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506 Princess First-Time Cruisers Cruise Reviews

First of all this is actually 2 back to back 7 day cruises not 1ea 14 day cruise as is sold. This equates to being at sea for a large amount of the time because the ship has to return to Ft Lauderdale in order to disembark some passengers ... Read More
First of all this is actually 2 back to back 7 day cruises not 1ea 14 day cruise as is sold. This equates to being at sea for a large amount of the time because the ship has to return to Ft Lauderdale in order to disembark some passengers and the taking on of new passengers for which ever leg of the trip that will start anew. Alone that's a 2 day at sea trip coming and going (4 days). Now add on the days, not shown in the itinerary as "at sea". Those days would include your departure day and days between ports of call. So for example after you've experienced your first 2 at sea days you have 60 hours out there and the clock can still be running as you haven't reached your port of call yet, that's shown as an arrival day. The con to this package is that because of the travel time some ports of call end up being rather useless. Example: San Juan Puerto Rico. We arrived at about 4:30pm local time, by the time we got clearance to disembark, port officials got there, and we were allowed to leave the ship we had just over 2 hrs of day light left and all of the historical sites close at 6:00pm local time. How much of such a wonderful place can you see under those conditions? Next time I sail I'll be looking at the 10-12 day packages where the ship doesn't have to report back to their home birth every 7 days. No Smoking rules: While many of you will applaud the new onboard smoking rules for us smokers it's like being placed in a less then second class pier group. Yet I do agree with some of the rules and was able to abide by them but it came at a real cost in enjoyment. On the Grand Princes there were only 4 smoking areas available to less than Platinum card holders or Suite occupants (they have one more in a restricted lounge) and on at least 2 occasions all of them were closed, blocked off, clear on the other end of the ship and more often than not un-manned with no onboard services what so ever (drinks/food etc.). Another really annoying issue is that when reading their policy on Princes.com it states that permitted smoking areas are well marked. Sorry they are not. Like most of the information one can obtain aboard ship your best and most reliable source of information comes from follow passengers thru trial and error. When I asked a Senior Purser (Officer) about their "well marked smoking areas" he told me that they were marked, by ashtrays. The most centrally located smoking area was on deck 7 Portside of the ship also known as the Promenade deck. The ashtrays are hung on the bulkhead just outside of very heavy outward swinging doors but hidden from view by large equipment lockers. One can look up and down that deck and not see one of the 3 ashtrays located there. Oh yes, 5 percent of the passengers crammed around 3 ashtrays being pelted with heavy doors and knocked to the bulkhead. Did I mention there is no seating around these ashtrays? Additionally, and somewhat funny, there were ashtrays on some of the elevator landings which are definitely not located where you can smoke or anywhere close to one. Tell me again about the clearly marked smoking areas. If you're a smoker I'd look at other options as all of the Cruise Lines owned by Carnival have the same policies in effect. Other independent Cruise Lines have retracted these restrictive rules due to the loss of revenue. Ah, then there's the "Deluxe Anniversary Package" Cost $445.00us, paid in advance back in June of 2012. It was our 30th anniversary and I wanted to do something special for my wife, after all she did allow me to live for thirty years. I had her all pumped up with all of the niceties she was about to experience, the Champaign, the chocolate covered strawberries, flowers, the plush robes and the Breakfast in bed just to name a few. Several of these items were to already be in our cabin when we boarded. There was nothing. I asked our Steward about it and was directed to the Pursers desk. I decided to give them another day and see what happens. On the third day I went to the Pursers desk to inquire; yes it was noted on my account but obviously not incorporated into anything that was going to make it happen. The Senior Purser would look into it and I could expect things to happen by that afternoon. Well it took another day but a few items did trickle in, a second trip to the Purser 2 days later produced the robes on day 4. The breakfast was yet another issue and generally needed to be ordered 24 hrs in advance. When we booked (June of 2012) I had it scheduled for day 2 of the cruise at 8:30am but by now that time frame was long gone. Again off to the Pursers desk I went to be told that the reason I hadn't received it was that I hadn't chosen my meal from the menu. Sorry I told her, there was no menu, it was a flat package deal. This is what you get. Well the web site could be wrong, even the room Portfolio (book about onboard services) could be in error. So she convinced me to contact room services. I returned to my room, called down to RS and no there were no choices. So I had them send me up a copy of what the "menu" contained. It matched verbatim, the web site, Portfolio and what I had talked to this Jr. Purser about. When I returned to the Pursers desk, for the fourth time now, I went armed with three documents that all stated the same thing, and when I was supposed to have received it. She still wanted to argue the point. That's when a Senior Purser came out of the back office and I looked at him probably with, at the least, frustration on my face. He came over to intervene. That's when it happened. As I was explaining to him about the meal and the menu issue and showing the documentation she jumped in saying "I never told him that." She blatantly lied, right to my face. Then she stormed off. The Gentleman looked at me and there I was defending myself and position. Showing him my documentation and again asking when I would receive it. He said he'd have RS give me a call and set it up, they called, and I placed the order and would receive it in 2 days, which was ok due to ports of call. When it came I was asked for a coupon. What coupon? That's when I found out that for the meal and other onboard services included in the package I should have received three coupons for various venues such as our couples massage. The framed portrait we didn't even bother to attempt to redeem. We'd had it and I would have paid another $445.00 not to have gone through this at all. A full report was filed but no satisfaction was received what so ever. By now what could they do anyway? International crew: While the front line Porters, servers and general staff were friendly, cheerful and looking after your every wish as best they could, they were also a wealth of information about their home countries and cultures, which covered the world and made for very interesting conversation. But the second tier staff as often as not, didn't speak English at all and could make things frustrating in ways never dreamt of in any other situation. As an anniversary gift I had bought my wife an expensive gold chain with a very nice pendulant and matching ear rings to ware during formal night. As she was putting on the earrings the ship rocked and one dropped down the drain. She was so upset. I told her I'd get it back and called down to get someone to retrieve it. They sent a plumber right up. I guess by the time he got his information the situation had turned into a plugged drain. Yep, he turned on the water full blast smiling as the sink emptied as quickly as possible. I reached over his shoulder slammed off the water and tried to explain the situation. He didn't understand a word and by now my wife is in tears. The last thing you do when you drop jewelry down a drain is turn on the water. Finely I retrieved the second earring and pointed at first to the one in my hand and then pointed to the drain. He finally got the idea and luckily the lost one was still in the trap. The point here is that you may have to be resourceful when dealing with some of the crew you may encounter. Room service: what can I say? A bowl of chili served with a fork, cheese burger no cheese, Glass of milk with that Danish in the morning; expect a tiny creamer, oh but you have glasses in your room we were told. Like yes I want that 2 ounce shot of milk in a glass. NO, bring me the 2 glasses of milk I ordered on your form. Salt and pepper, what's that? They screwed up our orders 6 times in a row. The funniest was when I called to complain about 50% of an order missing; an Officer from the kitchen shows up at the cabin, yes officer, who went off chasing down a bucket of ice and we still didn't get our Irish Cream. It went right over his head. But you have that 15% gratuity and $3.00 room delivery charge. Oh, that bed; short and so hard it hurt me to lay in it. I know I didn't get a full nights sleep durring the entire cruise. I kept hearing about this "Total Escape Esperance" but never figured out what they were talking about unless it was some of the on shore excursions. Would I recommend this to others? I think not. The entire episode lacked any appearance of communication or organization from the time you booked passage to the time you disembarked the ship. Can I get a do over? Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
On our sailing there was about a 9 hour delay due to fog (not Princess's fault - the US Coast Guard would not allow the ship into port, a problem they stated they had never experienced before), then a long line at the port with 3,000 ... Read More
On our sailing there was about a 9 hour delay due to fog (not Princess's fault - the US Coast Guard would not allow the ship into port, a problem they stated they had never experienced before), then a long line at the port with 3,000 tired and grumpy fellow passengers. We didn't know we could have checked in when we dropped off our bags earlier in the day and skipped that whole line altogether, but the crew were so overwhelmed with the massive delay that they probably just overlooked it. No big deal - we'll know next time. We were allowed priority boarding once we got to the front of that gawdawful line because we booked a suite (St. Kitts - alllllll the way aft & overlooking the wake). Yes, the suite is expensive, but I promise the perks are worth the extra cost. Once we were aboard, there were no further problems. My expectations were exceeded at every turn and by every crew member with whom we had contact. Our room steward was an absolute delight, as were the dining staff, bartenders, dealers and other crew in the various venues where we spent time. The ship was beautiful, the suite spacious (including a jacuzzi tub!) and the food was delicious. The head waiter even brought me the next evening's menu every night so the chefs could prepare whatever I wanted gluten free, per my dietary restrictions. Our disembarkation was smooth too. We chose express carry-off, so we retained our luggage and carried it out ourselves. We walked out of the suite at 7:08 am, walked down to our lounge area and had time for 1 cup of coffee before they called us to the gangway. I already had the customs form filled out and we breezed through customs, waited 5 minutes for the parking lot shuttle and were loaded in my car pulling out of the parking lot by 7:45. Can't ask for smoother than that! We enjoyed ourselves so much that even my husband, who has never been interested in travel or doing much more than anchoring the sofa, had a great time and even put down a deposit for an Alaska sailing in summer 2014. He's even talking about taking other cruises after that. I have to thank Princess for giving my husband the travel bug. We're looking forward to sailing again & again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Embarkation: Since we've never cruised before, we were unsure how this would go, but we were pleasantly surprised at how smooth this went. We got there before 11a and we would definately do that again. The line was short! I know that ... Read More
Embarkation: Since we've never cruised before, we were unsure how this would go, but we were pleasantly surprised at how smooth this went. We got there before 11a and we would definately do that again. The line was short! I know that the waiting/checkin area is under construction, but it was still smooth. You know that huge blue wall behind the checkin staff? I think they should paint a murel that includes all their ports of call. Wouldn't that be beautiful? The ship: Gorgeous! The Piazza was beautiful,the theater was fantastic, etc. I thought the room decor was a little dull, but I supposed it needs to be easy to clean. I loved the Explorer Lounge. That was my fav place to hang out and watch a show. I love the coziness of it. Movies under the Stars was fun! Lots of great movies. I really liked the Wake Show in the morning. It was very imformative for us newbies! Food: We ate at the buffets a lot and those were always good. They made everyone use sanitizer before entering and that must have helped because I didn't hear of anyone getting sick. Michelangelo restaurant was yummy! Service: FANTASTIC!!!! Our room steward, Lombardo, was always around, knew our names after the 1st day, and always waved & said "Hi" even if he was way down the hall. He even offered to get me an ice pack for an ankle injury. Loved him! The whole staff in the buffet areas were amazing!!! We got to know them pretty well & they were always happy to see us and we were happy to see them too. Elizabeth in the Explorer's Lounge was one of our favs. Such an amazing attitude! The staff works long, hard hours for us & it didn't go unnoticed! Cruise Directors Sam & Toby were the best!!!! They were everywhere! Always friendly, funny, and happy! Do they ever sleep????? Ports: We loved them all! The weather was great, it was fun to talk to the locals, & we like seeing so many new places! The time goes so fast that we didn't get to do everything we wanted to, but we'll just have to go back! Entertainment: Where do they find these talented people? The singers & dancers are crazy good!! The comedians were fun & the magician was great too! I really liked the unique "street" performers in the Piazza--balancing duo, the bartenders, steel drum players. Disembarking: Easy & no problem! Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
My girlfriend strong armed me to cruise with her in January. I suffer with vertigo and was convinced I would be sick the entire time. Every Moring she gave me a motion sickness tablet and away we would go exploring the ship and all the ... Read More
My girlfriend strong armed me to cruise with her in January. I suffer with vertigo and was convinced I would be sick the entire time. Every Moring she gave me a motion sickness tablet and away we would go exploring the ship and all the amenities on board. It was awesome! I never once got sea sick. Our steward was a great guy and took very good care of us. The ship was spotless. The gal that books future cruises gave a seminar on how to navigate the ship, ports of call and how to avoid seasickness. I was in stiches! Very funny and informative. Wonderful food. Great outdoor theater. Beautiful pools. Just a wonderful experience. First vacation I have ever taken where I was waited on hand and foot. I have booked for next year and I'm taking my husband and my mom and dad. I feel cruises are the best value for your buck. The only negative was the hotel we stayed at the night before our cruise. There were 2 different cruises leaving at the same time. The area to sign in and complete the heath form was not marked for what ship you were taking. After standing in line for a 1/2 hr, we were informed we were in the wrong line and had to start over again. 6 or 7 busses trying to get into a tiny parking lot.Well.. it was chaos. We didn't get on the boat until very late and I felt like I wasted a day of my cruise. For our cruise next year I booked our hotel and taking a cab. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
We sailed from Los Angeles to four Hawaiian islands, then to Ensenada in Mexico, and then back to LA. Four and a half days each way across the Pacific was a long time to be on the ship. Since it was winter, most of the time it was too cold ... Read More
We sailed from Los Angeles to four Hawaiian islands, then to Ensenada in Mexico, and then back to LA. Four and a half days each way across the Pacific was a long time to be on the ship. Since it was winter, most of the time it was too cold to enjoy on-deck activities like the outdoor pools or deck chairs. Eight or nine days without any ports of call is also more than enough time to exhaust all of the entertainment on board and the various free movies and other TV programming offered by the ship. I was grateful to reach the Hawaii and get off the ship on the way out, and even more grateful to reach LA and get off the ship for good on the way back. The food was surprisingly uneven - some days it was quite good, other days nearly inedible. The worst food was from the special holiday menus, which I found pretty surprising. The pizzas and hot dogs were the worst - completely disgusting. The first thing I did when disembarking in Hawaii was make a beeline for the nearest fast food. Normally I don't like fast food, but it was a refreshing treat after the fattening, repetitive fare on the boat. Also, because food quality was so variable, it was nice to know for a change what to expect in my meal. On the positive side, room service was 24 hours and at no additional charge for most items. It was nice to be able to get a club sandwich or PBJ any time of the day or night (especially after an unsatisfying meal in one of the main dining rooms). There is also a handy continental breakfast service - you can order several different items like pastries and juice in the evening, and it will show up at the time of your choice the next morning at your door. Even though it was an "all inclusive" cruise, soft drinks and alcohol are billed separately. The way the ship handles this is really annoying - you have to present your ship card each time you order a drink, and sign a receipt each time too. With large groups at a bar or at dinner this can be very cumbersome and annoying. They should come up with better, less disruptive methods, like portable card or finger print readers. Paperless options would also be nice. Service on board was all over the map. Most of the staff was very helpful and attentive, but sometimes it was impossible to get assistance, particularly in the early or late hours in the self-serve buffet. Also, our room steward never responded to pages and was seldom to be found. When he could be found, he was fairly unfriendly. (In contrast, some friend staying just down the hall had a different steward, and they claimed they've never received better attention or been better taken care of.) Some of the crew did not speak English very well and I had a few awkward misunderstandings as a result. The ship had a modest sized gym / work out facility, but its hours were limited from 7AM to 10PM. Many guests complained about this and indicated that other ships or cruise lines have 24 hour gyms. Because a lot of people on the cruise were morning people and were from several time zones further east, the gym was always overcrowded in the morning. There were lines to get any cardio or workout equipment. The only way to ensure getting equipment was to go to the gym later in the evening, but at the cost of missing out on a dining slot or evening entertainment. Also, some of the cardio equipment was in poor repair. I had a lot of fun hanging out with friends on the cruise and going on excursions, but overall this was not an experience I would want to repeat. I never felt any sort of luxury at all. Instead, I felt like I was staying in a second-rate hotel in the middle of nowhere. The long ocean crossing contributed to this feeling, and maybe I would have enjoyed the cruise more if it had less time at sea and more ports of call. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
This was a first cruise experience for my partner and I, to give some context, we have no children, earn a very good wage and holiday a couple of times a year, usually in Europe. Our friends and family had recommended cruising so we ... Read More
This was a first cruise experience for my partner and I, to give some context, we have no children, earn a very good wage and holiday a couple of times a year, usually in Europe. Our friends and family had recommended cruising so we thought we would give it a go as a quick break away. We embarked in Sydney to a room that was on first glance clean but small, however after a little closer look I noticed dried blood on the drinks tray and then we noticed dried blood all over the sheets.....it was a nice introduction to our room. We went for a walk around the ship, and found the golf driving range - 3x old squashed plastic balls and a couple of rusted Iron's, the ping pong table - in constant use by every child on the boat, the hand ball court again in constant use by all the teenagers, adult only pool area - in constant use by children, the shops were terrible, very limited in what was available ie 6 books to choose from, no magazines and lots of clothes with elastic waistbands. We were unable to find any of the specialist restaurants mentioned in the brochures and then we told that the 'Steakhouse' is a partitioned off area of the buffet that only opens at night. There are no other restaurants, so slim pickings if you are a vegetarian like me. So we settled on the deck to watch Sydney disappear with a (over-priced) cocktail in a plastic glass and listened to a very loud 80's band. We went to the formal dining restaurant on the first evening, the service was disjointed. Food appalling - prawn cocktail for me, the prawns were not Australian or NZ and looked like the type used in Fried rice - tiny, frozen and tasteless. My partner had a Spring Rolls - undercooked, tasteless and fatty. The mains were just as bad and desert was sugar with a extra serve of sugar. The food and drinks were the biggest disappointment to me, we were travelling from a country that has fantastic natural foods to a country renowned for its food and on-board everything was imported from a cheap port in Asia, powdered milk, powdered scrambled eggs, stale bread, reconstituted mashed potato. I have never eaten food as bad as on this cruise even in a hospital canteen. It was terrible. We ended up buying cheese and fruit in Port and smuggling wine on board so we could drink and eat on our balcony. New Zealand is lovely a place of great natural beauty and welcoming people, but we jumped ship and headed home after 6 days of our 14 night cruise as we could not stand the boat a single day longer. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
My wife and I have sailed with Princess numerous times and this was a last minute trip, planned in early December 2012.....Wish we had looked up the airfare from ORD TO FLL beforehand booking the cruise (duh momemnt...) ALWAYS look up the ... Read More
My wife and I have sailed with Princess numerous times and this was a last minute trip, planned in early December 2012.....Wish we had looked up the airfare from ORD TO FLL beforehand booking the cruise (duh momemnt...) ALWAYS look up the airfare BEFORE you book the cruise.....I should know that by now.. anyhow booked the cruise, got assigned Rivera Deck Cabin R224....very nice, deck 14, up on port side near the front of the ship....as a matter of fact saw many of the top brass walking down our hallway all during the cruise....especially a very nice BIG Irish nautical guy, who was ever so pleasant and very friendly...stopped to ask about the cruise, our names etc...saw him many times.....he has some nice nautical tattoos on his forearms and my wife joked, that he probably had more.... SO, spent next few weeks using kayak and other websites to find cheap airfare without aggravations.......also we checked the forecast for the weather and saw that snow was possible, in our area and in areas flying through...Indy, Ohio, Penn etc......so I mentioned to people on CC boards to book your flight a day or two earlier......just in case...we never fly in anymore on the cruise day.. so this year Christmas was the 25th, and the 26th, we were still trying to enjoy Christmas, but airborne....luck would have it that on the 22nd we finally find airfare going to FLL, stopped in Charlotte, NC, via UNITED/US AIRWAYS..... flights were easy and good, then got to Charlotte to see the horrors of air travel delays......IT WAS THE BUSIEST AIRPORT area that we had ever been too... after having the US AIRWAYS guys straighten out our flight.....and then told the flight was oversold...but we had seat assignments..luckily but other flights we delayed due to poor weather in INDY and PENN etc.....so this caused such a delay in flying out on the 26th out of Charlotte...... We ran into several other Emeralders going on our cruise and we wished them luck finding flights out......from Charlotte down to FLL.....so it nice to visit the Amex lounge in the Charlotte airport....it was delightful and cozy, had nice mags to read, snickety snacks, quiet, clean bathrooms and places to doze off before our delayed flight out... So, arrived in FLL, caught the shuttle bus taking us to the La Quinta Inn & Suites Ft. Lauderdale Airport 2620 North 26th Ave Hollywood, FL 33020 1-954-922-2295 it was the BEST hotel ever in FLL that we had ever stayed in, clean quiet, nice safe area, free shuttle pickup from FLL airport, and they had a special $8 pp to the cruise port the next morning......FREE hot breakfast of waffles and cereals and rolls and hot coffee/tea/OJ it was very very nice. We had learned a few days back and posted on CC about the NORO on our very ship, we were not concerned.....since we knew it would take time to get onboard...and it did....... Took shuttle bus to FLL cruiseport and it was chaotic.....our poor driver stuck in a traffic nightmare and we just begged to be dumped off anywhere so he could get out of there and drop off his other cruise passengers...waiting patiently for their sailing on the HAL ship...... SO, we snuck out when the cruise cops were not looking....took a few secs....and paid our driver and ran into the terminal..... WHEW! we would still be sitting there.....traffic was a nightmare due to cabs in and out of the port.....and noro cruisers and repeat or back to back cruisers getting checked out before reboarding....scary stuff this noro... Checkin was slow and stopped, we have ELITE status...so we got into a special room without drinks or nibbles (they always have that) and then finally got onboard the Beautiful EMERALD around or right after 3pm.....YEP 3PM we did not sail out finally until 6 630pm and it was nice...seeing the port in the darkness and all the people waving and flashing their lights in those condos right by the port entrance....great send off.... -Ship Info The ship just had been drydocked a few weeks before to have some general things done.....carpeting etc...it was rumored that the workers in drydock the guys who do not wash their hands, brought the NORO onboard with them....who knows? Others speculated that it began with some sickly kids from Christmas cruise previous week and spread through deck 14 Rivera (our deck) We were happy with the room, nice and clean and comfy......hobbit sized as we call it...but very much appreciated.....our room steward was Rizza, a delight. Ice bucket in the fridge with fresh ice all the time.....beds always made etc...we kept a clean room the whole 10 days to save her some time for the kids, lots of kids and teens on this cruise...heard almost 400? Ship was so beautiful, clean and staff was friendly and very very accomandating...advised everyone all the first few days to wash hands and use purell and etc etc...was over repeated again and again.....when you poop, wash your hands....(I am a guy and can tell you 7 out of 10 guys using the bathroom while standing upright or sitting down, DO NOT WASH THEIR HANDS) sorry....almost everywhere we go....people irked to have to stop their vacations to wash their hands...... just do it..... Had a terrible waiter, Johnry in Bottacelli dining table 84? he was awful, we hardly ate in their, did not complain either....our choice...we wanted a nice quiet cruise and relaxation....got it too.......sorry Johnry, you should be fired....never brought water to table, never listened to our needs, wants or offered suggestions etc....... -Activities The daily Princess Patter aka the _hitter Patter as we fondly nicknamed her...cause it came to your room every night at 9pm when you were in the cabin or changing or using the toilet...bring a hi lighter there are so many events... did we do them all, no....... I let my wife do her thang and I did my thang...which is sitting on the deck, people watching and chatting, watching the world sail by......being so lucky to have gotten the chance to be on this cruise.... Once I got my deckchair, and yes the deck chair savers are on board this cruise too....but they are enforcing the policy saying if you don't use that deck chair in 30-45 minutes OFF your towel or stuff went to the pool guys desk and you lost your spots....hahaha I really really enjoyed this part of the cruise...I loathe deck chair savers....... SO, wife went light shopping, went to chats and shopping shows.....Marty is the best, he is the shopping guru on the Emerald and he was the BEST....he helped us find a nice new ring fitting for my wife's diamond setting at the DI in St Kitts.....one of the better ports we visited...... -Service Pretty awesome, except for the rude coffee guy (I reported him) he was so rude to me waiting for a coffee, and waved me off.....and not it nice way.....enough said about that... Highly recommend the International Cafe right there in the piazza.....man it was awesome........all free except the ice cream....go down every morning for the best DONUTS, chocolate, sugar and the bavarian and the best beignets I have ever had...YUMMY... Lunch and breakfast was good.....and dinners were very tasty..... wife did not like the pot roast one night and our lousy waiter never replaced her meal or offered her something else...great service NOT. If you don't want to fight to find a table or hunt for food.....I would suggest going AFT to the rear dining room always a table and such and if not have the lunch in the dining room.......always a treat! The hot tea days were awesome....could not do them all......met some lovely people.......especially the Brits and the Canucks..... -Port & Shore Excursions We did not do any shore excursions other than, finding a nice couple from Stuart, Florida Lori and Dave and we went to the best beaches with them everyday and soaked in the ocean for 3-4 hours each time...doing nothing but floating, swimming and talking...it was awesome....and they knew everything about cruising and the best beaches.... Unfortunately all the ports we visited right around the new years...so everything was closed.....that was disappointing..... Was not impressed with any of the ports cities....all run down and needing some tourist money to build them up and spring them to life....(ST THOMAS) is the king of the ports....we think....,they have so much money and established island etc......the other islands need to learn from them....... St Kitts was awesome great beaches and shopping...... the other ports alright to goto the beach, but honestly.....run down areas... take the cab...we walked in one port city after the beach and it was scaryness, even the police station was closed......got lost trying to find the road to the cruise ship in a not so safe area........finally did our CHICAGO WALK...which means, do not get in my way or bother me or else.........like the New Yorkers how they walk like they mean business.....finally got to the port....1.5 miles to the beach...take the cab, trust us....its worth it and set a return time with your driver....... -Summary It is sad to celebrate NY Eve on the cruise ship...I told my lovely that they were setting up tables....and they would be selling the champs aka champagne this time and not free like on other NY Eve cruises.......PRINCESS this was so bad and in poor taste.......I am very saddened and did not drink any of the $7-20 glasses of champs, or buy a bottle of $175 Veuve Cliquot......huh? at least the band music rocked and the confetti was free...well this time... Everything else on the cruise was wonderbar aka wonderful...... You could stroll the decks for a nice breather, shop the shops, watch people lose their money to the casino....never saw anyone win....but they just kept giving money to the casino....STOP...hehehehhee the coin lock game is rigged I played and studied it for days.....you insert a buck and get a shot to stick a key into the slot to win cash or an ipad...its rigged......nobody won in our ten days cruise and everyone said they blew 10-25 bucks on it per try....and that was alot of people..... We carried on our own luggage so could not find the porters....I recommend this if you have just a few bags.......easy and you get your luggage right in your room..... When disembarking the cruise ship......wait in your assigned area for your group to be called....if you live nearby you are the last off the ship...am flights get dibs on first off the ship.....and once you clear customs and go outside to get your cab...the cab line was over 45 minutes long look for a few guys with white vans and they charged $11 pp taking you right to the FLL airport....more for MIA airport...but they are right when you walk outside and you are hit with the onslaught of cabs, buses and traffic and lots of people....its then when the cruise is finally over..... And if you are travelling in a large group and not everyone is together please don't hold 20 seats for the other party members to arrive....please its rude... you don't always have to sit with your family and friends......why is this so commonplace every cruise that we take??? for Christmas sakes, go off and explore the ship, goto the library (get daily crosswords) and have your own adventures.......We never hang with family and friends...we tell them we are NOT offended and go off and do your own thang and if you want to meet up great.... The 35 member family who insisted on trying to pick a fight with us over breakfast tables....buzz off......I sat down and ate my breakfast and NONE of your clan EVER came to breakfast, even at nearly 10am......so there you go.... WONDERFUL EMERALD CRUISE....Lee was the cruise director, but he did not do much, he let his staff do everything and they rocked...sorry Lee. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
This was our first cruise and we were fortunate to be able to go on this with family members that cruise regularly. This meant that we were better prepared than most first time cruisers in what to expect. We enjoyed the ship, the ports ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we were fortunate to be able to go on this with family members that cruise regularly. This meant that we were better prepared than most first time cruisers in what to expect. We enjoyed the ship, the ports and what activities we did get involved in. The ship was lacking in some areas for new empty nesters interested in fun and activities like night life. Very few people at the "clubs", but overall it was an excellent cruise. The shows were enjoyable, but I do wish they were a bit longer. We loved having access to the movie theater and the casino when interested. The crew and staff was wonderful and always looking our for our interests. Food was great all around. We went to a combination of dinners, specialty restaurants and buffets, so we had a variety of food types and selections to enjoy. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
First thanks to Cruise critic board mbrs who really helped us make this trip a great one! Lots of terrific info shared on the bd found us two terrific tours outside the ship in Nicaragua & C Rica where we knew nothing. The tours are ... Read More
First thanks to Cruise critic board mbrs who really helped us make this trip a great one! Lots of terrific info shared on the bd found us two terrific tours outside the ship in Nicaragua & C Rica where we knew nothing. The tours are All rushed as time is of the essence..esp when moving Lots of folks on/off the ship. The ship was great. Room was perfect for two, w/o wasted space. The steward was perfect. Ate 1st seating & had a great table. Enabled us to have evenings free or to crash. Loved watching movies under the stars. The dining was great so we never went to the specialty restaurants. And, the "tea" was perfect but make certain you ask for scones! Wine tasting events were fun. Expect to pay for any booze, but quality good & servings as expected. Spanish lessons were beneficial &fun! Worth doing! Shows o/b are varied & everyone seemed to like them..we did a couple & were happy. Tours are rushed no matter get off the ship! Macau tours online very good for Nic.. Nicaragua is very pooor..wish we had bought more there than C Rica but choices were few. CR is an amazing country & well worth seeing. Used 6 in 1 Odyssey tours online and loved it! Sail/scuba in Aruba was fun but that boat is FULL..might look for private tour there..if you shop then don't do tour..little time! Cartagena is a busy place, go on a tour as Spanish is needed and lots of rip off if you are unaware. Attend tour lectures as they help orient you before you go. Overall it ws a great trip we will long remember!!!Video of Canal trip worth getting. Panama Not mentioned as a Port but it is a very impt day!! Try to see all and fix a poster so you can be seen in video..it helps. Look around as you lock thru as I saw a family of Lemurs in grass and noone else was looking. Use your binoculars! Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post ... Read More
Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post Hotels/Tours/transfers except for and extra night on our own at the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel which we had to make on our own since Princess could not accommodate us with the extra pre-cruise hotel night. In retrospect, we'll go back and do independent air/hotel/tours on our next cruise. Pre-Cruise Travel: On the way to the airport from our home, the taxi driver (small women) could not get our luggage out of the trunk of her taxi. I twisted something in my right arm helping her which rendered my right arm somewhat useless as lifting anything caused discomfort for the next 25 days of the trip (What a way to start). Korean Air was an excellent airline with excellent food, service and comfort (US airlines can relearn from how Korean Air treats their passengers). Upon arrival in Beijing International Airport, we had made independent arrangements with the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel to send a driver to pick us up as Princess Cruises had told and written to us that our package would not include the airport-hotel pre-cruise transfer since we were arriving one day early. Not only were we greeted by a Marriott Hotel Meet/Greet limo driver in black suit, but we also saw our hand-written name on a piece of cardboard by a women in a sweater who turned out be the local travel agency Princess uses. We went with the Marriott Hotel limo driver and told the Princess rep we would not need their van (we told her what Princess had communicated with us and she apologized on behalf of Princess and left). The Beijing Marriot Hotel (City Wall location) was a relatively new hotel with excellent service staff, great food/buffet and large clean rooms. I was surprised the rooms were even larger than Marriott hotels in the US with a great view of the city (separate review on TRIPADVISOR.COM). We spent the first day on our own which in Beijing was very easy due to the location of the hotel and nice weather. The Beijing Chinese tour agency that Princess contracts with was excellent. Their organization and guides were well versed in English, very efficient, always on-time and informative/entertaining throughout the 3-day Princess tours. Our primary tour guide (a college professor) had to leave us on the first day due to a family death, but his protege stepped right in and took over. She was just as fluent in English and provided excellent commentaries mixed with some humor. The transfer to the ship went flawlessly and we were off the bus through customs/boarding in less than 10 minutes. Our luggage was waiting for us in the balcony cabin (Aloha 619). ON THE DIAMOND PRINCESS: Our balcony cabin had upgraded LCD Television and everything was what we expected including the older-type shower vinyl curtain, vacuum flush toilets, refrigerator, hairdryer, safe, plenty of storage space/shelves. We even got brand new beds and pillows that they had to unwrap as we watched from the side. Our stateroom attendant (Glennard) was there to greet us and we exchanged information on our dining schedules and requested ice schedule every night. Since the ship was built in 2004 in Nagasaki, Japan, it was still in great shape and we constantly saw crew members repainting metal/wood, floors, and hulls during the entire cruise. The carpets were a little worn, but we saw no spots/discoloration anywhere. We took daily walks on the Promenade (Deck 7) deck that went around the entire ship from the bow to the aft. The Vivaldi Dining Room staff was absolute fantastic. Our waiters Euncil and Fernando remembered our food and wine selections and made recommendations every night. The Diamond Princess Cruise Directors had an absolutely great Entertainment Director. The singers and dancers were top notch performers of a higher quality than what we had experienced on other cruises. We looked forward to the shows in the Diamond Princess Theater and we always got front-row seats. Disembarkation in Bangkok, Thailand was a different ordeal. Since we were on a Princess post-cruise hotel/tour package, for some reason Princess was not as organized and had little or no information on the itinerary. From the moment we walked off the ship, there was some confusion as our group seemed to be made of 130 to 140 people, half spoke English, 25% were Italians and 25% Brazilians/Spanish all directed to 4 buses with no indication of which bus to board. After waiting 55 minutes, we were told we would leave late as our bus had to wait for one couple who woke up late and were still in their cabin. We ultimately left without them. That threw our schedule off and we missed part of the tradition Thai folklore show at our first stop. After a long day hot, humid outdoor viewing of elephants and tropical plants in a sweltering sun, we had lunch and then started a 2.5 hour non-stop bus ride to the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok. The hotel itself is a top-notch 5-star hotel on the river with its own boat dock. The Princess cruise passengers were directed to a ballroom for check-in where we were greeted by polite hotel staff offering water, a cool sweet ginger drink, and cool towels. It was all well organized as they gathered our passports to match up with welcome packages and hotel check-in documents. After about 75% of our bus was dispatched to their rooms, a crowd of loud, pushy and downright rude Italians and Brazilians barged into the ballroom and immediately swamped the hotel staff and ruined the tranquil atmosphere that hotel staff was trying to methodically maintain. After 45 minutes into the melee, our tour guide returned to the ballroom, saw what was going on jumped into the fray as well and started yelling at the hotel staff to get our rooms assigned. We finally got our room which we found out had a heavy smoking room which was unacceptable. Rather than go back to the ballroom, I went to the main lobby (I had noticed a number of Princess passengers returning to the ballroom complaining of wrong rooms, missing luggage, etc). The Shangri-La hotel main lobby was a sea of tranquility compared to the frenzy of the ballroom. I was greeted by the Resident Manager Marlon Hirsh who listened to our plight and immediately directed staff to get us a non-smoking room, find our luggage, and within 5 minutes we were taken care of and we settled into our non-smoking room with a great view of the river/city. The staff and service personnel of the Shangri-la Hotel are to be commended for getting everyone, including the loud, pushy, and rude passengers, processed. (See separate TRIPADVISOR.COM on Shangri-La Hotel review). The flight home went smoothly from the hotel to Bangkok Airport. We used United Airlines for the flight home with a connection in Narita (Tokyo), Japan. The (UA) airline attendants were very good but the food and entertainment program was a notch below Korean Airlines in terms of quality and selection. It was a wonderful and memorable experience, but we're glad to be home. Checked off several bucket-list sites to see and do. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post ... Read More
Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post Hotels/Tours/transfers except for and extra night on our own at the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel which we had to make on our own since Princess could not accommodate us with the extra pre-cruise hotel night. In retrospect, we'll go back and do independent air/hotel/tours on our next cruise. Pre-Cruise Travel: On the way to the airport from our home, the taxi driver (small women) could not get our luggage out of the trunk of her taxi. I twisted something in my right arm helping her which rendered my right arm somewhat useless as lifting anything caused discomfort for the next 25 days of the trip (What a way to start). Korean Air was an excellent airline with excellent food, service and comfort (US airlines can relearn from how Korean Air treats their passengers). Upon arrival in Beijing International Airport, we had made independent arrangements with the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel to send a driver to pick us up as Princess Cruises had told and written to us that our package would not include the airport-hotel pre-cruise transfer since we were arriving one day early. Not only were we greeted by a Marriott Hotel Meet/Greet limo driver in black suit, but we also saw our hand-written name on a piece of cardboard by a women in a sweater who turned out be the local travel agency Princess uses. We went with the Marriott Hotel limo driver and told the Princess rep we would not need their van (we told her what Princess had communicated with us and she apologized on behalf of Princess and left). The Beijing Marriot Hotel (City Wall location) was a relatively new hotel with excellent service staff, great food/buffet and large clean rooms. I was surprised the rooms were even larger than Marriott hotels in the US with a great view of the city (separate review on TRIPADVISOR.COM). We spent the first day on our own which in Beijing was very easy due to the location of the hotel and nice weather. The Beijing Chinese tour agency that Princess contracts with was excellent. Their organization and guides were well versed in English, very efficient, always on-time and informative/entertaining throughout the 3-day Princess tours. Our primary tour guide (a college professor) had to leave us on the first day due to a family death, but his protege stepped right in and took over. She was just as fluent in English and provided excellent commentaries mixed with some humor. The transfer to the ship went flawlessly and we were off the bus through customs/boarding in less than 10 minutes. Our luggage was waiting for us in the balcony cabin (Aloha 619). ON THE DIAMOND PRINCESS: Our balcony cabin had upgraded LCD Television and everything was what we expected including the older-type shower vinyl curtain, vacuum flush toilets, refrigerator, hairdryer, safe, plenty of storage space/shelves. We even got brand new beds and pillows that they had to unwrap as we watched from the side. Our stateroom attendant (Glennard) was there to greet us and we exchanged information on our dining schedules and requested ice schedule every night. Since the ship was built in 2004 in Nagasaki, Japan, it was still in great shape and we constantly saw crew members repainting metal/wood, floors, and hulls during the entire cruise. The carpets were a little worn, but we saw no spots/discoloration anywhere. We took daily walks on the Promenade (Deck 7) deck that went around the entire ship from the bow to the aft. The Vivaldi Dining Room staff was absolute fantastic. Our waiters Euncil and Fernando remembered our food and wine selections and made recommendations every night. The Diamond Princess Cruise Directors had an absolutely great Entertainment Director. The singers and dancers were top notch performers of a higher quality than what we had experienced on other cruises. We looked forward to the shows in the Diamond Princess Theater and we always got front-row seats. Disembarkation in Bangkok, Thailand was a different ordeal. Since we were on a Princess post-cruise hotel/tour package, for some reason Princess was not as organized and had little or no information on the itinerary. From the moment we walked off the ship, there was some confusion as our group seemed to be made of 130 to 140 people, half spoke English, 25% were Italians and 25% Brazilians/Spanish all directed to 4 buses with no indication of which bus to board. After waiting 55 minutes, we were told we would leave late as our bus had to wait for one couple who woke up late and were still in their cabin. We ultimately left without them. That threw our schedule off and we missed part of the tradition Thai folklore show at our first stop. After a long day hot, humid outdoor viewing of elephants and tropical plants in a sweltering sun, we had lunch and then started a 2.5 hour non-stop bus ride to the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok. The hotel itself is a top-notch 5-star hotel on the river with its own boat dock. The Princess cruise passengers were directed to a ballroom for check-in where we were greeted by polite hotel staff offering water, a cool sweet ginger drink, and cool towels. It was all well organized as they gathered our passports to match up with welcome packages and hotel check-in documents. After about 75% of our bus was dispatched to their rooms, a crowd of loud, pushy and downright rude Italians and Brazilians barged into the ballroom and immediately swamped the hotel staff and ruined the tranquil atmosphere that hotel staff was trying to methodically maintain. After 45 minutes into the melee, our tour guide returned to the ballroom, saw what was going on jumped into the fray as well and started yelling at the hotel staff to get our rooms assigned. We finally got our room which we found out had a heavy smoking room which was unacceptable. Rather than go back to the ballroom, I went to the main lobby (I had noticed a number of Princess passengers returning to the ballroom complaining of wrong rooms, missing luggage, etc). The Shangri-La Hotel main lobby was a sea of tranquility compared to the ballroom. I was greeted by the Resident Manager Marlon Hirsh who listened to our plight and immediately directed staff to get us a non-smoking room, find our luggage, and within 5 minutes we were taken care of and we settled into our non-smoking room with a great view of the river/city. The staff and service personnel of the Shangri-la Hotel are to be commended for getting everyone, including the loud, pushy, and rude passengers, processed. (See separate TRIPADVISOR.COM on Shangri-La Hotel review). The flight home went smoothly from the hotel to Bangkok Airport. We used United Airlines for the flight home with a connection in Narita (Tokyo), Japan. The (UA) airline attendants were very good but the food and entertainment program was a notch below Korean Airlines in terms of quality and selection. It was a wonderful and memorable experience, but we're glad to be home. Checked off several bucket-list sites to see and do. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
where does one start, This was our first cruise, and it was a great experience. I was wildly concerned about a number of things before our embarkation in San Francisco; primarily, how 2600 of us, along with up to 1200 crew would fit in any ... Read More
where does one start, This was our first cruise, and it was a great experience. I was wildly concerned about a number of things before our embarkation in San Francisco; primarily, how 2600 of us, along with up to 1200 crew would fit in any size ship, and have the ability to enjoy our time. We did; and not only that, not once during our cruise did I feel any excessive wait time, or felt over crowded, or "cattle"ized. My second fear, was that there were only 1 cruise critic review for this ship from this year for this itinerary, a red flag if ever there was one, again, not an issue, in speaking with many, many, friendly folks on board, most of all were multiple repeat cruisers, (we were in the far minority as first timers) all keep coming back, many to the same ship, and some on the same itinerary; red flag now a green flag. I found the food just fine, making the 1st timers mistake of eating just about everything in site on the first day, the Lunch Buffet in the Horizon Court before we left the dock, to ordering 2 desserts at dinner. We traveled and aligned ourselves with friends who were experienced cruisers, and were able to glean from them many of the intricacies of life abroad aboard a ship, this was of huge help, in there was no "intro" to cruising, aboard the ship, so our expectations were a bit "iffy". At the recommendation of our fellow travelers, we opted for traditional dining, at the early seating (5:30), and were assigned the Portofino Dining Salon. From day one, we were giving the option of transitioning to anytime dining, we stayed with the traditional, as it was a great time to connect with our fellow travelers, break bread, enjoy an occasional "fork full" of other menu items, and discuss plans for the evening, and the next day, there were eleven of us in this party, and our dining room service suffered. we were generally the last table to leave the room, our server was very enthusiastic, just not mature enough in his role, his helper on the other hand was terrific, and tried to compensate as he was able. Our server left the ship before San Francisco, and our service on the last 2 nights was exponentially better, finishing our meal 30 minutes earlier on both nights. This allowed us enough time to get to the shows. which were toe tapping, and humming later on terrific. I became quickly addicted to the Trivia Contest, and was part of a team of some very bright folks, who allowed me to tag along. We lost on many occasions by just one point... great fun. My wife also became a bit addicted to Room Service in the AM. and she enjoyed Bingo in the elegant Vista Lounge. The ship was clean, well laid out, and well lit at all times. I found staff very helpful, courteous, and kind. Our Room Steward was professional, accommodating, and seemed invested in our vacation being a success (which it was) We opted to dine in the up-charge Grill venue, while the service was wonderful, the flavored salts were clever, that was about it. What we enjoyed most was the ability to choose from many options as far as activities through out the day. or just to nap on the Promenade level after breakfast..... Other than a visit form the Novovirus on the very last evening of the cruise, it was great, and we are planning another. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
As first time cruisers and flyers, I did a lot of pre-cruise research,after reading many reviews, I was nervous about a few things, flying,embarkation and disembarkation etc...but I have to tell you my fears were unfounded as the staff and ... Read More
As first time cruisers and flyers, I did a lot of pre-cruise research,after reading many reviews, I was nervous about a few things, flying,embarkation and disembarkation etc...but I have to tell you my fears were unfounded as the staff and crew of Alaska air and Star Princess were friendly,kind and helpful. From the porter at the airport to the last crew member of the princess. With that being said, allow me to share our Alaska experience. First: The ship, our mini-suite was a pleasant surprise, after reading many mixed reviews, I was not sure what to expect, but the room was spacious, clean,and comfortable, as was the bathroom. Our room steward Lowell DeLeon was great always nearby if needed but never under foot. We are in our "young fifties" and traveled with another couple, who were being funny when the used the supplies from Lowells cart to "decorate" our cabin door in honor of my Birthday, I was afraid Lowell would get in trouble or get mad, but he laughed and kept the decorations intact the entire cruise. The food was hit or miss in the buffet, mostly good, plenty of choices, the two dinning rooms capri and portofino were always very good, we used anytime dinning and made reservations we never waited and the dining room staff were so attentive we were compelled to tip well every meal, watching them serve with the expertise they display was impressive. These folks work very hard. On the Lido deck is the famous pizza and it too lived up to it's reputation (yummy)! Bought the international coffee card for $31 for 15 coffees was well worth it if you are into cappuccinos, lattes and frappes, which I am. always good pastries and little sandwiches there too, loved getting a coffee and enjoying the music in the piazza with the orchestra, p.s. the drummer(Aundrea from Rome) is exceptional!All of the theater shows and the random activities on board were fun, I participated in a game called "peer Factor" our team won, and we all got cute tee-shirts (what-a-blast) the cruise director Martyn Moss is hysterical,as funny as the comedian.(AND)... The pictures from our two formal nights were spectacular (bought 3 of them for $25. ea) totally worth it. Oh yea, Alaska was cool too, took a wild life tour in Ketchican saw bear cub and bald eagle and totem poles and went to Lumber Jack show (corny, but fun) and shopped of course. Juneau rained all day which cancelled our glacier heli-flight and tram ride, but all is well, we did the heli-ride in Skagway with Temsco, great people, beautiful, awe-inspiring scenery. We had a great cruise and will do it again, with the new Royal Princess in 2013. Every single crew member from the wait staff to the performers were so genuinely friendly and nice, we were left with the impression that they all liked being there and making our cruise a special experience was their ultimate goal. Who could ask for more? Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
I wasn't even sure I wanted to take a cruise. I'm an introvert who needs a lot of "alone time" to recharge my batteries, so the thought of being on a big ship with 3,000 other people didn't sound very appealing. ... Read More
I wasn't even sure I wanted to take a cruise. I'm an introvert who needs a lot of "alone time" to recharge my batteries, so the thought of being on a big ship with 3,000 other people didn't sound very appealing. Plus, I'm single and would be traveling alone. I figured that I'd feel odd being a solo traveler on a cruise. But when I got an e-mail from a software company that publishes genealogy software that I have used, describing their annual genealogy conference on board the Star Princess' last cruise to Alaska for the 2012 season, I had to sign up. Given the opportunity to see Alaska, try out cruising, and learn some valuable tips to help my genealogy research, I couldn't say no. I flew from Houston to Seattle the day before the cruise embarked, and arrived to glorious blue skies and mid-70s temperature. I had booked a night at the Hilton Doubletree as part of the cruise package, so I hopped on the complimentary shuttle and was at the hotel by mid-afternoon. The genealogy group had a registration table and Q&A session planned for early evening so, unfortunately, I didn't have time to go into Seattle to see the sights. The hotel was very attractive and the room was spacious and comfortable. I ate an early dinner at the bar and had a great conversation with the bartender and a Southwest Airlines flight attendant who sat down next to me. It was a fun way to spend the hour or so I had to kill before the Q&A session started. The next morning our group's travel agent had arranged for coach transportation to the dock, so we all assembled and chatted and started to get to know each other. I could tell it was going to be a very congenial group. We had a relatively quick trip to the dock, and we were all oohing and aaahing about the continued gorgeous weather. After arriving at the Seattle Cruise Terminal we were met by innumerable smiling Princess employees. I was so impressed by the genuine happiness, smiles and friendliness of the blue-shirted employees around every corner. They had everything well organized and got us processed and onto the ship in under an hour. I think it was about 1:00 p.m. when I opened the door of my stateroom. I was very pleasantly surprised by my stateroom. I was in what my travel summary said was a "Totally Obstructed Oceanview." I don't know about you, but does having two small cables and two narrow posts in front of the window sound "totally obstructed to you"? I was thrilled to see that I actually had an almost totally unobstructed ocean view! I then met my cabin steward, Conrado, who kept everything so tidy and clean all week. I didn't ask a lot from him but the two requests I made were very quickly provided. The ship itself is attractively decorated with lots of wood and stone and metal accents. The Piazza, a 3-story midship atrium, is the center of most of the activity. On the lowest level, Deck 5, there was almost always some sort of live music being played - a talented string quartet and a jazz pianist were two I really enjoyed. There are bars and shops and the Passenger Services office on the three levels, all overlooking the central area. There are two glass elevators that overlook the same area. By the end of the cruise, I had gotten into the habit of visiting the Lobby Bar on Deck 5, overlooking the Piazza, to enjoy a martini before dinner in the Capri Dining Room. I never did make it up to the top deck to see the Lotus Spa, fitness center, and the Sanctuary. But I did venture up to see Skywalker's Nightclub which occupies the entire aft end of the very top of the ship. There were some extraordinary views from up there! As to dining, I ate virtually all of my meals in either the Capri or Portofino Dining rooms. I ate one breakfast in the Horizon Court buffet on the Lido deck but that was enough. The food tasted just fine, but the hassle of fighting the crowds and standing around holding my plate of food trying to find a place to sit was just not worth the convenience. I was more than pleased with the meals I ate in the dining rooms. I figure if I'm spending this much on a vacation, I want to be waited on! And the maitre d' and waiters did a fine job of getting me seated and fed. There was good variety in the menus in my opinion. There were a few items that appeared every day (like that to-die-for Fettucini Alfredo), but I tended to try something different each day. The best meal I had ... by far ... was the Chef's Table. I had heard about the Chef's Table through the Cruise Critic forums and knew that I needed to get my name on the list as soon as possible after boarding the ship. So I did just that. I was one of the lucky few who got invited to spend $95 for an amazing dining experience. We met Jacques, the Maitre d', got dressed in a chef's coat and marched through the Capri Dining Room at 7:00 p.m. and into the Galley. We met the Executive Chef who visited with us briefly and then led us through a portion of the kitchen. He had created four appetizers for us, which he served along with seemingly-bottomless glasses of French champagne. We also got to see examples of the beautiful carved vegetable "floral" arrangements and ice sculpture. After the appetizers and champagne in the Galley, we were led back to the dining room where a table had been set for us. It had candles and a beautiful floral arrangement in the center. The Executive Chef, Sous Chef, Head Pastry Chef, and Maitre d' then proceded to serve us course after course of incredible food created just for us. And each course was accompanied by more seemingly-bottomless glasses of wines that had been matched to each course. We had a Barolo risotto with langoustines, a lemon sorbet with mango "slaw", rack of veal and beef tenderloin flambeed tableside, etc. etc. etc. The finale was a gorgeous Belgian chocolate dome filled with mascarpone and topped with amazing spun sugar decorations. After that we had coffee and petit fours. In addition to the fantastic food and wine, we were each given a copy of the menu, a copy of the Princess Cookbook and a copy of a group photo that was taken early in the dinner. It really was a highlight of the trip for me. Since I was on the cruise for a genealogy conference, I didn't have time to participate in many of the other on-board activities. I did attend one show in the Princess Theater -- "British Invasion". It was very entertaining, featuring many of my favorite British songs from the 60s up through more recent years. The costumes and choreography were great, as were the vocal performances of the featured singers. On the three port days, I did Princess excursions. We were extremely fortunate on this cruise because we didn't have a single drop of rain the entire trip. According to the Captain, this cruise was the best one weather-wise for at least 6-8 weeks! In Ketchikan, I opted for the Misty Fjord cruise/flight package. We were the only cruise ship in port that day, so there were only 7 people on our trip! That meant we got very personal attention from the boat crew and had lots of space to move around and take pictures. The flight back to Ketchikan was spectacular. Even the pilot was positively giddy at getting to fly in such perfect weather. In Juneau I went on a 14-person photography-centered whale-watching/Mendenhall glacier excursion. The weather was overcast for most of the day, but still there was no rain. Our guide was a former whale researcher and photographer who was extraordinarily knowledgeable and helpful. She individually assisted each of us to set our cameras up so we would have the best chance of getting good shots. We saw humpbacks and killer whales, as well as sea lions, bald eagles, and cormorants. Our guide was astounded when we came across two male orcas "romancing" a female. She said she'd never seen that behavior on an excursion before. Then, while visiting Mendenhall Glacier, we got to see a black bear sow with two cubs. Oh, and a porcupine lunching on leaves up in a tree. It was just an extraordinary day. In Skagway, I was disappointed in the excursion I chose. It started with a chance to try gold panning. The place we went to was VERY touristy and hokey. I got the feeling that they really just wanted to funnel us into the gift shop to buy gold jewelry. Oh well. Then, our bus traveled up the White Pass to Fraser, B.C. The scenery was very pretty on the way up. At the top, we got on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad for the trip back down to Skagway. Just after we had come down below the summit, the fog started settling in. So, we didn't get to see all of the spectacular vistas that people who took the train in the afternoon got to see. Our final stop was lunch at the historic Skagway Inn, built in about 1898. It's now a Bed & Breakfast and the chef/owner uses vegetables and flowers from his adjacent garden in all of the dishes. My meal of halibut chowder, smoked salmon farfalle, and apple crisp (made with apples picked from his own trees) was delicious. I didn't even get off the ship when we got to Victoria, B.C. It didn't seem as though it was worth the effort since we were only going to be there for a few hours at night. Finally on Sunday morning, it was time to disembark. Princess had provided lots of information on how the process would work earlier, so I was prepared to wait a lot longer than I actually had to. I had chosen to try the EZ Check process which would take my suitcase straight from the ship and check it onto the plane at the airport. All I had to do was fill out some paperwork and turn it in at the Passenger Services desk a couple of days ahead of time. Then they provided me with special luggage tags and that was that. I picked up my suitcase back in Houston with no problem. On Sunday morning, I got up early so I could eat breakfast in the Amalfi Dining Room. That was the only dining room open besides the buffet on the Lido deck. It was nice to have a civilized meal before starting a long day of travel. Then, we had to vacate our cabins by 8:00 a.m. My assigned meeting point was at 7:55 in the Vista Lounge. I arrived about 15 minutes early and only had to wait about 5 minutes before they announced that my disembarkation group was free to leave. About 10 minutes of walking down the gangplank, through the cruise terminal and out the front door, I was seated on the bus for my transfer back to the airport. As I mentioned earlier, I really appreciated the smiling and friendly service I got from every Princess employee I dealt with. I work in Human Resources so I can spot a disgruntled employee a mile away. No one can fake that kind of smile or kindness if they really hate their job. Princess must treat its employees well because they seemed truly happy to be doing what they were doing. So, in summary, one cruise on the Star Princess has converted this introvert into a new cruiser. I will definitely take another cruise and it will very, very likely be on a Princess ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
This was our first cruise. We decided to do a back to back cruise that was a repositioning cruise from Vancouver to Fort Lauderdale. The ship took 3 days to sail to LA and then 14 days to go the rest of the way. Embarcation in ... Read More
This was our first cruise. We decided to do a back to back cruise that was a repositioning cruise from Vancouver to Fort Lauderdale. The ship took 3 days to sail to LA and then 14 days to go the rest of the way. Embarcation in Vancouver was beautiful. We booked a princess hotel package and stayed in the Pan Pacific Hotel. The hotel overlooks the cruise ship pier and was perfect. The weather in Vancouver was incredible-sunny and 70-75F. Boarding was no problem as we were checked in at the hotel. At about 10:30 am, we were led down to the cruise ship waiting room and were whisked through customs to the waiting area. Being first time cruisers we had to wait until the priority passengers boarded-but we were in the first group in the peon class. We boarded and went right to our room. Princess had split boarding-those with cabins forward took one gangway and those aft took a rear gangway. We went to lunch in the buffet. I have a wight problem so buffets are a threat-but I found plenty to choose from. After muster we went up to the sun deck which overlooks the pools. My wife is a nervous sailor and is prone to sea sickness. As we departed she was busy watching the party on the lido deck. After several minutes, she looked up and saw the lions gate bridge and realized that we were moving. She never once suffered from sea sickness. The cruise to LA was beautiful. The Coral has a full promenade deck and we did 6 laps in the morning on sea days. We got to meet some nice people walking on that deck. The food was unbelievable. We ate every evening in the MDR and they had brought out a whole new menu. I found it delightful and my wife couldn't get enough. Of course many dishes were not to my taste, but there was always something good waiting for me. It was 5 days to Costa Rica, our first stop. We had so much to do on the ship we had no time to be board-my wife actually complained she didn't have a chance to catch a nap! We took all princess excursions and found that the excursions info on the website was first rate. THe excursions were also handled very well with knowledgeable and very pleasant guides. We took the 2 day Panama Canal experience. Here, we anchored off Panama the first day and tendered to shore. We took and excursion into the jungle to visit an Embera Indian village. It was the highlight of the trip. The Panama Canal came next. It was also a thrilling adventure. Going through the locks there were other sips alongside and the crews waved to us. People were waiving to us from everywhere. At the end of the day we passed through the last of the locks and said off to Colombia. We next went to Cartagena Colombia. We took a short city tour that was interesting-although as soon as we got off the bus we were surrounded by vendors trying to sell us stuff. Our last port was Aruba-a beautiful little island. We also took a tour of the island and the butterfly farm-very interesting. Then, it was 2 days at sea to FLL. This was a long cruise, but the Coral Princess was up to the job. We had a great cruise director who kept us busy with shows, comedians, singers, games, and lectures. The Coral is a beautiful ship with lots of room -we never felt crowded. The crew was magnificent and happy. Everyone we met gave us a smile. When we re-boarded in LA I noticed that the hotel manager was standing on the gangway greeting the passengers and asking how things were going. The food was magnificent from breakfast to luck to dinner. We only ate in the buffet a few days for lunch and breakfast. When we ate there, the food was good, not high gourmet, but good. I heartily recommend the Coral Princess for a Panama Canal transit. It is a really great ship! Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Our expectations were mixed before embarking on our first cruise but after 24 hours we were pretty much converts. At first sight the ship was looked amazing and embarkation was easy. The cabin was about the size we expected but because ... Read More
Our expectations were mixed before embarking on our first cruise but after 24 hours we were pretty much converts. At first sight the ship was looked amazing and embarkation was easy. The cabin was about the size we expected but because we opted for a balcony it seemed much bigger and it suited our needs perfectly. We were on the eleventh deck (BAJA)which was an ideal height and pretty much mid ship which after venturing both aft and rear was definitely the right location. The rear of the ship in particular was quite noisy and the motion of the sea was quite noticeable. The room was also well appointed and clean which is all you could expect. Even though we didn't watch much television what was available was good and the on board channel (WAKE)was very informative and quite fun to watch. Our cabin Stewart was very good as well but nothing less that we expected. As far as the ship itself was concerned you'd hardly believe there were 3,100 passengers on board as we had very little trouble getting into most of the onboard venues. There was more than enough entertainment, if fact we found at times we couldn't get to everything. The shows were very good and the food was amazing. Obviously too much to choice from but we weren't complaining. Some of the passengers we spoke with who'd been on other Princess cruises said the food was below that of other the cruises. If that was the case then I can't imagine how good that food must have been! We took a few on shore tours and must admit were disappointed. Mainly with what we paid for what we got. At half the price they would have been worth it but not for what we paid. In fact the best day trips we had were the free one's where we just went a shore on our own. We would look seriously at organising our own on shore excursions in the future. Probably our biggest bug bear was the charging of gratuities. Coming from Australia we're of the belief that gratuities are paid for a job well done and over and above what is expected. Even though the staff on board were excellent they did nothing more than we expected from a cruise which cost us over $A7,500. There's nothing worse than paying for something and then finding yourself having to dip into you pocket over and over again. We weren't the only one's who felt this way and even some Americans agreed with us and their the champions of gratuities. Some advice to Princess... charge an all inclusive fee. An extra $300 would have fazed us at all! All in all though we loved the cruise and are looking forward to our next one. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Arrived at the pier at 11:30 and we were on the ship by 12:40 there was a line but it moved fairly quick. Our cabin was ready so we went there first to check it out. It was not overly big but it was nice. The bed was hard and so we asked ... Read More
Arrived at the pier at 11:30 and we were on the ship by 12:40 there was a line but it moved fairly quick. Our cabin was ready so we went there first to check it out. It was not overly big but it was nice. The bed was hard and so we asked for and got a egg crate type pad put on and I guess it helped a little. They need to replace the mattress, it was just worn out. The size of the bathroom was pretty small but okay for a week. The Balcony was wonderful. I am so glad we had it. None stop views!!!!!! Alaska is beautiful. We went to a few shows on the ship and decided that the show from our balcony was better. The weather was wonderful so we had Sunsets that were awesome. The Mountains,Waterfalls,Eagles,Whales etc...so much beauty to take in. We had Anytime dining and made reservations each night to fit with our plans for the day. The food was for the most part was good, some meals better than other. We did the Horizon Buffet one time and found it very chaotic with people going all directions and one lady tasting food with her fingers before putting it on her plate so we had the rest of our meals in the dining room or at the International Cafe. Both were pretty good. The service on board was great. Everyone from our room steward to the dinning staff were friendly and made us feel so special like they were there just for us. Those are some very hard working people on that ship. This was our first Cruise and it was wonderful.We would have had to been in a Coma to be any more relaxed and are already talking about our next one. Princess does a great job! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
This was my husband's and my first cruise experience. We know several other couples who have taken the Alaska Cruise. We took the 7 day cruise from Seattle round-trip. We have family who live in the Seattle/Tacoma area, so we drove ... Read More
This was my husband's and my first cruise experience. We know several other couples who have taken the Alaska Cruise. We took the 7 day cruise from Seattle round-trip. We have family who live in the Seattle/Tacoma area, so we drove up and spent a little time with them before and after the cruise. They drove us to the ship and picked us up. As far as we knew, everything went very smoothly for embarkation. Our room was nice--we had been upgraded from the Aloha Deck to the Lido deck with a private covered balcony. I recommend the balcony to anyone taking the Alaskan Cruise, as we stood out there a majority of the time watching for whales and just enjoying the ocean and scenery. My one major complaint with the room was it is right under the gym! So, from morning til' night would be "crash, boom, bang" off and on. The weight lifters would lift weights, then DROP them on the floor. The gym definitely needs to be moved. Our room steward, Geoffrey, was really good-- always had our room clean, and frequently asked if we needed anything. He did make us a dove out of washcloths and sat it on the pillow to greet us one day, and he had chocolates for us every day, too! The food was great, with a good variety and always tasted good. I loved the coffee and since we were on the Lido deck, we could run right down in the a.m. and grab a cup of coffee, pastries, etc. from the buffet and take it back to our room. Same with the good pizza or hamburgers from the Trident Grill. There was always someone standing at the entrance to the buffet line to make sure hands were sanitized. Children under 12 should not be allowed into the buffet food area, as they are the biggest carriers of germs. Our cruise had a variety of ages for cruising--from young children, all the way up to 80's+, with many couples around our age group (early 60's). My one complaint about the ports is that there are too many cruise ships docked at one time in the tiny towns, so the shopping and sight-seeing was not pleasant with elbow-to-elbow people. The cruise lines need to figure out a way to stagger the times/days when the cruise ships stop. One of our ports had four cruise ships docked at once! Figure at least 2,000 passengers per ship and that is A LOT of people trying to see and do in a short amount of time. Plus, there is not enough time to do all one would like to do. I hate to be rushed! We opted to stay on ship at Victoria because we had been there before and can go there again on our bi-annual trips to Washington. It is less expensive to book the shore excursions on line or directly with the tour. We saved about $50.00 apiece by booking the White Pass Train ride ourselves. For the most part, we truly enjoyed our whole Alaskan Cruise with the weather cooperating, even in Ketchikan and Glacier Bay--it was partly cloudy with temps around the high 60's, low 70's (except Glacier Bay), which was probably in the mid 40's. We probably wouldn't go on another Alaskan Cruise, only because we want to drive up sometime and really explore the interior. This cruise gave us a taste and an opportunity to see the Inside Passage and the breathtaking scenery without having to spend too much time or expense. It was a wonderful experience. Thank you, Princess! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
I want to thank all of you for all you help. I learned so much from this site!!! Our trip started with a one night stay in Vancouver. We drove and parked our car at the Coast Plaza Hotel. It was an older hotel, but very clean and the ... Read More
I want to thank all of you for all you help. I learned so much from this site!!! Our trip started with a one night stay in Vancouver. We drove and parked our car at the Coast Plaza Hotel. It was an older hotel, but very clean and the cheapest way for us to go since we needed parking for 14 days in Vancouver. But if the cruise is 7 days and one is parking in Vancouver, there are cheaper hotels to stay at. We took this cruise with our two children, ages 12 and 10, and my recently widowed father in law, and my brother in law. My children shared our cabin, while my father in law and brother in law shared a cabin on a different deck. Even though our ticket said to arrive after 1:00, I wanted to get to the ship as soon as possible. We got there at 11. Boarding went very smoothly and we were on by noon. We loved the children's program. Our 10 year old son spent most of his time during the cruise in the "Fun Zone." The staff were were well trained. He did pottery, stained glass art, tee shirt art, bingo, glow in the dark disco, and many more activities. It got to a point where we had to tell our son that he had to spend a couple a hours a day with the family. : ) The pools were very warm, warm enough that we could swim outside while we were touring Glacier Bay. My daughter wanted to be able to say she went swimming in Glacier Bay. : ) We found the food hit and miss. Some of it was outstanding, some of it was not very good, most of it was just fine. Like I have heard before on this site, it is like banquet food. The staff on board was amazing. We had anytime dining, but the wait was horrible. We got to know the head waiter the first night and he set us up with a table every night at 7:45. That was much later than I wanted, but it was what my father in law wanted, so we went with it. Our waiter and assistant waiter were wonderful. they got to know our children and anticipated most needs. It was an amazing experience. Our cabin steward was also wonderful and we were greeted with towel animals most nights. We would go to Crooners for drinks each day. The staff there was delightful and the drinks were so fun! The ports were wonderful. We did the train in Skagway, sat in the back car on the left side. I got that tip from this site! Great tip!!! We also did the excursion were you get to pan for gold, play with Iditarod puppies and go in a 40 below freezer. I was surprised how much I loved this excursion. It was so well done and not just for kids. The talk about the Iditarod was very interesting. Skagway also had a number of National Park buildings for families. Two days was not enough time there. We took a taxi to the Mendenhall in Juneau. That was $35 for the 6 of us. Right now there is a mother bear that lives there with her two cubs. She was fishing for salmon and feeding her cubs, really cool! On our other day in Juneau we did the tram and hiked around the top. Next time I am in Juneau I am going to take the tram up and then hike the 3 miles to the summit. Ketchikan - We did the logging show. My family loved it. I will not comment. We also took the bus out to Totem Bight State park to see the totems. We walked Creek Street. We did Discovery Center. My kids loved that. We spent about an hour there, which was not enough time. It was a very hands on museum about Alaska. I don't know what it cost because we used our annual National Park pass to get in. As you can see we did not do a lot of expensive excursions. We spent a lot of time hiking and also in museums, with a couple of excursions thrown in. I thought the Coral Princess had the feel of not being very crowded. Everyone was very nice. I can't imagine cruising anything else. My brother in law, who is single and in his 40's, said he felt isolated because there was no one in his age range who was single on board. There were 79 children in the 8 - 12 year old age range. Every time I drop my son off there were about 10 kids in the "Fun Zone." Most days we would do the trivia contests in the Wheelhouse Bar. Always fun but we never won. We did win the egg drop! We love the on board contests. My family enter most of the day time ones if we were around. One of my favorite parts of the cruise was every morning my husband and I would get up every morning early and go walking before our children got up; then we would have breakfast alone, before the craziness of the day. I am going to miss those walks. He left for work at 6:00 am this morning. : ( We loved Alaska and loved cruising! Thanks for all your help! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Being first time "big ship" cruisers, and avid travellers, we spent 2 years researching Alaska cruise info before booking our trip. So, we were able to book exactly what we wanted, and were very pleased with the size of the ... Read More
Being first time "big ship" cruisers, and avid travellers, we spent 2 years researching Alaska cruise info before booking our trip. So, we were able to book exactly what we wanted, and were very pleased with the size of the ship, layout and size of our cabin, location of our cabin, and our excursions. We booked the train from Anchorage to Whittier on our own, and were on the 9:30 am train. A pleasant ride. NOTE: most hotels offer free shuttle from the airport to the hotel, and then to the train station. Don't hire a cab without checking this out. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn - which was fine. Nothing fancy, but we were there for only overnite. At the train station, we checked our bags straight through to Princess and never saw them again until we got to our cabins. When the train arrived, it was a short walk across a parking lot to the ship terminal to fill out health forms and check in. We got there around noon. Chose to walk into town to buy bottled water, and then checked in around 1:30. Our cabin was ready, and our luggage was delivered. As opposed to recent complaints I had read - we found the staff of Coral Princess to be friendly, helpful, energetic, with happy attitudes. Yes, it was hard to understand some of them, as it is an almost entirely non-American crew. Sometimes we had to ask a question repeatedly in order to understand the answer. Our cabin was clean, and our beds were comfortable -no need for the egg carton cushion. Only complaint - too few plugs that you could use because of their placement on the walls. Several of our electronics didn't fit the space specifically at the desk location. The locations behind the 2 tv's was difficult to reach.. Bring a multi-plug strip or extension cord ( I had one with me but it somehow didn't get unpacked and I thought I hadn't brought it!). Also, it was hot with the duvet. There were no other covers, and so we requested a top sheet and a blanket. Well, the top sheet was torn, and dingy, and we chose not to use it. However, the blanket came in handy to wrap around as we sat on the balcony when sailing in Glacier Bay! Also, a few extra pillows for the sofa and the bed had to be requested. All of our clothing and items had a place to be stored - and we had 4 suitcases and 2 carryon bags!!! We chose a mini-suite that had a tub/shower so that my 6'4" hubby would have room in the shower. It was really nice!! We had anytime dining and found the food to be pretty bad. Clearly the chefs were trying to prepare dishes that were too complicated to be served on such a large scale. After a couple of nites we went to the Horizon Buffet and found the food flavor and quality to be much better. Not fabulous, but better! Of course, Sabatini's and the Bayou Cafe were very good (don't get steak at Bayou Cafe - stick with Cajun dishes - poor meat grade). We had room service for breakfast 2 mornings that we were in a hurry. It was fine. Note - any beverage you buy has an add-on gratuity, so those latte's at the Patisserie not only had an added-on gratuity, but the ticket you must sign doesn't list the gratuity, yet is has a line for you to (foolishly) add gratuity). We saw a few show - they were pretty good. Not Broadway, but fine. The crew show on the 2nd to last nite was great. The naturalist, Kathy, was outstanding. After crowding on the front deck when we arrived in Glacier Bay, we chose to do the rest of our glacier viewing from our balcony. We just turned up the volume on the TV, and easily hear her narration while having space all to ourselves. Also, the Park Rangers that came on-board to narrate were terrific as well. Ports/excursions: Skagway - took the Chilkoot Charters' excursion on the train to White Pass/Yukon. Loved it - especially since on the van ride back our driver could make any stops we wanted to see sights and take photos along the way. Juneau - Harv & Marv's whale watching. Captain Sean was terrific. Saw LOTS and LOTS of humpback whales. Stopped at Mendenhall Glacier on the way back. Wish we had more time in Juneau. Ketchikan - Seawind Aviation floatplane to Misty Fjords. Pretty views. Included a stop in a beautiful cove. Smooth flying. Then on our own took the town's free shuttle to the Totem Pole Center - very interesting. Then walked back to the heart of town. We arrived in Vancouver around 6 am. Since we were staying on in Vancouver on our own for a few days, we selected a late disembarkation. We put out our bags at 10 pm the nite before. We had to vacate the cabin at 8. Went to breakfast, and then to our waiting area for our 9:50 disembarkation. It went very swiftly and smoothly. And there were a lot of Princess staff on hand to help out if needed. Our bags were waiting for us. Lucky us it was sunny and fairly warm most days. Never had rain in a port - just one afternoon at sea. All in all - a great trip!!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Background We are a couple in our early 50's, traveling with our teen daughters, 17 and 15. This was our first cruise. We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. We chose this Princess cruise, because we did not want to fly ... Read More
Background We are a couple in our early 50's, traveling with our teen daughters, 17 and 15. This was our first cruise. We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. We chose this Princess cruise, because we did not want to fly anywhere, and the port of San Francisco was closest to home. Travel to Port The embarkation port was San Francisco, California. The traffic along the Embarcadero took almost an hour to travel the 2 miles from the Bay Bridge to the drop off point curbside in front of Pier 35. If you embark from San Francisco in the future, Leave lots of travel time. The Embarcadero is a traffic nightmare. At curbside, two uniformed traffic officers directed traffic and allowed double parking in front of Pier 35 to unload. The sidewalk was amassed with people: tourists headed towards Pier 39 and passengers who had disembarked from the last cruise and where waiting for rides home. Princess personnel in their blue suit jackets and straw hats were present to help us. They called over the porters dressed in yellow vests who took our baggage from the car and loaded them to carts and brought them to the ship via a separate entrance way. A tip of $2 per bag was definitely in order and well worth it. Check in and health issues We started to follow our bags, but Princess personnel directed us to the passenger entrance and then to a table to fill out health forms that asked "Are you currently suffering from diarrhea? Or have a fever?" Not a great way to start our relationship with Princess, but understandable amid fears of the Noro-virus. There were no health issues on this trip. Purell was available from hand dispensers outside the dining rooms and stewards dropped dollops of sanitizer into our hands like candy. The check-in line was long, but the wait to get to the check-in person was quick. We got a map of the ship and our personalized cruise card, which was also the cabin door key, the credit card and identity card. It had our dining time, and table number printed on it. We went through the metal detectors and then had pictures of our faces taken which were linked to our cruise cards. When leaving and returning to the ship, the scanned cards brought up our pictures confirming our identity. The entire process took 45 minutes from curbside to stepping on the ship, where the first of many group photos were taken in front of fake scenic Alaska backdrops or with funny dressed characters at every port disembarkation and formal events. There was no hard sell to buy any pictures, but they had the photos on display in a well-travelled corridor on board. We later decided we wanted a family portrait of us in our formal dinner wear and paid $25 for an 8x10. Upon boarding, we were told our cabins were ready for us, but our luggage would be delivered later. We found our cabins and were greeted by our steward, George, who learned our names and always had a pleasant smile and greeting. He always knew when we went to meals and that is when he cleaned our room, made the bed and changed the towels. His service was exemplary. Ship Info The Sea Princess is a mid-size ship with just over 1900 passengers and it was a sold out cruise. Other than at mealtime in the Horizon buffet, it never felt crowded. I found the ship to be in excellent shape, the decor in many of the lounges and MDR were done in wood veneers, brass fixtures and tastefully decorated. The seats and sofas were clean and comfortable. The ship decor was NOT outdated. So ignore those negative reviews. The elevators were painfully slow and we took the stairs to the MDR and the activities on Deck 7. After all the eating we did, we needed the exercise and you will too. The dance floor in the Vista Lounge wasn't big enough for everyone in the line dancing classes. My only complaint was the Razzmatazz lounge smelled of heavy smoke and my wife refused to go into it. Smoking was allowed outside on Deck 7, but despite the strong ocean winds, the smoke was still noticeable as we took our daily stroll around the ship. (3 times around is 1 mile) There was no smoking in the casino and that seemed to upset some die-hard gamblers who needed to light up but didn't want to leave the gaming tables. Stateroom We booked our cruise in early January, so we had a good selection of rooms to choose from. We booked a balcony on the starboard side in the middle of the ship because we feared we would have motion sickness issues. The middle of the ship is more stable and rocks less than the front or rear of the ship. We did feel some motion in the middle, but it was negligible compared to the bow or aft. We also chose B deck, with state rooms above us and below us to avoid noise issues from people walking on deck above or music coming from the lounges below. In all, it was a perfect room. Our daughters had an inside cabin across the hall. I felt that there wasn't enough overhead light in their inside cabin, but the girls had no problems. The balcony room had a flat screen TV, which had an HDMI and VGA port, so I was able to plug in my iPad and display cable to play a pre-loaded movie, but we were so busy with the ship activities that we never got around to watching it. After unpacking, the empty suitcases easily fit under the bed and out of the way. George brought us robes to use and 2 large pool towels were also in the room and were changed daily when we used them at the spa. Dining room and meals We were hungry after boarding. George directed us to eat at the Horizon Buffet on Deck 14. The buffet was open seating, so after waiting in line and getting our plateful of food, we had to wander around to find a table for four or a large table to share. The waiters then asked for our drink orders and the soft-sell began. We declined to purchase the commemorative drink glass and the unlimited soda sticker for $39 and we stuck to the free lemonade, ice tea, water and coffee. We did buy the $29 coffee card (for 15 drinks) for the specialty coffee drinks like mocha, espresso and lattes. But they weren't as good as Peet's or Starbucks. The regular coffee at breakfast seemed fine to us. The food in the buffet was plentiful but not very good. We did not like the rushed atmosphere or the scramble to find an empty table. We never ate there again. We ate the majority of our meals in the Main Dining Room and we loved the atmosphere, the service, the ambience and the food. We had traditional dining time of 5:15 pm. We thought this was early, but in retrospect, by the time the main entree was served, it was 6 pm, our normal eating time, and we were finished with dessert by 6:45 pm. We had ample time to go to the 8 pm shows, which meant getting a seat by 7:30 as the Princess Theatre filled up quickly. The later 7:15 pm dining time meant we would have to go to the 10 pm second shows and we were not night owls. Roberto was our waiter for the entire trip, and he quickly learned our names and our dining preferences and drinks. When lemonade was not available in the MDR the first night and we made it clear that we would not buy the soda card for health reasons, he had a pitcher of lemonade and ice tea waiting for us at every meal thereafter. Dinner fare included appetizer, soup and salad, and main dishes such as lobster, steak, filet mignon and seafood, and dessert, all presented in the nouvelle cuisine style. The menu varied each night and meals in the MDR were one of the highlights of the trip. Breakfast in the MDR was open seating, and we always asked and got a table for four by the window. The food was freshly made. I had papaya every morning and highlights were the Eggs Florentine and the Eggs Benedict. We decided that for breakfast and dinner, we wanted a table just for the family as we were not awake enough in the AM to be sociable with others, and dinner was the time for the family to meet and talk about our day. But at lunch, when our daughters were not with us, we asked to share a table of 10 and met other couples and had pleasant conversations. (Politics was never discussed, thank goodness.) We also ate at the outside Riverview Grill when the weather was nice and had freshly made hamburgers and fries, and ice cream cones at the sundae bar, and at the Cafe Cornishe there was freshly made thin pizza. My wife discovered tea time at 3:00 pm and we did that several times for the tea, scones, clotted cream and jam. We ate 4 times a day and needed exercise. Exercise The fitness gym is in the rear of the ship on Deck 12 and consisted of treadmills, a couple of stationary bicycles and some weight machines. There was rarely a wait to use them. I paid extra ($40 for 4 sessions during sea days only) for the spinning (cycling class). The 10 spinning cycles in the aerobics room were for the class use only and I exercised with same 5 other passengers the entire trip. Yoga was offered but sparsely attended. The beginning Zumba classes were jam-packed and held in the Vista Lounge with participants in the aisles and dance floor. My wife and I soaked in the adults only spa, but there always seemed to be kids there. The staff never kicked them out. Teen Club I worried that my teenage children, 17 and 15, wouldn't be happy. (at this age, they never are.) But I convinced them to go to REMIX, the teen program, on the first day and try it once. There were 79 other teens on this cruise and they met about 50 of them the first night. They formed their core friendships of 8, and hung around with about 20 others. They did most of the organized activities in the teen center with their newly made friends and by the end of the cruise were trading Facebook addresses. My teens report that there were some teens who played video games all day long, and some who found everything to be "lame", but my teens had positive attitudes. If they didn't like what was being offered in the teen center, they grabbed their new friends and did the line dancing classes or other activities offered to the rest of us. On sea days, after breakfast, we never saw them until dinnertime as they were doing all the activities with their new friends. Entertainment The family-oriented (PG-13 rated) entertainment in the Princess theatre was varied and of Las Vegas showroom quality. We enjoyed the comedy magic of Garry Carson, and comedian Scott Wyler's ship jokes, but his attempt at political jokes fell flat. The International crew talent show was inspiring, as was the cruise staff's sketch/song. (Don't want to reveal any spoilers here). I liked comedian Billy Vader, but could see how others would not. His shtick was sophomoric, some jokes were old and bawdy. We had mixed feelings about the show "British Invasion" as we could tell some of the singers were lip-syncing and we did not like the choice of songs in what was supposed to be a retrospective of British rock music. The dancing and choreography was so-so and the dancers reminded us of where dance show rejects end up when they don't get enough TV votes to become famous. The musical bands in the smaller lounges were good and the piano music of Larry Dunsmore in the Crooners lounge and his banter was your stereotypical lounge lizard act. Activities On Sea days, my wife and I did a fitness hour on the treadmill or spin class after breakfast. No crowds at all. Then headed to Naturalist Doug Capra lectures on Glaciers, Marine Mammals, Alaska Nellie and Alaska history. These four lectures were a highlight of our cruise. Doug was an excellent speaker, had good Keynote slides and good material to present. Doug also narrated on deck at Tracy Arms Ford and during the whale watching in the Tongass Narrows. We did the line dancing classes, the afternoon tea, and the afternoon trivia contests. (won twice) On the complaint side, the advertised Bridge classes were not for beginners. The instructor made it clear that his tips were for advanced players. I wish there would have been a class to teach beginners how to play Bridge. Also, I sat in on a health seminar that turned out to be an infomercial and a come-on to pay $50 for a private consultation to find out how to detox for weight loss. What a waste of time that was. Nothing on the ship was ever a hard-sell, but you couldn't escape the tables of discount jewelry for sale, the over-priced Alaska souvenirs (but 20% off today ONLY), the art auction, and the ever present waiters willing to serve you a pricey alcoholic drink with a swipe of your cruise card. We asked for the free lemonade or ice tea, and they acted like they would have to swim to Seattle to get it. We also wanted to use our coffee card to get lattes in the Vista Lounge. The waiters complained that it would take a while because they had to go to some unknown place to get it and would do it when they weren't busy. But the coffee eventually showed up in a plastic cup with a lid- lukewarm. There was also Bingo at $30 for 6 cards. We did not participate in this, but the activity was well attended. Movies Under the Stars (MUTS) One night, we tried to watch "Hunger Games" outside on the big screen, but it was too cold, so we tried to watch it in our cabin, but there were satellite reception issues and we missed a chunk of the movie until service was restored. There were theme dancing parties in the evenings. One night, we danced 50's music at the sock hop, (with a hilarious hula hoop contest) but passed on the Disco and the country-western nights. TV The TV service did not get the regular network channels. For news, there was BBC, Fox and MSNBC. Wish they got comedy central. They had a romance movie channel, a channel that showed the view from the bridge, the Princess channel with their infomercial. We enjoyed the Wake Show each morning, where the cruise director, Neil and his deputy cruise director, John, would do a short live show on board that featured the day's events and notes and shout-outs from the passengers. In summary, there was so much to do on sea days and nights that we barely cracked open the novels we brought. We had the mistaken impression that we would be sitting on wooden lounge chairs on the open deck, wrapped in wool blankets, reading our novels, but that never happened for us. Excursions- Ports of Call Ketchikan: You can see everything in this town in two hours by walking, which left lots of time for souvenir shopping and visiting the overabundance of jewelry stores. The highlights for us were the Ketchikan Welcome arch, historic Creek Street and the totem poles around town. We took the free bus from Creek Street to and from the Totem heritage museum and the Salmon Hatchery ($15 for both). Another passenger paid for the motorized tour of the town and said it was a waste of money. The visitor information center at the cruise dock was just a counter full of tour operators peddling their expensive tours. We just grabbed a free walking tour map and ignored the sideshow barkers beckoning us to buy their tour. We liked Ketchikan as a port of call. Juneau: Our ship dropped anchor in the middle of the inlet and we tendered to the Juneau docks. We rented a car from National, who picked us up in front of the Red Dog saloon (across the street from the tender drop off) and drove us to the AJ dock to get our car. We drove out to the Mendenhall glaciers and spent 2-3 hours there on a hike to Nugget Falls. If you take an organized tour that only spends an hour here, you won't have enough time to do the hike. You cannot bring food or eat food outside at Mendenhall because of Bear activity. So we drove into the suburbs of Juneau to get lunch. We found out Juneau has a Safeway, a Starbucks AND a Costco! We drove out to the shrine of St Therese. It was idyllic and scenic, and free, so it is not worth paying a tour company to take you there. Other passengers liked the whale watching tours at Juneau, which got closer to the whales than the cruise ship could ever get, but we did see whales from the cruise ship in the Tongass Narrows outside Ketchikan. The naturalist got on the ship's speaker to guide us where to look and what to see. Haines: this port of call is your quaint Alaska town by the water with majestic snow covered mountains as a backdrop. So after ten minutes it was boring. You can walk the entire town and hit all the souvenir shops in an hour and a half. It's a 0.5-mile walk from the cruise dock to the main street. I would have rather docked in Skagway. A lot of passengers paid to go on the ship excursions to the Bald Eagle Preserve and to Skagway. Tracy Arms: this is worth getting up for and being on deck at 6:00 am to see. Dress warmly as it was cold in the early morning. The cruise ship goes into the ford, and the scenery on either side of the ship is awe-inspiring. But the ship cannot get close to the South Sawyer glacier due to the ice and narrow channel. The show is over by 8:30 am, when the ship turns around and heads out to sea. Next time, I'd book a ship that went to Glacier Bay instead of Tracy Arms. Victoria, B.C.: Beautiful, and worth seeing, but there was not enough time in port. We rented a car and went out to the Buchart Gardens on our own to save money, ($150 for a family of four vs. $300 if we had done the ship excursion tour to the same place. One hassle we had, doing the excursion on our own, was that our cellphone reception at the dock kept switching from Bell (US) to Rogers (Canada) and we couldn't call Budget Victoria to send a shuttle to pick us up. The clerk in the gift shop was kind enough to let us use her land line to call for a pick-up from the Ogden Cruise dock and time was wasted when we didn't know where the Budget van would be. The Budget driver walked around looking for us and we walked around looking for him and his van, but it all worked out in the end. The drive out the gardens took a half hour and was easy to get too. With our portable car GPS, we had no problems finding the gardens or getting back in time for the 1:30 pm on-board deadline. The garden can be walked through in 2 hours. We rated the gardens as a highlight of our vacation. Disembarkation We chose a late disembarkation time of 10:00 am, so although we had to vacate our rooms by 8:30 am, we had a leisurely breakfast in the MDR and then a short wait in any seat we could find in the lounges. They called our group to disembark early at 9:45 am and it was an easy walk-off to the specific luggage area where our bags were and we wheeled them out to the sidewalk and waited for our friends to pick us up. But the sidewalk outside the Cruise terminal was jammed pack with people trying to leave, people arriving early to board the ship for the next cruise, and hundreds of tourists walking the streets to Pier 39. Just like when we started our vacation. Back to reality. Summary We loved the cruise and look forward to another one with Princess in a couple years. Princess seemed to be the perfect fit for us and a good value for the price. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We got into Venice on August 26 at 10:30 am after an overnight flight from Canada. We took the bus to Piazzale Roma and then easily found Hotel Antiche Figure, where we spent two nights before boarding the ship. We used the vaporetto, ... Read More
We got into Venice on August 26 at 10:30 am after an overnight flight from Canada. We took the bus to Piazzale Roma and then easily found Hotel Antiche Figure, where we spent two nights before boarding the ship. We used the vaporetto, venice's public transit system extensively to tour the city, plus got lost many times on the streets. On the day of embarkation, we took the people mover to the port where we were met my a Princess shuttle which took us to the ship. This was a port intensive itinerary so we were off the ship for most of the day on most of the port days. We had 8:15 dining, which I don't think I would do again as by the time we were finished eating we were ready for bed!! We did have excellent service in the dining room though and it was great having the same waiters every night. We did join our friends for dinner at the Crown Grill one night and it was the best meal on the ship - worth the cover charge in our opinion. We had pizza from deck 15 one day and excellent hamburgers from the Trident Grill another day. We met our new cruise critic friends in the International Cafe many times, either to review the day's activities or get ready to share a private excursion. I recommend buying a coffee card as we didn't like the coffee in the dining rooms, so would bring coffee with us from the International Cafe. We spent enough time in the casino to lose our $20, had a martini at Crooners Bar, enjoyed the latin music in Explorers lounge, participated in a couple of zumba classes in Club Fusion (on sea days), watched a movie under the stars (not very good sound) and enjoyed the evening entertainment in the Piazza many times.We went to an art auction preview to enjoy the free wine, put a deposit on a future cruise to get the onboard credit but never made it to the theatre for any of the evening shows. There never seemed to be any chairs available at the pool, but we aren't big pool loungers anyway. I had bought an internet package prior to leaving home and believe that gave me the best deal. I would compose my emails and then sign onto the internet to send them. For our 12 day cruise 120 minutes was more than sufficient. there isn't a way to save this review so I'll come in another time to complete the port reviews. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
My wife and I recently returned from a 12 day Barcelona to Venice cruise on the Ruby Princess from 10th August to 22nd August. This was our first cruise and we absolutely loved it (more of that later!). As this was our first cruise we ... Read More
My wife and I recently returned from a 12 day Barcelona to Venice cruise on the Ruby Princess from 10th August to 22nd August. This was our first cruise and we absolutely loved it (more of that later!). As this was our first cruise we used this website a great deal to find things out about the ship, ports and a whole lot more. As someone that doesn't usually write posts on forums, I felt compelled to write a post about our cruise because reading other people's posts helped us so much. Hopefully I can add some additional valuable information that might assist others! Before I start, I should mention that the Ruby Princess is a wonderful ship, as a couple in their mid thirties who have travelled a great deal and experienced many different holidays, this cruise was up there on our best holidays list. Cruising wasn't something that we had thought about really, and it was only when we saw a good deal we thought, hey why not. And boy are we glad we did! It was a great experience and I think the first of what, will most likely be, many cruises. The cruise overall was brilliant and I wouldn't hesitate in recommending a cruise with Princess. We utilized private tours in 1 port which was good. We utilized two Princess ship tours -- 1 was ok the other not so much. Ports. This cruise visited Barcelona, Monaco, Florence/Pisa, Rome, Naples, Mykonos, Istanbul, Ephesus, Athens, and Venice. The Ship. Ok, so, as per the photos, it's a big ship. Lots to do, lots to explore. To get the most out of it you need to be organised and work out just what sort of a cruise you want. Whilst this cruise is very port intensive, we found you can still have a relaxing time in-between visiting some amazing places. We found the ship very clean, with everything open & working well. We didn't find it crowded, even when at sea when the 3,000 passengers and 1,100 crew were all onboard (and I think the ship was full with no spare cabins). We always had seats at both Movies Under the Stars and in the Princess Theatre. We saw all three production numbers and enjoyed them all. We also saw the illusionist who was great (and my wife usually hates magicians), we saw the crew show which I thought was soooo funny. We also saw a couple of comedians who were good. When we visit hotels if I am honest we don't usually sit through the entertainment laid on as they are not usually that good. However, we were both really impressed with the entertainment onboard Ruby Princess. We also saw 3 or 4 films at Movies Under the Stars which was great. We usually got there 10 mins before the film started and always found a lounger. We were also always offered Pizza, popcorn and milk and cookies during the films which we found was a nice touch. Embarkation/Disembarkation. We embarked at 3pm in Barcelona and witnessed no queues, walking straight on once we had our cards. After a little look around the ship and a bit of food we returned to our cabin to find our cases outside our room. Disembarkation was a little more complex due to our flights being late in the evening (9.40pm). We had to check out the room by 8am and our bags had already been picked up the night before. However, we were allowed to stay on board all day, leaving the ship at 6pm to take our transfers. Everyone was great, we had food and drink onboard all day (and a nice 3 course lunch in the di Vinci restaurant). It did feel slightly strange as more and more new passengers came aboard but it was funny as many of the staff recognised us and asked when our flights were. Top tips if you are getting off late. The tables in Piazza on deck 5 all have power sockets by the side of them if you need to charge devices. Room. We were at the back of the boat in room B739. I expected the room to be relatively small but actually it was more spacious than I thought it would be. Plenty of places to store clothes and belongings. The only major problem we had was sockets. I had read somewhere (incorrectly as it turns out) that the room had UK, EU and US sockets. It doesn't, its US only and whilst I thought I a US adapter, I actually had everything but. By the time I realised the shop had none left, neither did our room steward or customer services. In the end we got one in a port a few days later. A great tip though is to take a cheap extension lead. We plugged it in and then had 4 sockets to charge multiple items at once which was very handy. There is also a spare socket behind the TV that many people miss. The room had a safe (with no additional fee) and the bed was really good. At home we have a huge expensive and very comfortable bed so I often joking complain on holiday about the bed but no complaints on the Cruise, the bed was ace. The room has a lot of hangers but if you need more, just ask your steward and a large hanging rail for clothes. Drinks. Not a great deal to report, drink prices were as expected, $5 for a beer, $8 for cocktails and always 15% added on service charge. We got the soda package and were glad we did, it seemed quite good value ($45 for the cruise / $4 a day) and included coke, diet coke, sprite, tonic water etc. You get an insulated drink holder included and we filled up and took these out on excursions (although be careful as they are not completely water tight). Water is free and available at the drink stations located at the horizon cafe and cafe caribe. We took a couple of 0.5l water bottles with us and filled up with ice and water when we needed to, all free and useful on trips where the weather gets hot. The drink stations also have tea, ice tea and coffee facilities and it's all free and help yourself (inc milk, sugar etc). I love a cup of tea before bed and so always stopped here before retiring to bed and the tea was ok, English breakfast, earl grey and Darjeeling (the supposed champagne of teas -- really?!) I had taken a few of my own as well. One tip if you feel like splashing out $1.50 is the pot of tea you can get at the international cafe, it was premium and you could get a good 3 cups out of it and it was very good tea. During mealtimes lemonade is also offered for free and was good. I'd heard that bringing alcohol was limited to one bottle of wine but a few people id spoken to had managed to get other stuff onboard. I only saw one person get booze confiscated and this is returned at the end of the cruise. Wine wasn't too badly priced as well, when ordered with the meal the dining staff keep the rest of the bottle if you don't finish it and bring it out the next meal for you. Restaurants. We opted for anytime dinning and after trying both the Michelangelo and di-vinci, found the service in the service in the Michelangelo to be the best. We only had to wait twice to be seated on our own and both times it was formal nights when we were at sea for the day. On these days people seemed to go early for dinner and we had a 30 minute wait only. You can also book times in the anytime restaurant by calling them up on the day and we did this a few times. The staff were incredible, so attentive and the service was amazing. The food was also of an exceptionally high standard, so very tasty. One tip (for free drinks) is order anything on the menu that has alcohol in it. There was a peach Daiquiri soup on the menu one day and it was simply a free cocktail. The Di-Vinci restaurant was good for breakfast as the Horizon breakfast buffets on deck 15 can get very busy and you feel very rushed there. When we did eat the breakfast buffets I found it very stressful, where as nobody uses the Di-Vinci restaurant for breakfast, the food seemed warmer and cooked to order and the atmosphere was much better and not so rushed. The same goes for lunch, Di-Vinci is open for lunch and not many people seemed to know this. We had a couple of amazing lunches. Don't get me wrong, the food in the Horizon cafe is lovely, but it's just more hustle and bustle. The burgers were also very good by the pool and the pizza was too. Ice cream is also fee and I highly recommend the international cafe, serving up lovely desserts 24 hours a day as well as great salads and toasted sandwiches, all included at no additional cost. I would also recommend going to the cooking show in the princess theatre which includes a tour of the kitchens after, that was a great hour and very funny. How they managed to create 250,000 meals per cruise and retain such high quality food is simply staggering to me. With regards to the other supplement restaurants (crown grill, Sabertini's etc) we didn't use them because the food was so good in the main restaurants. We meant to, but just didn't get around to it and were not bothered that we didn't. Room service. Great service, all included, no extra charge, and very useful for tea and coffee in the mornings! You could also order fruit in the room which was nice. Trips This is a tricky one as everyone has different ideas. We had visited quite a few of the ports already and had invested £10 in Rick Steve's Mediterranean cruise ports book which was absolutely invaluable. I think a new version is out in September. It gave great information on all places included where the boats dock, what the options were regarding transport and great coverage on what to see and what to miss. For each port, my tips would be as follows, noting we always docked in harbour and had no tenders:- Monaco -- Boat docked on the Marina and all places can be reached in short walking distance. We had been to Monaco before so knew where we were going and didn't book any trips. In all we covered 7 miles walking but it was a great day and relatively cheap. Seeing the changing of the guard at 11.55 was great. Florence -- for this one we booked a Princess excursion to Florence which was part tour, part own time and this worked well for us. We had the book and saw what we wanted in the time. It's a bit of a drive to Florence so it was good to have that part taken care of. Some people we spoke to had done Pisa only or Pisa & Florence and generally they wished they had done the same as us. Most people said there wasn't a great deal in Pisa and doing both meant much more time on the coach and not as much time in Florence. Naples (Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast) -- For this one we took a tour with an external company, cruising excursions. This was considerably less than the equivalent Princess tour and just as easy. We had a great day although I did feel a little green at the end of it driving up and down and round all the mountain bends. I've read a few other similar comments about tours driving around the Amalfi coast, especially around Positano. Don't get me wrong, the views are incredible, it's just that the local drivers seem to drive so very fast and it's not something I think I would do again (unless I was driving at a far slower speed!) A lot of people on our tour said the same- amazing views but scary journey. Pompeii was so interesting and out guide took us in the back entrance which wasn't as busy as the main entrance. Think we paid £45 each for the day cruise and although we were back an hour later than planned (roads were busy as it was a national day holiday in Italy) we were still back 2 hours before the boat left. As Rome -- We stayed onboard this day as we had spent a week in Rome a few years ago. We were pleased we did as the itinerary until this point had been quite full on. Mykonos - We got the Princess coach transfer from port to beach which seemed to take 5 minutes and cost 7 euros each I think. A little pricy for what it was and you could have walked it in 20 mins but I'd still take the coach again for ease. A great little place and we didn't feel the need to take a tour, we just explored the lovely back alleys and coastline. Istanbul -- For this one we again didn't take a tour, just the Princess bus to the Grand Bazaar. We did think about it but didn't get around to booking it. I was worried we wouldn't get to see all the things we wanted to but actually, it turned out great, we saw them all, toured around using the Rick Steves book and saved a lot of money over the princess tour which was $199 each for the same. It cost us 60 euros. The Grand Bazaar was both gigantic and interesting to walk through -- supposed to be over 2,000 shops (many of which sell the same items). You are required to remove shoes and have proper clothing to enter Blue Mosque. Women are given shawls to cover shoulders and head. And my advice, have a little decency and respect this by keeping them on whilst in the Mosque. Seeing people remove these was completely disrespectful in my eyes. Kusadasi -- For this one we booked a Princess excursion -- Ephasus and Terraced houses which was absolutely great. We loved it, a great trip. The only downside was that it was supposed to be 5 hours yet we were back in Kusadasi in just over 3 hours before our guide then wanted to take us on a carpet tour. We were not interested and declined and returned to ship before then doing some shopping. I felt a little short changed with this one given it was supposed to be 5 hours and complained onboard and got some of the money back. We bought a few items, a lamp and a pair of shoes. Haggling is good but you have to walk into the shops knowing what you would be prepared to pay for something. I saw some nice shoes and the owner started at 120 euros. I started at 20 knowing I would be prepared to pay 35 euros. It took a while but we got there in the end. Like I said to my wife, they are probably only worth 15 but hey, it's all about what you think something it worth and what you are willing to pay. For the light my wife bought, they started off at 30 euros and without her even saying anything it came down to 12 euros after about 5 minutes. Athens -- We decided to get the hop on hop off (HOHO) bus from the port that was 20 Euros each. There are two routes, the blue route from the port around a few harbours and into central Athens and then a Red route around Athens. The 2 routes cross at the Acropolis. I had been to Athens before but my wife hadn't. Visiting the ruins was amazing, the views from the top are breathtaking and we had a few audio guides (podcasts by Rick Steves) to help us understand it all. It was hot but very worthwhile. The tour of Athens itself (on the red bus line) was, to be frank, rubbish. I found Athens to be the same as it was the last time I visited 10 years ago, dirty and smelly with not much to see. Ok, it was a Sunday so perhaps a lot was closed. But we couldn't wait to get back onboard. Central Athens is very run down, graffiti is everywhere and apart from the main historic ruins, there is very little else to see. The audio guide on the bus only proved this when it started to point out the heart hospital, I mean really, is an old hospital specialising in heart conditions and point of note on a tour? Bonkers. If we did this cruise again, I wouldn't get off here. Venice -- sailing in was incredible and we decided to go up to deck 15 as music and commentary was playing. Get their early as it was very busy by the time we got close to the grand canal, 4 people deep in some places. Again we had been here before for a week so didn't feel the need to take a tour. Princess gave us tickets for a boat trip from the port to St Mark's square for $17 each which seemed to me like a con. It's also automatically added to your account unless you return them. We did return them and instead we took the people mover from the port to the station (1 euro each) and then walked to St Marks Square, taking in all the sights on the way, including the Rialto Bridge. We spent a lot of time on the way down, stopping in shops, down alleyways and taking lots of pics, getting lost etc so it took us a few hours. But the way back, directly from St Marks to the ship was 50 minutes and 2 miles. We did consider using the local boats which cost 20 euros I think for 24 hours use but walking and exploring was what we wanted to do. Couple of tips. On the main street, just off Rialto Bridge is a McDonalds which has free wifi. Along from there is a supermarket which was drinks and food much cheaper than anywhere else (we'd heard rumours of 20 euros for a coffee in St Marks which wouldn't surprise me and 10 euros for a drink of coke). Other points to note. Laundry -- there is a room with all facilities to do it yourself but it didn't seem that expensive to me, $2.20 for t-shirts I think so that was good. In before 9am and returned next day with same day service costing 50% more. Phone / Internet access -- I am with the UK provider 3 who currently have an unlimited internet use deal within the EU for £5 a day. I used this a few times so didn't need the ships internet which is apparently expensive and incredibly slow. Regarding phone service, I found that we got a good signal probably 95% of the time with mostly 3G and occasionally GPRS service when 3G wasn't available. TV -- We didn't really watch any TV other than to see the daily Wake Show which we found really useful. It's filmed onboard at 6am daily by the entertainment team and gives you a heads up on the places we are visiting that day and what's happening onboard the ship. 10/10 for this, I thought it was excellent. Views - The outside Deck 7 was quiet and very pleasant to watch arrivals/departures and you can walk the entire ship at this level. 2.5 times round = 1 mile so we saw a few people using this to exercise. For sail-aways we always went to the platform above the bridge. Not many people either knew about this or could find it. There is a secret door that leads out that isn't marked. To find it just go to the Lido deck and go all the way forward. You will see a door on either side. Go through those doors to another door that leads to a few steps leading to this deck. However, these doors are locked while at sea I believe. There are some great views from the stern on different deck levels. Up on deck 18 was a club with a spectacular view looking aft. The primary (Lido) deck has the obligatory pools; hot tubs; bars; MUTS; and entrance into the buffets. So in summary, we had a fantastic time and I think I can saw we are now cruise converts. I would most definitely recommend this cruise and princess and were now thinking about looking into another cruise for next year so any suggestions would be much appreciated! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
My wife and I recently returned from a 12 day Barcelona to Venice cruise on the Ruby Princess from 10th August to 22nd August. This was our first cruise and we absolutely loved it (more of that later!). As this was our first cruise we ... Read More
My wife and I recently returned from a 12 day Barcelona to Venice cruise on the Ruby Princess from 10th August to 22nd August. This was our first cruise and we absolutely loved it (more of that later!). As this was our first cruise we used this website a great deal to find things out about the ship, ports and a whole lot more. As someone that doesn't usually write posts on forums, I felt compelled to write a post about our cruise because reading other people's posts helped us so much. Hopefully I can add some additional valuable information that might assist others! Before I start, I should mention that the Ruby Princess is a wonderful ship, as a couple in their mid thirties who have travelled a great deal and experienced many different holidays, this cruise was up there on our best holidays list. Cruising wasn't something that we had thought about really, and it was only when we saw a good deal we thought, hey why not. And boy are we glad we did! It was a great experience and I think the first of what, will most likely be, many cruises. The cruise overall was brilliant and I wouldn't hesitate in recommending a cruise with Princess. We utilized private tours in 1 port which was good. We utilized two Princess ship tours -- 1 was ok the other not so much. Ports. This cruise visited Barcelona, Monaco, Florence/Pisa, Rome, Naples, Mykonos, Istanbul, Ephesus, Athens, and Venice. The Ship. Ok, so, as per the photos, it's a big ship. Lots to do, lots to explore. To get the most out of it you need to be organised and work out just what sort of a cruise you want. Whilst this cruise is very port intensive, we found you can still have a relaxing time in-between visiting some amazing places. We found the ship very clean, with everything open & working well. We didn't find it crowded, even when at sea when the 3,000 passengers and 1,100 crew were all onboard (and I think the ship was full with no spare cabins). We always had seats at both Movies Under the Stars and in the Princess Theatre. We saw all three production numbers and enjoyed them all. We also saw the illusionist who was great (and my wife usually hates magicians), we saw the crew show which I thought was soooo funny. We also saw a couple of comedians who were good. When we visit hotels if I am honest we don't usually sit through the entertainment laid on as they are not usually that good. However, we were both really impressed with the entertainment onboard Ruby Princess. We also saw 3 or 4 films at Movies Under the Stars which was great. We usually got there 10 mins before the film started and always found a lounger. We were also always offered Pizza, popcorn and milk and cookies during the films which we found was a nice touch. Embarkation/Disembarkation. We embarked at 3pm in Barcelona and witnessed no queues, walking straight on once we had our cards. After a little look around the ship and a bit of food we returned to our cabin to find our cases outside our room. Disembarkation was a little more complex due to our flights being late in the evening (9.40pm). We had to check out the room by 8am and our bags had already been picked up the night before. However, we were allowed to stay on board all day, leaving the ship at 6pm to take our transfers. Everyone was great, we had food and drink onboard all day (and a nice 3 course lunch in the di Vinci restaurant). It did feel slightly strange as more and more new passengers came aboard but it was funny as many of the staff recognised us and asked when our flights were. Top tips if you are getting off late. The tables in Piazza on deck 5 all have power sockets by the side of them if you need to charge devices. Room We were at the back of the boat in room B739. I expected the room to be relatively small but actually it was more spacious than I thought it would be. Plenty of places to store clothes and belongings. The only major problem we had was sockets. I had read somewhere (incorrectly as it turns out) that the room had UK, EU and US sockets. It doesn't, its US only and whilst I thought I a US adapter, I actually had everything but. By the time I realised the shop had none left, neither did our room steward or customer services. In the end we got one in a port a few days later. A great tip though is to take a cheap extension lead. We plugged it in and then had 4 sockets to charge multiple items at once which was very handy. There is also a spare socket behind the TV that many people miss. The room had a safe (with no additional fee) and the bed was really good. At home we have a huge expensive and very comfortable bed so I often joking complain on holiday about the bed but no complaints on the Cruise, the bed was ace. The room has a lot of hangers but if you need more, just ask your steward and a large hanging rail for clothes. Drinks Not a great deal to report, drink prices were as expected, $5 for a beer, $8 for cocktails and always 15% added on service charge. We got the soda package and were glad we did, it seemed quite good value ($45 for the cruise / $4 a day) and included coke, diet coke, sprite, tonic water etc. You get an insulated drink holder included and we filled up and took these out on excursions (although be careful as they are not completely water tight). Water is free and available at the drink stations located at the horizon cafe and cafe caribe. We took a couple of 0.5l water bottles with us and filled up with ice and water when we needed to, all free and useful on trips where the weather gets hot. The drink stations also have tea, ice tea and coffee facilities and it's all free and help yourself (inc milk, sugar etc). I love a cup of tea before bed and so always stopped here before retiring to bed and the tea was ok, English breakfast, earl grey and Darjeeling (the supposed champagne of teas -- really?!) I had taken a few of my own as well. One tip if you feel like splashing out $1.50 is the pot of tea you can get at the international cafe, it was premium and you could get a good 3 cups out of it and it was very good tea. During mealtimes lemonade is also offered for free and was good. I'd heard that bringing alcohol was limited to one bottle of wine but a few people id spoken to had managed to get other stuff onboard. I only saw one person get booze confiscated and this is returned at the end of the cruise. Wine wasn't too badly priced as well, when ordered with the meal the dining staff keep the rest of the bottle if you don't finish it and bring it out the next meal for you. Restaurants We opted for anytime dinning and after trying both the Michelangelo and di-vinci, found the service in the service in the Michelangelo to be the best. We only had to wait twice to be seated on our own and both times it was formal nights when we were at sea for the day. On these days people seemed to go early for dinner and we had a 30 minute wait only. You can also book times in the anytime restaurant by calling them up on the day and we did this a few times. The staff were incredible, so attentive and the service was amazing. The food was also of an exceptionally high standard, so very tasty. One tip (for free drinks) is order anything on the menu that has alcohol in it. There was a peach Daiquiri soup on the menu one day and it was simply a free cocktail. The Di-Vinci restaurant was good for breakfast as the Horizon breakfast buffets on deck 15 can get very busy and you feel very rushed there. When we did eat the breakfast buffets I found it very stressful, where as nobody uses the Di-Vinci restaurant for breakfast, the food seemed warmer and cooked to order and the atmosphere was much better and not so rushed. The same goes for lunch, Di-Vinci is open for lunch and not many people seemed to know this. We had a couple of amazing lunches. Don't get me wrong, the food in the Horizon cafe is lovely, but it's just more hustle and bustle. The burgers were also very good by the pool and the pizza was too. Ice cream is also fee and I highly recommend the international cafe, serving up lovely desserts 24 hours a day as well as great salads and toasted sandwiches, all included at no additional cost. I would also recommend going to the cooking show in the princess theatre which includes a tour of the kitchens after, that was a great hour and very funny. How they managed to create 250,000 meals per cruise and retain such high quality food is simply staggering to me. With regards to the other supplement restaurants (crown grill, Sabertini's etc) we didn't use them because the food was so good in the main restaurants. We meant to, but just didn't get around to it and were not bothered that we didn't. Room service Great service, all included, no extra charge, and very useful for tea and coffee in the mornings! You could also order fruit in the room which was nice. Trips This is a tricky one as everyone has different ideas. We had visited quite a few of the ports already and had invested £10 in Rick Steve's Mediterranean cruise ports book which was absolutely invaluable. I think a new version is out in September. It gave great information on all places included where the boats dock, what the options were regarding transport and great coverage on what to see and what to miss. For each port, my tips would be as follows, noting we always docked in harbour and had no tenders:- Monaco -- Boat docked on the Marina and all places can be reached in short walking distance. We had been to Monaco before so knew where we were going and didn't book any trips. In all we covered 7 miles walking but it was a great day and relatively cheap. Seeing the changing of the guard at 11.55 was great. Florence -- for this one we booked a Princess excursion to Florence which was part tour, part own time and this worked well for us. We had the book and saw what we wanted in the time. It's a bit of a drive to Florence so it was good to have that part taken care of. Some people we spoke to had done Pisa only or Pisa & Florence and generally they wished they had done the same as us. Most people said there wasn't a great deal in Pisa and doing both meant much more time on the coach and not as much time in Florence. Naples (Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast) -- For this one we took a tour with an external company, cruising excursions. This was considerably less than the equivalent Princess tour and just as easy. We had a great day although I did feel a little green at the end of it driving up and down and round all the mountain bends. I've read a few other similar comments about tours driving around the Amalfi coast, especially around Positano. Don't get me wrong, the views are incredible, it's just that the local drivers seem to drive so very fast and it's not something I think I would do again (unless I was driving at a far slower speed!) A lot of people on our tour said the same- amazing views but scary journey. Pompeii was so interesting and out guide took us in the back entrance which wasn't as busy as the main entrance. Think we paid £45 each for the day cruise and although we were back an hour later than planned (roads were busy as it was a national day holiday in Italy) we were still back 2 hours before the boat left. As Rome -- We stayed onboard this day as we had spent a week in Rome a few years ago. We were pleased we did as the itinerary until this point had been quite full on. Mykonos - We got the Princess coach transfer from port to beach which seemed to take 5 minutes and cost 7 euros each I think. A little pricy for what it was and you could have walked it in 20 mins but I'd still take the coach again for ease. A great little place and we didn't feel the need to take a tour, we just explored the lovely back alleys and coastline. Istanbul -- For this one we again didn't take a tour, just the Princess bus to the Grand Bazaar. We did think about it but didn't get around to booking it. I was worried we wouldn't get to see all the things we wanted to but actually, it turned out great, we saw them all, toured around using the Rick Steves book and saved a lot of money over the princess tour which was $199 each for the same. It cost us 60 euros. The Grand Bazaar was both gigantic and interesting to walk through -- supposed to be over 2,000 shops (many of which sell the same items). You are required to remove shoes and have proper clothing to enter Blue Mosque. Women are given shawls to cover shoulders and head. And my advice, have a little decency and respect this by keeping them on whilst in the Mosque. Seeing people remove these was completely disrespectful in my eyes. Kusadasi -- For this one we booked a Princess excursion -- Ephasus and Terraced houses which was absolutely great. We loved it, a great trip. The only downside was that it was supposed to be 5 hours yet we were back in Kusadasi in just over 3 hours before our guide then wanted to take us on a carpet tour. We were not interested and declined and returned to ship before then doing some shopping. I felt a little short changed with this one given it was supposed to be 5 hours and complained onboard and got some of the money back. We bought a few items, a lamp and a pair of shoes. Haggling is good but you have to walk into the shops knowing what you would be prepared to pay for something. I saw some nice shoes and the owner started at 120 euros. I started at 20 knowing I would be prepared to pay 35 euros. It took a while but we got there in the end. Like I said to my wife, they are probably only worth 15 but hey, it's all about what you think something it worth and what you are willing to pay. For the light my wife bought, they started off at 30 euros and without her even saying anything it came down to 12 euros after about 5 minutes. Athens -- We decided to get the hop on hop off (HOHO) bus from the port that was 20 Euros each. There are two routes, the blue route from the port around a few harbours and into central Athens and then a Red route around Athens. The 2 routes cross at the Acropolis. I had been to Athens before but my wife hadn't. Visiting the ruins was amazing, the views from the top are breathtaking and we had a few audio guides (podcasts by Rick Steves) to help us understand it all. It was hot but very worthwhile. The tour of Athens itself (on the red bus line) was, to be frank, rubbish. I found Athens to be the same as it was the last time I visited 10 years ago, dirty and smelly with not much to see. Ok, it was a Sunday so perhaps a lot was closed. But we couldn't wait to get back onboard. Central Athens is very run down, graffiti is everywhere and apart from the main historic ruins, there is very little else to see. The audio guide on the bus only proved this when it started to point out the heart hospital, I mean really, is an old hospital specialising in heart conditions and point of note on a tour? Bonkers. If we did this cruise again, I wouldn't get off here. Venice -- sailing in was incredible and we decided to go up to deck 15 as music and commentary was playing. Get their early as it was very busy by the time we got close to the grand canal, 4 people deep in some places. Again we had been here before for a week so didn't feel the need to take a tour. Princess gave us tickets for a boat trip from the port to St Mark's square for $17 each which seemed to me like a con. It's also automatically added to your account unless you return them. We did return them and instead we took the people mover from the port to the station (1 euro each) and then walked to St Marks Square, taking in all the sights on the way, including the Rialto Bridge. We spent a lot of time on the way down, stopping in shops, down alleyways and taking lots of pics, getting lost etc so it took us a few hours. But the way back, directly from St Marks to the ship was 50 minutes and 2 miles. We did consider using the local boats which cost 20 euros I think for 24 hours use but walking and exploring was what we wanted to do. Couple of tips. On the main street, just off Rialto Bridge is a McDonalds which has free wifi. Along from there is a supermarket which was drinks and food much cheaper than anywhere else (we'd heard rumours of 20 euros for a coffee in St Marks which wouldn't surprise me and 10 euros for a drink of coke). Other points to note. Laundry -- there is a room with all facilities to do it yourself but it didn't seem that expensive to me, $2.20 for t-shirts I think so that was good. In before 9am and returned next day with same day service costing 50% more. Phone / Internet access -- I am with the UK provider 3 who currently have an unlimited internet use deal within the EU for £5 a day. I used this a few times so didn't need the ships internet which is apparently expensive and incredibly slow. Regarding phone service, I found that we got a good signal probably 95% of the time with mostly 3G and occasionally GPRS service when 3G wasn't available. TV -- We didn't really watch any TV other than to see the daily Wake Show which we found really useful. It's filmed onboard at 6am daily by the entertainment team and gives you a heads up on the places we are visiting that day and what's happening onboard the ship. 10/10 for this, I thought it was excellent. Views - The outside Deck 7 was quiet and very pleasant to watch arrivals/departures and you can walk the entire ship at this level. 2.5 times round = 1 mile so we saw a few people using this to exercise. For sail-aways we always went to the platform above the bridge. Not many people either knew about this or could find it. There is a secret door that leads out that isn't marked. To find it just go to the Lido deck and go all the way forward. You will see a door on either side. Go through those doors to another door that leads to a few steps leading to this deck. However, these doors are locked while at sea I believe. There are some great views from the stern on different deck levels. Up on deck 18 was a club with a spectacular view looking aft. The primary (Lido) deck has the obligatory pools; hot tubs; bars; MUTS; and entrance into the buffets. So in summary, we had a fantastic time and I think I can saw we are now cruise converts. I would most definitely recommend this cruise and princess and were now thinking about looking into another cruise for next year so any suggestions would be much appreciated! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
This was my first cruise - Ruby Princess. My father treated us to a cruise for his wedding. This was definitely the way to be initiated into cruising. Transfers. As there were 8 of us converging all from around the world all at ... Read More
This was my first cruise - Ruby Princess. My father treated us to a cruise for his wedding. This was definitely the way to be initiated into cruising. Transfers. As there were 8 of us converging all from around the world all at different times. The reliability, friendliness and amount of organization was great at the airport. The only thing that could have been improved, as a first time cruiser, was maybe a quick briefing of what to expect once we arrived at the port. Embarkation. As they had decided to board by different groups, there was about a 45 minute delay in getting the journey started. I feel that more security staff to increase the rate of passengers boarding would benefit everyone! Although a little lengthy, was a good experience as all the staff were incredibly friendly and willing to assist with any questions or concerns. The Room. The room was great. My brother and I were lodging together in a balcony room closer to the aft of the ship. The room included a safe (punch code), a mini-fridge (very useful), small desk, a chair, nice balcony, and a full washroom. Amenities were included and were refreshed daily - all great (for hotel soaps and shampoos). The room was always clean and comfortable. An incredible experience. The ship itself was huge. I'm happy that the trip took 12 days as it took the first 4 just to become familiar with it. The entire ship was a palace on the water. The restaurants were the most luxurious however it was a little too much (I can take care of my own napkin on my lap, thanks!). The schedule / ports of call were amazing, although I do have to say that as the population on the cruise was more for the 50+ generation, there were very few people on board close to our ages and few activities geared to the younger generation. The staff was phenomenal. Every aspect was incredible. Rod Goodman (the cruise director who is now on the Royal Princess), was amazing as were all of his staff. Friendly, knowledgeable, and fun. The food. The food and culinary staff were exceptional. Throughout the trip, the standards never changed. Although it was a 12 day trip, and some of the fruit and produce was starting to show signs of mold, the taste and presentation was amazing. At the restaurants, the service and food was beyond compare. The steakhouse on the ship was also incredible. With many different special requests from our group, it was so well done. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
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