This was our first ever cruise, this exact ship, date and route chosen purely to catch up with a dear old friend who was going on the round the world trip. I mention this because average age on this cruise *apparently* was 75yo and hence ... Read More
This was our first ever cruise, this exact ship, date and route chosen purely to catch up with a dear old friend who was going on the round the world trip. I mention this because average age on this cruise *apparently* was 75yo and hence activities were structured with this demographic in mind. we are aged early 40s FYI. (We kind of knew this when booking, but others unfamiliar with this ship may not be). I will try to be as comprehensive as I can.
Embarkation: Very smooth process-already received SMS advising check in from 12:30 (based on deck 10), only waited several minutes in check in line, and then the security line was about maximum 5-10minutes through X-ray etc and we were on the gangplank around 12:30. Welcoming staff greeted us onboard and we were directed to elevators to our floor and found our room. We had received a free upgrade from a Balcony room to a MiniSuite with Balcony, mid forward, so we were Superimpressed with or room (who wouldn't be!) we took photos of our room before we made it look untidy, then dumped our hand luggage and we were in the buffet having lunch by 1pm! (our suitcases were in our room around 4pm) steward introduced himself and brought our complimentary champagne!
Muster Drill: The time will be on your Princess Patter, ours was 4:15 or 4:30 and the location is on the back of your door...basically 30% was about muster drill and life jackets and the other 70%was really a chance to tell a captured audience what you should and shouldn't put down the toilets and other such etiquette! Took quite a while so if there is a seat try to take one!
Dining and Food:
First the important thing-COFFEE! I had been told coffee is fairly average but I found it to be fine. It was very annoying being offered the Coffee Card approx (no exaggeration) 13 times at the lunch time buffet, especially in the first ten minutes of entering the buffet area. I figured out they want you to buy it before you try the machine coffee and discover it's not too bad! There are 3 jugs of cold milk ie skim, full cream and a jug of cream! There is also decaf and a hot water urn with LOADS of tea bag choices including herbal but no hot choc sachets (we brought our own). You may also want to know that at afternoon tea there is just normal tea and coffee (can't use yr coffee card as far as I could see). At the buffet there was a bar and coffee Barista area. Formal dining room was standard coffee and tea only (but they often brought hot milk for my partner and we used hot choc sachet). Around the Atrium area there are levels 5,6,7 that are comfy chairs and tables and you will have to PAY for normal tea and coffee here eg cup of tea is $1.50..but glass of tap water free so we pretty much drank that most places! This atrium is COFFEE CARD city!
Okay, Food! Quality was very high, both at traditional and buffet. We mostly dined in formal dining room (5:30 sitting) as we found better for our portion control for a start, plus it is always better with food cooked to order rather than sitting in a Bain Marie for a period of time. Breakfast and Lunch was free seating rather than assigned table, and as we were a party of 3 we asked for a table of 4 each time and pretty much got it to ourselves each time. I heard some were annoyed they could not get a table for two but to be honest there were VERY few of these.
For the 5:30 seating we had emailed Princess twice prior to cruise, explaining just for the Syd-Fremantle section we want to be linked to our friend so as to sit on the same table (they were on world cruise , also 5:30 seating. The emails went unanswered and unacknowledged, and on the first afternoon of the cruise we went to the dining room approx 2pm, as we had been sat on a different table to our friend...waited over an hour to meet with the maitre d' (there about 30 or more other people, we were given numbers according to who had arrived first). The first two nights they asked us to come to door 5:55 as by then they would knw who had arrived and which seats would be free. By the third night we got a slip of paper under the door advising of new assigned table FYI.
We mostly used the buffet for lunch where we could get a plate of food and take it outside on the deck ie level 12 or 14 and sit round the pool or just enjoy the ocean view and air, sometimes there is lunch time entertainment too.
The Riviera Grill was great for a chicken burger or hamburger with salad , although be forewarned they use raw onion in your burger : ) plus they will automatically add the fries (in case u need to save room for afternoon tea!)
Now..time for afternoon tea! No, the food opportunities just do not stop! This is served 3:30-4:30, it was on Level 5 on our cruise, had a choice of about 5 small sandwiches/savoury croissants. Bread was a bit dry on the sandwiches. Other than that, scones w jam and cream was yum, and they had different pastry or cake items each day, plus small biscuits, and offered tea&coffee. My partner drinks hot chocolate so they brought him a pot of hot milk or mug of hot milk, and he was able to use the hot choc sachets I stored in my handbag : )
Port days: Usually on the Riviera Grill and buffet were open for lunch FYI.
English pub lunch: bizarrely this was held in the Italian themed Cafe Corniche (Pizzeria) area, only two english pub lunches offered on our 7 night cruise (didn't go)
Cafe Corniche/Pizzeria: pretty good pizza, plus you can have half and half, design your own toppings, size is roughly a dinner plate. They have a strange policy where you cannot take pizza back to your room. You can order it via room service and pay $3 though! (you can take food from buffet to your room though-good for late night cheese platters hehe)
Room service: we had breakfast once when we wanted a quick breakfast..they missed a couple of items on it but other than that was fine. The only "hot option" tho is a bacon and egg muffin...as someone on our table mentioned, not exactly a romantic/luxurious room menu option but I guess they can't offer everything!
A lady on our table brought a small thermos with her and that way she could make hot drinks in her room, thought that was a good idea.
Tender: we were given ticketed numbers when we walked into the designated meeting place...be prepared for waiting times, we waited 45 minutes ie got into room 0915 and boarded tender 10am, boarding started at 0700 that morning (port of Busselton). Priority is given to people who are doing tours (rightly so)- the lifeboat tender was used to take us to Buesslton, our friend was on a walking stick and was able to navigate onto the boat.
Entertainment/Activities: it was great having the 5:30pm seating because we were generally finished by 7:15/7:30 and then went and got a seat for the 7:45 or 8pm show. It meant we could also see the 9:15pm /9:30pm show. The Princess theatre filled up pretty quick and I think is better seating. Vista lounge very cold (they were trying to fix heating issues) and kind of lounge bar seating, not as many seats FYI. We had some great singers for the night time shows, and the general area entertainers were of high quality, but especially the Sun Down duo who regularly sang at the Wheelhouse Bar, poolside, just brilliant.
Activities is where improvements could be made however near in mind the demographic has an impact...but between say 0930-1200 and the afternoon, I made my own fun by pounding the promenade daily walking, discovering the ship, people watching, spending time on our balcony...I was not interested in hoop throwing, carpet bowls etc. These activities were right at atrium staircase, meaning not a big area and hence not too many people could join in anyway. Would have played shuttle board on the deck but there was no sign displaying the rules, no organized time for this. I had been looking forward to the rumba class but it was 0900 every second day, right in the middle of breakfast, so breakfast won out! There were some talks and lectures but a lot had a commercial edge to them. I had already paid enough for the cruise and I disliked all the selling orientated tv stations, lectures, stall tables etc!
The Ship: pretty impressed by the ship itself, the rooms, facilities, decor. There are always going to be things that need improving like areas of rust, worn out parts of carpet etc but I tried to ignore these as best I could. The complimentary bathrobe for our room (you only use it for yr stay, not to keep) was as thin and worn out as could be but our bathroom towels were nice and thick, we had them replenished twice daily as needed, there was a dispenser of shampoo and dispenser of body wash. I had previously read reviews of sewage smells on the ship and I must admit I also smelt this through the ship on the first two days, which did not help my sea sickness but then it either went away or I got used to it. My partner said only vaguely smelt it...
Photos: take advantage of the photo portrait settings and the many backgrounds offered on the Formal nights, they are very experienced photographers and will help you pose and stand in most flattering way, and have professional lighting, mostly all around the atrium. we chose some lovely shots from the night (fairly expensive at $30 ea and no discount for multiples) and no you can't take photos of the photos!
Medical room: ...we knew someone who had to visit medical centre out of hours ie mid afternoon, had to receive a few stitches to the head, little bandage, panadol, cost was $750aud..just FYI.
Other: I suffer from some motion sickness on land (eg from elevators in tall buildings) so it was no surprise when I was sea sick within a couple hours of sailing ( going through the Sydney heads is known to be rough too). My husband is usually pretty good on boats, but he too was ill. Thankfully we had packed the Stemetil and he was fine from then on -in hindsight I should have taken something an hour or so before sailing. The night was rough and I was still sick the next day, lasted about 24hrs then I got my sea legs (and took Stemetil each night before bed) and we had further rough days and nights, where I thought I would be rolled out of bed, but it is funny how your ears/brain adapts! I would strongly suggest taking sick bags you can purchase from pharmacies with you-the paper ones the ship supplies on each stairwell when it is rough are not very strong and can split easily! The pharmacy ones have a strong plastic rim like in the hospital.
Disembarkation: we received a letter two days prior advising when to have our suitcases outside door (they need to be put out early evening the night before) and a letter asked us to confirm whether we preferred earliest time off the ship ie between 0700-0800 or after 0830 (we chose After 0830 ) and we got a note back advising to meet in the Vista lounge 0830. We had an early breakfast and got to Vista Lounge where we basically sat around for 20 mins or so. I guess they have a time so that people are collecting their suitcase in a timely manner from the shed but in hindsight i dont think it would have mattered if we had got off 30 mins or so later as there was no name ticking off or anything like that. We then walked off and located our suitcases waiting for us in the security area of the shed. Read Less