Another memorable Princess holiday: Ocean Princess Cruise Review by boomerone

Ocean Princess 5
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Another memorable Princess holiday

Sail Date: January 2012
Destination: South Pacific
Embarkation: Other
This was a spectacular cruise in nearly all respects. Service, food, entertainment, itinerary, ambiance, and fellow passengers altogether resulted in this cruise leap-frogging ahead of some of our other Princess sailings we heretofore thought would not be surpassed. This was our first Princess "boutique style" experience and left me wondering why we had waited so long to sail on one of the Princess small ships. Loved the ambiance, the proximity to performers in the theatre, and the ability to get to know more of our fellow passengers. I power-walked most mornings with a younger lady who was later identified as my "wife" by another passenger. We got a good laugh out of that incident. Also, only one flight of stairs up to the Panorama Restaurant and pools and only 3 flights down to the MDR and other venues on what is known as the promenade deck on bigger ships made getting around quite easy. We have to book more cruises on this size ship.

Check-in was quick and our More luggage arrived in a timely manner.
We were surprised to see the number of folks from the previous sailing still onboard as late as 8pm. How nice of Princess to allow them to stay aboard whilst waiting for their late evening flights. If we had been in their shoes we would have done the same and that would have been appreciated.
Our first day onboard in Papeete was pretty dull as most of the town is shut down on Sunday. Princess provided excursions and privately arranged tours were readily available but as we were going to be in Papeete for 3 days post cruise we chose not to go ashore. Spent the day meeting new friends from our cruise critic roll call. What a nice group of folks.

Itinerary: Fabulous exposure to Huahine, Rangiroa, Raiatea, Bora Bora, and Moorea and all of the scenic beauty we expected to see. Snorkeled several times on both ship sponsored and privately arranged tours. The array of tropical fish, rays, eels, and sharks was breathtaking. I can't imagine snorkeling being better anywhere else.

Cabin: Had a bit of trouble with the air conditioning but the empathetic crew did their best to alleviate the trouble. Engineers came to the cabin at least 4 times trying to nail down the difficulty. Kudos for their efforts. Mother Nature's high heat and humidity at the tail end of the French Polynesian rainy season is a challenge to all mariners. We all have to realize that sometimes things break but as long as the cruiseline does what they can to fix the problem one cannot complain. Curiously noted that "Paul Gauguin" was in refit during this time which is traditionally "low tourist season" for this part of the world. Do they know something Princess doesn't know? I believe we ran into rain only once during the cruise and it was early in the morning. I recall on that morning the congenial deckhand standing by to squeegee the jogging track once the rain stopped and he was busy as soon as the rain ceased. Other than the warm temperature the cabin was wonderful. Our room steward, Seree, did a great job for us and kept the ice coming several times during the day. Enjoyed the balcony in the early morning before daybreak and before going to sleep. Thought about doing the Princess ultimate balcony dining but it was pretty warm outside even after sunset and our meals in the MDR were so good and our tablemates so interesting we couldn't give those things up.

Meals: Maitre'd Giovanni relocated us to a table for two (from table for 8) adjacent to a table for 6 and we could not have been more pleased with the location. The couple closest to us were so friendly and we frequently ended up with them for the evening entertainment. As an added bonus we lucked out and had Oana as our waitperson. Her 10 years of experience certainly showed and she made us feel as if we were her only responsibility for the evening. Our water glasses were never empty and she kept our wine glasses filled. After the first night Oana knew we did not care for any potato dish and delivered post dinner peppermint tea without our requesting it. Her recommendations helped us make the difficult decisions each evening. The starters, soups, and sorbets surrounded entree's that were cooked to perfection and offered a nice variety of tastes throughout the cruise. The crawfish etouffe (spelling?) was mouthwatering and closely rivaled the gambieri fra alla diavolo as my favorite Princess entree. Well done to the chefs and servers! Our headwaiter, Joaquin, always stopped by to ask how we were enjoying our meal and making small talk with us. We saw him at other times during the day and he was equally gracious and concerned for our satisfaction. As an aside, I witnessed Giovanni judiciously directing an inappropriately dressed man back to his cabin for more "smart casual" attire. I'm glad the dress code was enforced in the MDR but with the passengers on this cruise I don't think it had to be very often. Well done Giovanni!

Entertainment: Tom Briscoe, comedian, was a hoot and we thank him for a "clean" show. Alexander, the illusionist, was mystifying and thoroughly entertaining. Heard one passenger say, "I don't like magic shows but this guy was great!" The Princess singers and dancers were wonderful and we were so fortunate having them share their talent with us. The production shows were energetic and well performed. One show, Cinematastique, debuted on this sailing and gave all of us a thrill. The dancers also doubled as trivia hosts so we were able to see them on a day to day basis which was nice.

Captain Ravera: We had the opportunity to visit with Captain Ravera on several occasions and found him to be the most personable Captain since we met Captain Creighton 30 years ago. Captain Ravera has his fingers on the pulse of the ship making it a point to stroll the decks frequently interacting with passengers and crew. Perhaps it's the size of Ocean Princess that allows him to do this. In my Navy days we called it "management by walking around" and how effective that policy is in terms of passenger and crew satisfaction. His is a happy crew and I think they would all go to war with him! I really was refreshed to observe his leadership style.

The ship: The intimate size of Ocean Princess returns us to the earlier days of cruising and it is a pleasant change from larger vessels. I can understand why some passengers restrict themselves to this size ship exclusively. We saw many positives but won't limit ourselves to the small ships. Aside from the wraparound promenade deck that I enjoy for my morning walks I honestly did not miss anything from the "bigger" ships in the Princess fleet. Tender operations were efficient with very minimal lines and offloads were well organized and timely. The ship appeared "ship-shape" and clean. I think one would have to look quite closely to find flaws. Certainly one will see some rust spots here and there but I thought Ocean Princess was in great shape.

Miscellaneous: Jessie, the morning barista in the Panorama restaurant, made good lattes for us and started the day on a positive note. The art director was pleasant but we never made it to her auctions. The photo staff was not pushy but the passageway outside their office got clogged every evening. We steer clear of the casino but it looked like those who visited the casino were having some fun. The boutique staff, especially Emma, were very nice to speak with and helpful when picking out a gift. The staff in the buffet restaurant were nice and very attuned to cleanliness and service. Daniel and Prawat were especially congenial.

We are looking forward to our next Princess sailing. Thanks for giving us so many new memories. Less

Published 02/22/12

Cabin review: B48066 Balcony

We mentioned the air conditioning problem in 8066 and the commendable lengths the crew went to fix the problem. The aft facing BA category cabins came highly recommended by CC posters but when an air conditioning issue arises beware that each of these six cabins (2 each on decks 6, 7, and 8) might be at the end of the air conditioning run. If troubles occur upstream you might not have much in the way of cool air coming your way. The climate in this part of the world at this time of year works against air conditioning so any problem is exacerbated. Other than this glitch, it's a great room with a wonderful view from the balcony. Again, we were very satisfied with the crew's approach to solving our problem.

Read All Balcony (B4) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

Our lagoon safari with Patrick Tairua was likely the best excursion we have ever arranged. Only 12 of us on his outrigger. The transits from site to site were incredibly scenic. We fed and swam with rays and reef sharks. We snorkeled in a coral garden teeming with beautiful fish of many species. We ate a magnificent picnic lunch on a motu owned by members of Patrick's family, on a table in the water, served on woven plates made from local greenery, consisting of spiny lobster, grilled fish, poisson cru, pork, root vegetables, fruit, and cold local (Hinano) beer. Worth every penny of the $130pp cost. We also took a 4X4 excursion with Patrick. 7 of us in a land rover type vehicle that took us to several magnificent vistas that showcased the beauty of Bora Bora. Patrick is the consumate host and we were fortunate to have hooked up with him.

We did a lagoon/snorkel tour with Marc that included a pearl farm visit, snorkeling and a lunch. More wonderful scenery! Highly recommend Marc's tour at this island.
Read 36 Huahine Reviews

We spent 4 nights here pre-cruise at the Hilton Resort (thank you Hilton Honors Loyalty Program) and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. As it was low season we managed to upgrade to an overwater bungalow and that was a magnificent good deal! Everything one reads about the OWB's is true. The restaurant was quite good with sumptious breakfasts and a varied comprehensive dinner menu. We highly recommend the mahi mahi in anchovy sauce. Luckily we were there on one of two nights when a Tahitian folkloric show is presented...great fun! The Toatea Creperie on the overwater boardwalk was quite good as well. Didn't try the dessert crepe offerings but the entree's were good. The open air ambiance was a nice change from the restaurant plus we could easily see fish and sharks gliding by under the boardwalk. Hilton personnel were so nice. Barbara at the reception desk is a jewel as is Marie Claire in the Robert Wan pearl jewelry shop. We took advantage of a phenomenal sale there to buy some nice bracelets the cost and quality of which was unequalled anywhere else on this vacation. We took a wonderful 4x4 excursion with Albert Tours (about $40pp) that took us to several magnificent vistas, a juice factory, and black sand beach. The scenery was breathtaking. We also did a lagoon safari with Albert Tours (about $70pp) that was quite good and we swam with rays and sharks, visited a coral garden, and had a nice beach picnic with fish, chicken, fruit, and local beer. We highly recommend both of these Albert Tours offerings.
Read 110 Moorea Reviews

Went with new friends from the ship on our own to a small motu not far from the ship tie up pier. The water was a bit bumpy and the current more active but we still managed to see great fish. $25pp. No frills!
Read 35 Raiatea Reviews

More good snorkeling, albeit in slightly deeper $99, no frills!

3 might be a stretch but we enjoyed the market and the pizzaria next to the Robert Wan Pearl Museum and shop. "Les roulettes", the trucks which come to set up their little restaurants every evening in the square on the waterfront next to the tourist information center was OK the first night, so-so the second night, and dreadful the third night. Choose your dining venue carefully when visiting "les roulettes". We didn't find much of great interest on the island. 2 nights here pre-Moorea and 3 nights here post cruise waiting for Air France to take us back to LAX. We took a circle island tour with Dave's VIP Tours ($45pp) and was less than impressed with the grotto, blowhole (calm sea caused no Wow! factor), Paul Gauguin Museum, Capt Cook Monument, and the Stevenson Lighthouse. The coastline was beautiful but after all the other stops we made on this holiday it got old quickly. Also, Dave's banter during the ride was obviously canned and it became annoying after about an hour. He needs to change his approach and inject some spontinaity into his remarks. Find someone else to take you around the island. We stayed a total of 5 nights at the Fare Suisse (80 euros/night) and cannot understand all the hoopla it receives on True, it's located close to downtown Papeete, has complimentary wi-fi, and it's far less expensive than the hotels but it provides little more more than basic shelter and bathroom facilities. Some rooms are not air conditioned so beware when booking. The shower is good but the bathroom is very dimly lit. The beds were just OK and the furnishings spartan. The breakfast (10 euros pp) consisted of a granola type cereal, baguette, butter, two types of jellies, ham, cheese, fruit, coffee (quite good), and juice. The menu did not vary and became uninspiring after day 2. Heads up on the 80m unlit uneven dirt road access to Fare Suisse, it's a broken ankle waiting to happen as you walk it during the night. Also an aggressive dog accosted us one evening so take along a big stick with your flashlight. The best attribute of Fare Suisse is the interesting clientele it attracts. More of a backpacking, wandering adventurer on a budget vacationer. Very interesting folks. Beni, the innkeeper, is actually the Swiss consul to French Polynesia and is very accommodating as long as you operate on his schedule. Complimentary rides to/from the airport and ferry terminal are greatly appreciated. His helpers are not very English language proficient.
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