We had just returned from our 2 months stay in the bay area of CA with a 10 days cruise to Mexican Riviera. We already had another cruise booked to Cuba in November. We missed home. As such, were not going away again for a while. It so happened, as I was browsing thru Hawaii cruises, that was to be our cruise in 2019; I noticed balcony prices were just a bit over the Ocean view, which seemed strange. Checking further, we found they had been reduced to half price for whatever reason. It took us a few days more to get OK for me to turn around and fly again to CA from my medical care team. We decided to do this cruise to HI, Samoa and Tahiti - a dream we had never thought to come to fusion! What joy it was to book the tickets, yet unreal that we were truly going! I researched a little about and French Polynesian Islands and was happy to learn of over nighting in Bora Bora.Wished we also over nighted in Honolulu and Maui. No idea why Princess does not over night as much, which should give a break to all the crew allowing passengers to enjoy the port stops to the fullest.
Embarkation was delayed by 2 hours due to no fault of Princess, we understand. However, it would have been good if Princess land staff would let us know what caused our over 2 hour wait in a crowded loud hall with people standing and sitting on the floors. As time passed, would be passengers got hungry and grouchy. Many had snacks brought from home while those without simply sat there. Conspiracy theories were started. All this negativity need not have started had we been notified the ship had arrived from South America and the Customs office had been very trying on all the non-US citizens! Embarkation went fast once it got started.
We expected a huge crowd in Horizon buffet but, it was manageable and after food in the belly, many seemed to be happy campers. There was no hand wash sinks here. The food was OK, crew was nice, service oriented. Everyone of the crew from cabin steward thru wait staff was surprised what caused the delay, which meant nobody was informed!
The ship is newer than our last 2 cruises with Princess on Coral and Grand. It looked beautiful. The best part about the ship to me personally, it was steady without much rocking or swaying. I get sea sick and wear the sea bands which work great. We had a cabin in between mid ship and (closer to) aft. A 631. The AC worked fine, the door to the balcony was flawless. However, the drawers on the bedside table was a battle to open. The cabin was smaller than our usual Mini Suite or Grand's balcony cabin on 10th deck. We were on 12th Aloha deck. At first, it concerned me a little because we do have to spend 28 days in this cabin and made us question if we made a mistake. But, everything fitted in the closet with extra hangers brought in by the cabin steward and shelves and we breathed a sigh of relief.
Evening dinner time was a major chaos and snafu. All because many of us were wait listed for first seating with no seating arrangements. It was amazing to see the head waiters handling and managing everyone so beautifully with seating for that night and a note to return the next day for our permanent seating. We enjoyed our meal. The next day, we found the first seating to be noisy and switched to second one. Only disadvantage to this being, the waiters were a little lax about being there to greet and seat you. Advantage was they were relaxed and we had fun conversations, no rush to finish our dinner and also we could run out quickly on those days when there was a good game show at 9 p.m. We could be served fast if we so wished. The food was great as per many passengers but, when you have diet restrictions, it becomes a little difficult for the chef to cater to a tasty cuisine when they need to cook and served over 3,000 paying guests.
Yes, the ship was full. As such seating in the Explorer's lounge where popular and most game shows were held every night, it became a battle with other passengers to find a seat. The lounge has the capacity of a few hundred while passengers are 3080 with many interested to participate and many others to watch the fun! We heard from other passengers how they come in to play the Trivia game, sit there till all the game and other activities are done, skipping dinner to eat something from the International cafe or one of the partners would bring food from elsewhere. We did not want to go thru all that trouble. As such missed out on many happenings in the Explorer's lounge. Formal entertainment in the Princess Theater was another mess - though, there were 3 rows of disability seats, even before the Physically challenged arrived, they were taken by healthy folks, leaving most of us no seats since all the rest were filled to the rim, with many standing in front of poles, against the wall to watch! Many complained and finally on last couple of shows, Princess made arrangements for 3 shows instead of 2 performances. However, 10 p.m. was not very popular and we ended up attending this one to relax and enjoy, which worked out good for us after second seating at 7:45 p.m. Entertainment was of quality with singers and dancers of ship's Productions team, famous/ popular musicians that also sang. a couple of comedians, a ventriloquist comedian, hypnotist that everyone enjoyed. Hence the lines for a theater that accommodates over a thousand perhaps (?) with paying guests at over 3,000. This theater would have been fine for fewer sea days but, 18 of them, everyone wanted to be entertained and lines were long, bickering was loud! The star gazing activity was awesome with the sky close to the ship's 18th deck after we crossed the equator. The staff member made it very interesting too giving us stories and the weather was perfect for it.
There were many different presentations on Destinations, how the islands were formed, volcanos, variety, similarities and differences, vegetation on the islands besides the animals, extinct, endangered, history and culture. Various other topics such as DNA, GE and Ford - car manufacturer history, Jo Bennet murder mystery, etc. thru Discovery@sea program was also interesting. The content was truly great, but, the presentation was not up to par. My husband kept falling asleep, due to repetitive sentences, same words being mentioned over and over in a sentence, and monotony of speech, etc. But, then the presenters were really old too. Miley and Tui, the Hawaiian ambassadors were excellent with up to date information.
There were many activities, with way too many interested folks. Spanish class was seriously taught and learnt, with a good sense of humor by LoLo, cruise director's staff. There were arts and crafts classes with the ship's crew and Hawaiian ambassadors. I too learnt to play the Ukulele from the Hawaiian couple that taught us. Even after they left the ship, we continued our lessons with Ian he ship's guitarist. It was enjoyable and fun with Tui and Ian truly taught us all the how to tricks. I sincerely learnt more from Ian than Tui but, loved playing with the cheerful and fun loving Tui. Miley, Tui's wife taught Hula dance and we had a joint performance. Wish more passengers came to watch us as the quality was truly fantastic as those that did attend told us. We enjoyed all of them. There was zumba twice a day, and other exercise programs for those interested. Most women and some men were interested in arts and crafts and the small conference room could only hold so many people. The cruise Director's staff could only have 1 or 2 sessions, after signing up first come first served. Running, lining up to get tickets was a pain in the neck when you are there to relax! Later on when this pattern discontinued, arriving 10 minutes to the start of the class meant, no room to sit or the class being started already and us turned back, without any more classes to be held. When there was enough supply of the craft, and we could join in, some women would not want to share the easy to include 4 persons table to accommodate one more. It was always the women of color that were friendly and generous. This ship seemed to have many folks from South East USA, some from Canada and a few from UK besides many from CA fortunately. The fun loving Californians were the best with an open mind and friendliness. A few of the others seemed to have their noses up in the air turning face to some of our greetings, when asked if we could join them at the table for arts and crafts, would refuse!!! It surprised me, not having seen this behavior on past cruises. Some of the cruise director's staff was also a little rude, which I found to be unacceptable, though, we wrote it off to long hours of work. Imagine if the wait staff or cabin steward behaved this way.........
The negative? 28 days is a long time with 18 sea days interfacing same folks despite over 4000 people on board including the crew. We noticed quite a few arguments, disagreements among passengers and poor crew also being picked on. Not an easy situation. This made me not want to take any more long voyages, such as the world cruise!
Medical center is another story. When we went there, it surprised and scared us that the medical staff did not know what was Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia. I will give credit however for knowing a much more rarer disease called Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. I liked their open mind to learn and be prepared to face if there was an emergency, despite the necessary drug not on hand, they had something close and similar,for treatment of a rare form of hemophilia, should I were to have a gusher with no clotting ability; which was a relief. After reading the article on cruise critic about Medical centers on cruise ships are more like an Urgent care center, I truly feel perhaps a little upgrade may be necessary on longer voyages to save more lives in an emergency situation, when no land is available within a few hours flight. Just look at the average age of passengers on longer voyages! Its better to invest in saving lives than hiding facts on mortality rate.
As always, lotus spa had excellent masseuse and we enjoyed their services, though at a higher rate. The salon service was well used and busy staff tried to fit us in. The quality of products used was excellent. The place was clean, except for the fact that non spa users messed up the locker rooms and rest rooms with wet swimming clothes and showers. This needs to change with separate rest rooms for them. These passengers do not have to shower in the Lotus spa locker rooms, when they have their own cabins IMHO. This is a major issue on Princess ships.
Public rest rooms were clean when due to the urgency, we HAD to use them. There were people assigned only to public rest room cleaning, who did a pretty good job, both in men's and ladies sections on all the decks.
Service by the cabin stewards goes without saying as everyone has experienced mostly nothing but, the best! Wait staff, despite the stress are really good, caring and go out of the way, walking extra mile to please passengers. After I was ill, I requested a spinach - arugula smoothie for medical reasons. In spite of the chef not being able to prepare at breakfast, one of the head waiters went and prepared it every other day for me. Hats off Princess!! Our head waiter at dinner was also extra vigilant to make sure my no garlic and no salt restrictions were followed to the T. When steamed vegetables came and I found it difficult to eat, he took the trouble of persuading the chef to make it more tasty with special sauces on he side or by grilling, etc. That is a big kudos to these gentlemen. I am sure all the rest of the head waiters were just as good! Even in Horizon Court, chef came out and prepared special meal for me after hearing my needs on a couple of days when we ate dinner there.
I liked the fact that room service is still complimentary, although, the menu is not varied. Its awesome to have warm milk and cookies, fruit in the room without having to pay for it.
Shore excursions were all filled up by the time we booked our cruise - sort of last minute, 4 weeks prior to the sailing. As such, can't complain. It turned out to be great in a couple of ports where we could not get any shore excursions. Had we known before hand, we would have opted to rent taxis and do our own tours. We were able to see more in less time and only what truly interested us, spend more time where we wanted to, etc.
It's up above.
You are better off purchasing the tickets on shore to save $50 each. This was so worth it. We were able to see everything that was mentioned in the brochure and we dipped down to the ground 129 ft. The guide was fun with a great sense of humor, sang the song and made us sing along, reminding us of our grand daughter, who loves the song- We all live in a yellow submarine. Steep steps - would not recommend to a physically challenged person.View All 24 Atlantis Submarine Reviews
History did not coincide with the facts. The guide loved to hear his own voice so much that he repeated himself. We did not get to go inside some of the buildings and the church to see it, he gave his speech outside and wanted us to return later to see it, knowing how little time we had with only one day at the port. He spent too much time at the museum. We were delayed by over an hour, bored to death!View All 35 Lahaina Walking Tour Reviews
It rained and was a wash out. We were cold and wet, though, got lucky to be able to see some though, could not get good pictures. Lava tube was also wet with water and many hit their heads, shoes got wet and dirty in the red mud. The park's bird songs were lovely. It did not rain by the port but, did heavily in the park and everywhere else we went! We were fortunate to be able to see without much fog.View All 134 Volcano National Park & Hilo Waterfall Tour Reviews
It was all coined together in one tour whole day.View All 85 Wailua River Reviews
All these and more were packed together as one all day trip. It was awesome. We got to see the 2 blow holes, shop and the time allotted to each item was perfect, weather fantastic, sights wonderful and incredible. A great tour guide,who was also the (female) bus driver, with a superb sense of humor. The boat ride was good with music and dance, the rain forest with fern grotto at the end was worth seeing.View All 136 Waimea Canyon Reviews
We loved taking an air conditioned taxi in the heat to the only swimmable beach, snorkling favorite spot, explored the villages and their meeting halls, beautiful rocks that looked like flower pots, the one with a single tree, a park like structure to sit and relax. The driver stopped at the local market to purchase coconut water for us. We got off the taxi to do some shopping near the dock, to visit the museum, etc. It was quite enjoyable drive, except near the tuna factory!View All 15 Island Tour Reviews
My husband was the only one who took this tour as I did not want to be near the smoke being allergic to it. However, he did not enjoy it. Though, fresh cooked fish and snack was promised, there was none left when his turn came. Many were disappointed with this tour. The island tour was by a bus with wooden bench for seats, which he knew and went prepared with a beach towel for a pillow. The village life of peeling a coconut was no big deal. he was disappointed.View All 3 Village Tour Reviews
We enjoyed shopping. One of the pearl shops - Alberts had a van parked at the dock and drove us to the shop but, the quality of the pearls was no better than the ones on the dock for the price. So, we went back to shop there. Relaxed with a coconut water. By now we were tired of island tours that began to look too familiar and similar! However, this is a pretty island and we were able to see the beautiful mountain peeks from our balcony, the deck all around the ship and enjoyed the scenic view of the jagged cliffs, the colors of the lagoon from the shallow waters to the ocean' shallow water to where the ship was anchored carefully in the outlet. There were not many restaurants or anything on our drive, the stores were just ordinary and spread far apart.
The lady driver had just come and lined up and we hired her. She was happy to give us a tour of the island at the same rate offered by the bus! She made every stop that the bus makes and more. We were not keen on seeing the house of the writer due to steps. So, passed on it. We got to see the water falls, blow hole and got to take a video and the beach with the black sand, stopped and dipped our feet in the warm water. The tide was low and the ocean pulled us in....and had to come up soon for our safety. Also it was hot. The driver filled an empty water bottle she had with black sand for me to bring home. We stopped by the Belvedere look out point for the view and could not go to see the Point Venus as it was quite a distance away. All in all, it was a fun ride of the island with stops and history.View All 49 Island Tour Reviews
This was coined all together under the name of "Undiscovered Tahiti" and we loved it. The tour guide, Sandrine was very good, the driver was excellent at his job. Yet, the planning by the people in the office was not up to par. There were many sight seeing items. First stop was a museum, where we were given a bit too much time, totally unnecessary (due to better rest rooms). We stopped at an old house with an elderly couple residing there. The lady made us wait for 5 minutes on the bus, then took too much time going over the plant life, all for a plate of fruit sampling! By the time we reached our last stop, one of the best sights, a cave with water fall and fern grotto, it was dark and we could only hear the water falling! We stopped at a botanical gardens with water falls,where we did some shopping and got to purchase the bread fruit chips. The guide gave a taste by purchasing and offering to all those did not personally spend $3 on it. Saw the ruins of a historic temple. It was so worth it except for the missed cave with the water fall. Would have rated a 5 star except for this mistake.View All 6 Museum of Tahiti Reviews
We got to see the whole island via "le truck" with the tour guide. The cost was only $25 for 3+ hours. We learnt from the destination presentations on the ship about it being a tour bus in the mornings without any stops till 11.30 a.m. and did it first thing. However, our guide made many stops - at every attraction! Got to see the view and take pictures from the Look out point, at the Matira beach with varied lovely colors being reflected in the water, Bloody Mary's where it stopped also. Its a restaurant where all the celebrity names are posted in the front and the floor is all sand. We were shown the barracks where American soldiers stayed. She also humored with the history of why some of he islanders who never had blue and green eyes, lighter skin color, got them. We also stopped at an arts and crafts place for shopping, complimentary fruits and coconut. Paid and purchased coconut water at the Taihi point. Everything was explained by a heavily accented local lady in English. So, a bit difficult to follow at times. We were also shown island's way of living, with food from Mother Nature, fruits and vegetables grown in every one's back yard and fish from the ocean - a simple life and an average one room house was shown to view from outside. We were also shown very expensive condos and homes, 3 different popular hotels, college and a new university being built and how they fought with the French Government for a hospital, as there is more tourism in Bora Bora ( due to the beautiful beaches) than Tahiti where the only hospital is located. So, a hospital will be coming soon in the future mainly for tourists' sake to improve tourism - she gave us a good history, culture of the land and was proud of her home land despite not needing the French government infringing on their earnings via taxes, customs and duty, thus raising the cost of everything since it has to pass thru France and Tahiti being benefited with the monies. .Also all the better jobs are given to the French by bringing them to the islands from mainland, while poverty still exists among locals. We also saw the various hotels in the water, private beaches also from he bus. The tour was so worth it for the views and a grand full puzzle picture of the island.
We ate dinner in the evening at the food truck stop, having gotten lucky to have our ship anchor on a Sunday with an overnight stop in Bora Bora. Good food!View All 30 "Le Truck" Island Tour Reviews
The 3 jet boats left a few minutes apart but, met in the lagoon at one stop or the other. Our boat had only 6 passengers. The other one some 20+ . The beauty of the island is much better seen via the boat. Its like seeing from within! The barrack view was much more clearer, the dangerous mountain road that 4WD takes was clearly visible. It was awesome to see the floating hotels and condominiums in the water that we viewed from the land via Le truck in the morning. Our driver is a local, dressed in traditional clothing with tattoos that he explained why he got giving his family history, though, this is just for family, he was happy to share with us. We stopped to swim and snorkel with the sharks and sting ray. Our boat's Captain picked up a sting ray and let everyone take pictures of kissing. The other boat passengers also did the same. He fed the fish bread so we could view variousl colorful schools of fish. The sharks were fed tuna bites - no wonder they were friendly and swimming with us. The sting rays also are really curious and happy to hang out with the humans. We then went to the beach area but, more into the lagoon and swam in the warm water. The Captain cut up fruits with chunks of coconut, citrus, banana and star fruit tasted great eaten with our salty fingers! He played the Ukulele and the with the other boat's Captain sang some songs. It was a fun trip and so worth every penny we paid. We drank water from the bottles provided by him. We then went to a discarded (?) resort's beach front to use port-O-pots for those who required it. The tour was purchased from an English speaking French woman on the dock in front of the market. She informed us what we will be doing and it was every bit as she described plus he beauty that she could not describe and more. A good experience.View All 5 Jetboat Adventure Reviews