We chose to fly to Sydney from Melbourne the day before embarkation so we wouldn't be rushed and would begin our holiday in a relaxed way. We stayed at the Grace Hotel which we really enjoyed and met our daughter (who lives in Sydney) and enjoyed dinner at Jamie's Italian which was a perfect choice. We took a taxi the following morning to Circular Quay and had a lovely time wandering around admiring the Emerald Princess before embarkation.
This was our first cruise and so everything was new to us. We understood the huge number of people there were to be processed so we found it quite streamlined and didn't have to wait long before we went through customs and onto the ship. We went down to find our cabin before enjoying lunch at the Horizon Court buffet. Our cabin was D622, a mini-suite, which was situated mid to aft which we found convenient and experienced less movement than those further forward or back. We would always choose this deck and cabin again. The cabin was spacious with a large king size bed, a desk, seating area with a couch and table, an ample ensuite with shower over the bath, toilet and large vanity. Plenty of wardrobe and storage space and lots of coat hangers, although I am sure you could have asked for more if needed. We had a generous balcony with table and two lounge chairs that we spent many hours on, enjoying the passing scenery and warm breezes. The ship is huge and beautifully decorated. There are numerous bars, restaurants, shops and seating areas all finished with the glamour and quality you would expect from an Italian built vessel. When we booked the early dinner sitting was full but as we wanted a table for 2 we decided to select the 8pm sitting rather than opt for anytime dining. It was a delight each evening to sit at our own table and have the same 2 waiters looking after our every need. They knew which wines we preferred and always remembered we enjoyed a pot of tea after our dessert. The food was 5-star as was the service. Dinner became a highlight of my day!
There was a good selection of entertainment and activities available for all tastes although I did find these dropped off once we began stopping each day in port. I can understand the expectation that most people would go ashore, but for those who for whatever reason didn't, there were very limited activities. We found the seating for some areas became impossible to get as they filled up early and people seemed to spend their days in the same seats. The International Cafe was one place that due to its popularity was very hard to find a seat but it was certainly a great spot with lovely coffees, teas, cakes and savouries 24 hours a day. I would certainly suggest buying a coffee card but wait until you are aboard as I paid about $10 more buying beforehand. The drinks package too is much cheaper once onboard so if you want to purchase this do wait. Given both my husband and I enjoyed wines with dinner and after dinner drinks each day and occasionally a pre-dinner drink and between us didn't reach the price of one drinks package, I wouldn't suggest buying the package. The prices for alcohol are very similar to what you would pay in any pub in Australia. We opted for 3 ship organised shore excursions and was very impressed with all of them. It worked out that we had one excursion every couple of ports which we enjoyed giving us a 'rest' day to do as we pleased in between. We would certainly go on another cruise with Princess Cruises and hopefully on the beautiful Emerald Princess.