We are a family of 5, with a 16 and 14 year old daughters and 5 year old son. My wife and I are seasoned cruisers, including P&O, Princess, RCI, Carnival and Cunard.
Cruise departed Sydney, Port Arthur, Hobart, overnight Melbourne and Sydney return. This cruised suited us for the dates and ship rather than the ports visited.
Embarkation went very quickly, we would have been on the ship within half an hour. Even though we were Platinum members, we didn't really get on any quicker than anyone else as we had no real major queues.
Before I continue, 3 weeks earlier, we cruised on Ovation of the Seas. This was a last minute decision based on a great price. Our Emerald Princess cruise was booked over 12 months in advance and was our Family Christmas Holiday. It's hard not to compare the 2 ships since it's so fresh in my mind, but I will!
We decided on 2 inside cabins with interconecting door. Worked well for us although the interconectiong door itself that was recently installed at its last dry dock wasn't the best fit and seemed twisted. It was hard to close it without making it slam. This was real loud at night....
The cabins were clean and in good order but felt dated in design and colour in comparison to Ovation.
TV had many channels to choose from, played all the latest releases for free. Every 24 hour period it swapped to a new movie, from memory 3 or for different channels offered this from Kids movies, Action etc. On Ovation you had to pay $12 each per movie!
The new mattress, to soft for me but my wife loved it. Room steward, who I think are the hardest working people on a ship did a great job of keeping our 2 rooms clean and fresh.
After the first 24 hours on being onboard, the comment I made to my wife regarding the ship in comparison to Ovation was " This is one very well oiled Machine! " Chalk and Cheese in regards to service a food. The wife agreed.
The dining experience in the Botticelli dining room was excellent. No queues on arrival, you pretty much just walk to your assigned table. We had early seating @5:45 pm. Fantastic waiters, service was very quick (in some cases too fast!) and the food was very impressive. Did not have any repetition of Dinner menu over the 8 days other then the every day menu.
Horizon buffet on the other had was the usual....nothing exciting, but OK. I did find the buffet extremely dated in design a colour, also very cramped. This needs to be redesigned and updated. Check out the Ovation buffet area, it's great.
We did do afternoon Tea, it was very good. I recommend the scones and chicken sandwich!
We did visit the alternate Restaurant, SHARE. It is a 6 course menu. It was OK, but it did leave me a little dissapointed. I did expect MORE from it in quality and taste. I thought the dining room was as equal.
Kids feedback said they loved the ice-cream, pizza and trident grill and all for free too!
I didn't even make it to these.
To be honest we didn't really see a great deal of the girls on sea days other than dinner when we would all catch up. They both enjoyed the Teen club, and as they are a little older make there own friends . It's funny how they find you on the ship when they want something from you, usually money! Our 5 year old also enjoyed the kids club, and it also gave us respite as a couple.
We did all the usual activities including bingo and trivia. I always enjoy watching Karaoke, even though I can't sing!
Kory the pianist is quite entertaining, you either love him or hate him.
The major production shows in my opinion were of a poor quality in comparison to Ovation.
Being Platinum member gave us the opportunity to enjoy the offerings ( nibbles etc and discount drinks) at Skywalkers every evening between 5pm and 7pm. We really enjoyed this part of the evening. It was a time to reflect on the day, relax in great venue with a great view and service. I remember being mesmerized while at Melbourne overnight watching the sunset with the city in the background as it all lights up. Lucky the ship was in this position.
Just on Drinks, they were a reasonable price and pours compared to Ovation. We had the drinks package @$59 a day compared to Ovation @$79 American, this equated to almost $100 ($97)
We did our own thing at each port. It really helps that your cruising in your own backyard. One thing to mention was that when we tendered to Port Arthur, we actually arrived within the Port Arthur complex, therefore you didn't have to pay to get in as you where already "there" if that makes sense. Saved heaps on entry. We joined a complimentary (free) tour for 25 minutes , and noticed others paid for a similar tour at great expense thru the ship....
We did the hop on and off Red Bus in Hobart. 1.5 hour round trip was well worth the $$$
Day 1 at Melbourne I got a far as the end of the Pier with my 5 year old Son and turned straight back on to the Ship! It was like 38C that day. Had a relaxing day on board with the pool all to myself with my drinks card. Managed to sneak Harry into the kind club!
The wife and 2 daughters couldn't get to the discount factory retail outlets quick enough. This is all I heard from the 3 of them for almost 12 months, half the reason we chose this particular trip. Living with 3 females, they can shop and was more than happy to withdraw on this occasion. Day 2 at Melbourne we went to the Zoo. Caught the tram and had a better day than expected.
The ship is nice, but after coming from Ovation the ship felt vey old. Emerald was built in 2007 and Ovation 2016. 10 years difference in age certainly shows how far we have come in such a short period of time. I did notice areas of the ship that when launched were popular, but now deserted. Internet cafe, deserted. Smartphones killed this area. Future cruise sales? Why have such a huge area? No one in there. Speakeasy Cigar lounge, didn't see a soul in it. The Sanctuary. great place but no one used it.
But after a couple of days, I didn't care. I like the Grand class ship, has a great layout and flow. The Piazza is a great people watching spot and the International cafe a great concept.
All in All I had a really great cruise, better than my expectations. Princess offer a great product, and a reason I will cruise with them in the future .