Prefacing this with the fact that this was our first ever cruise experience so don't have any other ships to compare to yet.
Embarkation in Sydney went a lot more smoothly than I expected and was generally well run.
We cruised on the Emerald Princess and generally found the ship in overall good condition and well maintained, we stayed adjoining in a typical Deck 11 outside balcony rooms.
On our cruise we found that the ship was fairly full and mostly Australians with a smaller percentage of tourists from NZ, SE Asia (China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia) and a smattering of US and Canadians. Demographics were still dominated by the 50-55year age group despite this being school holidays although some families were present.
We went for anytime dining and found that even as a group of 8 we were nearly always seated in Michelangelos or the Da Vinci dining room very quickly and I was pleasantly surprised by the very high quality and variation of food and good service in these dining rooms. We also tried the Curtiss Stone Share restaraunt one night and can highly recommend this. We also found that the Horizon Court Buffet and Cafe Caribe buffet were quite popular and often very crowded, the food was fine but it just felt a bit busy and tired compared to the other parts of the ship. Seating was the main issue here. Didn't try the Crown Grill but heard good reports, the pizza bar and Trident Grill were popular with the Pizza in particular being surprisingly nice.
We found the Central Piazza quite a nice space but a little small and inadequate amount of seating and space considering how popular it was. I would recommend increasing the footprints of the more popular things such as The International Cafe and decreasing some of the things such as the future cruise sales. It was interesting seeing how some of the spaces on the ship were underutilized and nearly always empty such as the Cigar Lounge and The Sanctuary for instance wheras others seemed a little busy, popular and crowded a lot of the time.
Night life was fairly lively and we found that the shows in the Princess Theatre were unexpectadly good, in our case the violinist show was quite well done. Activities during the day were possibly a bit repetative and relied on too many gameshow and quiz themed events.
The pace of life on board was really controlled by the weather, with very nice days at sea put to good use with lots of activities by the pools and out on deck spreading the crowds out throughout the entir ship wheras some of the less pleasant days resulted in interior parts of the ship inevitably becoming more popular and crowded.
A few other random observations were the difficulty of finding a decent cup of coffee, probably related to the use of UHT milk and the more "american style" of coffee than some may be used to. We aren't huge drinkers so didn't avail ourselves of the 'all you can drink packages' but did have the occasional beer or wine on some nights or with dinner and found the drinks prices to be quite reasonable. Same goes for the unlimited soft drink packages, don't bother unless you have a massive apatite for soft drinks! BYO laundry powder to save time.
The staff seemed very hard working but always very freindly and tried to help in nearly all situations despite many of them obviosly having english as a second language, overall I thought they were a credit to the company and very patient with a variety of passengers whom varied from being fairly quiet and polite through to the thankfully rare noisy boorish bogan or "prima-donna". The staff of the ship certainly had a much higher "care factor" and were more motivated than most of the hospitality and tourism staff in Australia.
The teenagers found their own freinds mostly and seemed to enjoy (or at least adapt) to life on board better than some of the adults.
We were mostly lucky with the shore excursions and would highly recommend the Arkaroa Nature Cruise at Arkaroa (especially the early morning as you bypass at least one crowd for the tender service to shore and get the best weather and the most animals to view). The shore excursions seemed a bit expensive but well run and we quite often went off and did our own thing which was often cheaper and less crowded than some of the planned tour excursions, this was NZ after all and obviously would have been different depending on the shore destination.
The disembarkation proccess went fairly smoothly - except for some jockeying and last minute crowding of busses to different airport terminals, but would be churlish to pin the blame for that on Pricess Cruises.
As you can tell - we are not big fans of crowds of people but we only felt uncomfortably crowded in rare situations so found ways to avoid the crowds when we could on the ship. I would certainly consider cruising again in a more "exotic" destination with less Australians onboard and more people from different backgrounds now that I know what to expect. This ship is really well set up for good/hot weather so try to plan your cruise with the maximum chance of nice weather as you possibly can.
We found the rooms fairly quiet, very clean and everything you would expect except for maybe the addition of tea/cofee making facilities. We had no problems with both are aircon and heating always keeping the cabin at an ideal temperature. Although the bathrooms were small they were clean and problem free, service and cleaning by the cabin stewards was frequent and excellent. We travelled as a large extended family with grandparents and kids so made use of the third bunk in some cabins which worked fine. Even in rough weather the beds were comfortable and the room was quiet enough to sleep in. Overall - I thought they were of a pretty good standard and reasonably well designed and well maintained.
Its Sydney - its expensive, crowded with an inconvenient airport and no night life but with a stunning natural harbour, our departure was quite scenic and very nice weather.
Well worth a look, for anyone who appreciates history, fine art or architechture I highly recommend this. The rest of the town has some really nice architecture as well, could have spent longer here.View All 13 Olveston House Reviews
Got very lucky with the weather and got the first Nature Cruise boat which wasn't crowded and very well run, beautiful scenery, lots of wildlife and missed out on a bit of a tender service problems and disruptions that affected most others. Highly recommend the Nature Cruise early departure straight from the ship. The rest of the day and the town was quite interesting and I could have spent longer here.View All 12 Swim With Dolphins Reviews
Our tour seemed to have quite a lot of driving and less wineries and sightseeing stops than I expected, again - we got good weather and a nice lunch but felt a little rushed.View All 18 Taste of Marlborough Reviews
Others in our party took the cable car which was nice but wanted to walk down the hill into town but found the signposting a bit confusing and wasted some of their time. Would recommend a good map and/or map app to plan things if your time is limited as I'm sure there was a lot of interesting stuff they didn't see.View All 31 Cable car Reviews
We took the half day Lord of the Rings tour which but would recommend Hobitown instead, strictly for fans of the Lord of the Rings movies only, Studio visit was only ok.View All 21 Lord of the Rings Walking Tour Reviews
We then all met at the Te Papa Museum and I can very highly recommend this - it poops all over any Australian Museum that I have seen and is so large and interesting that you could spend an entire day here itself.View All 28 Te Papa Museum Reviews