Quite a preamble for this cruise! We booked a cruise starting in Brisbane, visiting Brisbane, Port Douglas, Cairns, Airlie Beach, Sydney and terminating in Brisbane 10 days later.
My wife is not a good flier and, as we were visiting family in Sydney before the cruise, we would have had to fly to Brisbane, but we discovered that the Sun Princess had a 2 night cruise from Sydney to Brisbane immediately prior to our cruise. It was an opportunity to try out an inside cabin, something we wanted to try as claustrophobia is a potential problem and a two night cruise seemed like a good opportunity.
Thus we had booked 2 separate cruises, through two different organisations, in 2 different cabins with two lots of on board credits.
Shortly before sailing, Princess sent an email advising that there was the opportunity to upgrade our inside cabin for a balcony! (for a small fee!!) So we passed on the opportunity for the inside cabin and were delighted to find that we were able to stay in the same cabin throughout the two cruises.
Unfortunately, Princess' computer systems aren't totally up to handling such complexities!! To be fair, the only issue was that the on board credit for the second cruise hadn't been transferred. I had taken what I thought was all the paperwork I would have needed, but I didn't take one that had the on-board credits detailed. It took a few visits to Customer Services and filling in a form that had to be sent to the head office to get it resolved. Overall a minor inconvenience, but a timely reminder to anybody who makes last minute changes to take all the paperwork.
OK, onto the cruise and the ship. My view is that unless princess are aware of shortcoming, they can't fix them, so while there are a few criticisms and negatives, overall the cruise was very good and we had a great time.
Lifts or Elevators. What a nightmare! We were aware that of the two main sets of lifts, only one set went from the top to the bottom of the ship. However, the one set that did had one lift out of action for the whole cruise! We visited Sydney twice and Brisbane twice. Nobody in these large cities capable of repairing a lift?? Also the speed of the lifts was simply unacceptable! Time between floors was so slow as was the speed with which the doors opened. Also, given the number of elderly/incapacitated passengers on board the lifts were very busy especially just before and after mealtimes. It gave me the opportunity to use the stairs and I didn't use the lifts once. Just as well given the food I managed to eat! Basically the lifts need to be upgraded or replaced.
Public areas. Always clean. Sometimes very busy and no seats available in the Atrium. Some people seemed to be sitting in the same chairs for hours on end. It is their right to do so.
Happy Hour Tip... During Happy Hour you can buy one drink and get another for one dollar. Regards beer, they are required to take the cap off which makes it problematic if you want to save some for later. Buy Grolsch! They come with a resealable top! I'm sure that buying wine and taking it back to the cabin and tipping the glass into another container would work too!
Main Dining Room was very good and I'm sure our waiters were the most entertaining on the ship. I had no problem finding something good to eat every night and often had to make a hard choice about which main to have. One thing I would have liked was a decent curry! Anything that was advertised as spicy, was NOT. I know Princess have to cater for 'the average', but just once in a while tell everybody that it is HOT!
I have seen complaints about the food being repetitive, but the range was so large that surely there was enough for most people to find something!
Burger Bar on the deck. Very good, service a little slow at busy times.
Pizzeria Never got to try it, but the pizza looked good.
Charging for ice cream? Didn't see many people eating ice cream. Not surprised. too expensive.
We enjoyed every show! some were better than others, of course, but the overall quality was excellent.Only one problem that we encountered, different acts sang the same songs! We had River Deep Mountain High on three consecutive night, by three different artists! All good singers, though. The princess Orchestra (Band??) was excellent and great musicians who seemed able to adapt and play every genre with ease.
The Cruise Non-Directer. Until the last two days of the cruise we had a very poor Cruise Director. I won't give her name, but she was hardly ever seen, had no charisma, no sense of humour and was patronising to passengers. Fortunately she was replaced for the last few days. Was she pushed? She should have been!
Itinerary. Had to be changed as we couldn't visit Airlie Beach following cyclone Debbie. We had an overnight in Cairns as a replacement. Princess -0 Mother Nature - 1!!
Announcements. Every day the captain made a status update at noon. Very informative. But it wasn't played IN the cabins. I can understand why, but it was impossible to hear if one was on the balcony. Also there were announcements from time to time that were missed if you were on the balcony. Not sure how this can be sorted. A speaker on/off switch in each cabin?? Guess that would prevent emergency notices getting through!
We have cruised a few times and when the port is away from the town centre a FREE shuttle bus was provided by other cruise lines. However, when arriving at the Grain Terminal outside Brisbane, we had to pay $30 for a return trip to the center of town. There is another port in Brisbane and our cruise actually terminated there, but I presume that it must have been occupied on the day that we visited. Let's do some sums. The coaches were pretty full. Lets say that half of the passengers wanted to go into Brisbane. That's 1000 x $30. $30,000. If it was only 500 passengers, it's still $15,000!! Rip off!! Should have been free, but a token $10 would have covered costs.
Specialty Coffee. I have cruised on the Sun and Golden and the coffee was fine. Why was the Sea so poor? We ended up asking for it to be 'strong' and that improved it, but it was far from perfect! I was at customer services on day 2 when two people were asking for coffee card refunds! They did get a refund after some difficulties.
While the list of problems seems to be long, I wouldn't want to put people off of cruising on the Sea Princess. The ship does need an upgrade, but it was clean, the staff magnificent - helpful, polite, attentive and happy! Would I cruise on the Sea Princess again? You Bet!!
Fun games, Casino activities all good. Big Easter Egg display, but not an Easter Egg for the passengers? Maybe the kids got them all!!
Didn't do one organised excursion. Simply too expensive and better value to be had at the port of call.
We know Sydney well, but had never been inside the Opera House. Took a one hour tour and it was excellent. Our guide, Paul was very knowledgeable and we were amazed at the inside of the building.
We didn't go to Tahiti!! I think the itinerary is a little mixed up! Unless I slept for a few days! :-)