attended it twice to have the audio not working from the start. This has also happened on previous cruisers. . It also makes a lot of sense to simultaneously screen the film on one of the stateroom TV channels, so that the movie can be watched with appropriate audio in the cabin yet this has sadly not been the case. As an extension to the in room entertainment, the TV and film selections are repetitive, being shown again and again all day. Shows lacked luster though some of the on-board games were pretty fun.
Tours: The two tours we chose were great - perfect length/duration, engaging sights and itinerary and well priced considering how much Princess OVERCHAGRES with their tours. Recommend the Waka experience in Bay of Islands if city highlights is not your thing and the Moa Brewery and Aviation Museum in Picton. Unfortunately, we could not attend the chocolate factory in the latter destination's tour, yet our company was still fully charged and not reimbursed for that expedition. Money making scheme...
Musty Smell – The ship had quite a strange musty smell at times; often vacuum like air dryers were used to manage it and took a few hours to dissipate.
Boutiques – Lacked lustre. Either shopping was based for amenities – knick knacks, souvenirs, toiletries or basic fashion – or was high end duty free. Stock was dated, uninspiring or limited.
Art Auction – Incredibly annoying. Not that we/I partake in this experience, but the staff involved are pushy and loud. The concept itself occupies way too much time, advertising and space around the ship and I think less could possibly be more in the case of Princess amending its art facility. Devoting a whole stateroom television channel to art history and documentaries is a bit much too…
As always, the service cannot be faulted. Staff try their absolute hardest to accommodate and please. Cannot say I met one staff member who was impolite or unhelpful! The atmosphere this cruise was amazing and so festive, especially celebrating NYE and Christmas onboard! Thoroughly enjoyed it and left misty eyed which we haven’t done in a while!
Cabin was spacious with clean amenities and balcony. Beds were comfortable. Plenty of natural or artificial lighting, space for clothing or stowed items. Two televisions. Bathroom accommodates a decent sized shower-bath with moderate vanity and basin. Well furnished though slightly dated. Clean and mostly well looked after by our steward, Romy. Room is close to elevators and central stairs but a distance from the aft portion of the ship. Favour the minisuite configuration. Wifi was mostly unreachable in the stateroom, better connection in the hallway outside the room.
Very well organised and reasonably priced tour. It was 2.5 hours and included a traditional waka canoeing experience in the bay and up the river. Tender drop off is right beside the tour meeting point along the scenic peninsula. The tour guides were all very friendly, knowledgeable and supportive when it came to the canoeing. The briefing demo was pretty efficient and taught us all what we needed to know. Word of caution - the canoeing is quite strenuous so don't partake if physically unable to i.e. shoulder/neck/back/arm injuries, existing medical condition which worsen upon physical exertion etc. The guides take you along and up the river to the beautiful cascades; enjoy a stunning picture with the waterfall then return. Includes some history and traditional story telling explanations during mini spots. There is a port lock up which one of the guides stays back and minds. Values are permitted on the waka but may get yet. Tour guides have their own cameras and take downloadable photographs (free of charge!). Bring bottled water, sunscreen and a hat because sunburn is almost a definite...View All undefined undefined Reviews
The tour was very enjoyable and brief. Tours starts with a short drive through Picton harbour and port, across the Marlborough region to the Moa Brewery. The timing of things of course meant that we were beer tasting at the most successful craft beer brewery at 8.45am but nevermind! Tasting and information that goes along with it was great, very pleasant; unfortunately limited free time to inspect the brewery through a panels, check out the adjacent facilities and garden or do some shopping (only just managed the latter). The aviation museum is a real treat! The exhibitions were incredible, especially considering a far majority come from Sir Peter Jackson's private collection. The WETA diararamas were really cool also. Tours led by museum staff, not tour guide, who was very informative and did the tour in ample time to allow a quick coffee and toilet stop at the facility (also had free wifi). We were meant to visit the local chocolate factory however the place was closed - ticket prices were not amended which seems incredibly unfortunate, and two samples of chocolate specimens were tasted on-board the bus. Lowlight of the entire tour... But the chocolate was delicious and as a plug were given info to order online - great consolation. Bus driver/tour operator was excellent (Don was his name). Option of centre town drop off or back to the ship. Note: shuttle back to the port was free for the former option.View All undefined undefined Reviews
This was our fourth time to Wellington and we had an itinerary planned for our day. Compulsory shuttle bus entry into town, drop off is right in the middle of the shopping district/CBD. From there, a 3-5 minute walk to the cable car. Wait for tickets and a ride up was minimum but expect to wait. The cable car experience was very enjoyable, especially as it was around Christmas and the tunnel had been decorated with Christmas lights! At the top there are plenty of options, including a free transfer to Zootopia, the cable car museum or entry into the Botanical Gardens. Free informative staff are also accessible there. We took a 20-25 minute walk through the Botanic Gardens, through their easy track, which is mostly downhill. It was stunning and there are so many lovely things to see, even the devotee benches along the park's exit were very sentimental. From there, a quick 5 minute walk along the main road (park's exit) takes you to Lady Norwood Rose Gardens which are delightful! I would definitely recommend morning tea or afternoon tea in those gardens at the little Picnic café. There are also amenities, a gift shop and two beautiful greenhouses with lovely flowers and plants; the major highlight though is the rose gardens. Bring a camera for those amazing flowers! The walk back up to the cable car is 15 minutes via the fast track (quite steep) or a cab into town is around 10. Wellington has two department stores right in the centre - one is more high end shopping, further down the main street there's a galleries and strand like shopping district, but the main strip offers some good clothing and souvenir stores. A few quaint restaurants in the heart of Wellington for some lunch - most are pub like and a little more expensive than back home but worth it I'd say.