Yes, there are parts of this cruise and this ship which weren't perhaps as good as other Princess cruises we had been on, but I have to disagree with some of the petty complaints that some of the other cruisers have put in the past (and are likely to post about this cruise in particular!)
This was by far the fastest embarkation I have ever experienced in my years of cruising. We had priority boarding via our Platinum Captain's Circle status, but even the queue for regular check in was far shorter than normal despite us arriving at peak time (around midday).
I got onboard the ship and my scanning card wouldn't work. The security at the front desk were very patient, swiftly got me a new card within 5 minutes, apologized and it was sorted. Then the problems started...
We were due to set off for Zeebrugge at 5.30pm but as the standard muster station drill time approached an announcement (the first of many) went to every area in the ship. There was a problem with a piece of the ship's hardware that meant that the passenger accountability system wasn't working and we couldn't safely leave port - delaying our arrival to Zeebrugge.
Particularly given the horrendous incident local to ourselves in Manchester the previous week, we could completely understand why this was the case however even more so than ever, but there were a great deal of less than happy passengers aboard because of this delay and the fact some had already had system issues with British Airways at Heathrow the same day. The captain was very apologetic though, and because it was technically the cruise line's fault, every passenger onboard was credited $100 which more than paid for our gratuities and part of our drinks package.
We eventually left at about 10.30pm, but not before having the return back to port again due to a crew medical emergency which delayed us even further. The captain then predicted our arrival at Zeebrugge to be at about 2.00pm, limiting our time there to just four hours which - on a Sunday - was unlikely to get us to Brugge at all.
After finally getting underway, just a couple of hours before we were due to get off at Zeebrugge another announcement - all non-EU passengers must go through immigration. This led to lines of over 2.5 hours for some passengers, with people stretching the length of the forward stairway from Deck 6, up to Deck 11. In the end, very few of these people managed to get off at all.
This process also delayed the rest of the passengers getting off the boat, and it was past 3.00pm before we did. Very disappointing, but not Princess' fault as they were only made aware that immigration for non-EU people was required on the morning of arrival - doesn't help the poor people who waited in line all day though! We went to a small town by the beach via shuttle bus, 10 euros each return and it was pleasant enough. There happened to be a nice parade that day which certainly lifted the mood.
We took the opportunity of the sea day to relax and get properly settled, not too much in the way of activities compared to other cruises we've taken but by no means the worse. However, this day also gave us our first taste of some of the questionable features of the ship itself.
As has been mentioned in previous reviews, the buffet areas are definitely too small for the amount of people onboard, and the seldom had both sides open even on the sea day. The line to get your food sometimes stretched outdoors - something we have never seen before but when you got there it was just standard cruise ship fayre imo, nothing better nothing worse. The queue for the Ice Cream Bar was never below 5 or 6 people and service was slow due to milkshakes and gelato also being served there, we ended up only having the patience to line up twice in the whole week.
The weather wasn't fantastic and I can only imagine how busy these areas would have been had it been in the Med or the Caribbean.
Copenhagen was nice but don't be fooled by fellow passengers misinforming you about distance! You NEED to get a bus or taxi for this port to get anywhere, as it is one hell of a walk into the town centre. We foolishly tried it and ended up walking over 10 miles in one day. There is a red 'Hop-On, Hop-Off' bus that stops directly outside the ship and you can even pay on your cruise card - this is an absolute must despite the cost.
We were due to stay there overnight and leave in the early hours, but due to bad weather at our next step, Helsingborg, we were unfortunately forced to abandon that port of call. Sensibly, instead of travelling there just to sit in the bay unable to tender, the captain kept us in Copenhagen for an additional day. Again, a shame and a lot of disgruntled passengers, but not Princess' fault once again. We were also refunded $25 per stateroom in the missed port taxes for Helsingborg - enough for a nice trip to the onboard boutique shops when we eventually left port despite some quite rough seas in the evening.
We weren't willing to make the same mistake as at Copenhagen and went straight for the 'Hop On, Hop Off' bus option. The buses ran regularly and were efficient if you did choose to get off, however when it came to initially leaving the port a full busload of people were stood there next to an empty bus for over 30 minutes for no good reason - annoying. Would certainly want to go back to Oslo, and arguably would have preferred to have been there an extra day rather than Copenhagen as there is far more to do.
Our final sea day was a chance to relax and pack before we went home, one slight disappointment was the fact the Movies Under The Stars that we had been going to showed the same film as it did at Oslo.
Unfortunately, everything had been getting a bit 'samey' food-wise ever since the second day in Copenhagen, presumably because of the immense amount of extra time people spent onboard during the week long cruise. It was the third day in a row that fried fish and chips in some incarnation was the main meal at the buffet.The desserts too in the main restaurant, despite them being some of the worst choice of any cruise I've been on (THREE types of ice cream dish on one menu one night) were getting very dull by this time.
Just as had been the case at the start of the cruise, disembarkation was a breeze but the poor captain had one last headache - we couldn't dock at our originally allocated berth so were located across the port ruining a lot of peoples onward plans if arranged privately (again, angry people, you get the picture). Luckily we booked car parking at the port with CPS, who very helpfully move EVERY car over to the correct berth prior to our arrival - very very good feature and saved us a lot of a hassle and a long walk.
All in all, this cruise was a nice little break. Our overall experience would have been better had it not been for the issues with Bruges and Helsingborg, but Princess by no means disgraced themselves in trying their best to resolve it and keep people happy. We aren't big spenders onboard, and after our $50 onboard credit, $100 disruption compensation, and $25 port tax reimbursement came in - our entire onboard spend including gratuities cost us just $10 between the two of us!
The ship in general is looking a little bit tired, and doesn't appear to have coped well with the expansion despite this being a few years ago now. A renovation is needed but it isn't as desperate as some other reviews suggest. It does a job. It is a nice place to be for a week or two, particularly for the price we paid. It isn't below the Princess standard as you can tell the crew are doing their absolute best with the ship they have, however it wouldn't kill them to dry dock it for a few weeks and spruce it up a bit.
Overall a very enjoyable experience, would recommend.
Our room was a standard inside cabin with no bells and whistles. The only small issues I'd take is that there are only two plug sockets in the entire room, both located on the desk and both right next to each other. If you're Brits like us, you need travel adaptors to fit the US sockets onboard, and you could only fit one in at once - difficult when you have phones, cameras etc to charge after a day onshore. The other issue is that the shower curtain was too short, causing splashback from the shower to go all over the floor every time. Gomis our cabin steward was unbelievably efficient and friendly as all cabin stewards are.