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406 Princess Southampton Cruise Reviews

Chose this cruise because of itinerary around Mediterranean. Embarking was very organised and pleasant and we’re on board within 30 minutes. Our state room had a large window and was spotless and had spaces for everything some quests ... Read More
Chose this cruise because of itinerary around Mediterranean. Embarking was very organised and pleasant and we’re on board within 30 minutes. Our state room had a large window and was spotless and had spaces for everything some quests said they missed having a kettle in room so they’re now providing them which does come in handy.Beds are very comfortable and very good quality bedding. We had anytime dining and we alternated between buffet and waiter service all of which was lovely, buffet was much better than I expected there was everything you could want always hot and good quality, the breakfast was lovely good to see nice back bacon and proper sausage and American pancakes was a treat . We also loved the international cafe for a coffee and lovely sandwiches and cakes which was 24 hour. Thought it was great having room service free of charge, we only got the soft drinks package well worth it also included hot chocolate which was very nice. Bar prices are expensive as is the packages for alcohol think more people would buy them if they was cheaper.We did a few excursions off the ship which we organised through cruising excursions which were much cheaper than princess, Getting on and off at the ports was hassle free thought it was a nice touch after being site seeing all day in the heat staff was waiting for you with water and cold flannels, in fact I would say the staff make the cruise , because they will sort anything out for you always happy to help and serve you ,they work really hard , so well done to them. Our only negative was the entertainment sorry but thought it was a bit naff most of the time more geared up for older folk, maybe just a lively bar to sit in with chart music playing instead of piano and singers which aren’t great, because the age group is now very mixed on ship , we even tried the night club which was empty, but it wouldn’t put me off I would definitely book with princess again Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
We had done the 2017 World Cruise on the Pacific Princess (OUTSTANDING) and felt that we wanted to see Iceland and Greenland that were not included on the cruise. Signed up for this segment of the 2018 world cruise to capture those ports. ... Read More
We had done the 2017 World Cruise on the Pacific Princess (OUTSTANDING) and felt that we wanted to see Iceland and Greenland that were not included on the cruise. Signed up for this segment of the 2018 world cruise to capture those ports. I must say, that I was spoiled by the small ship cruise on the Pacific Princess. The Sea Princess was just too big for my taste. So many people on board that there was no feeling of community. Service was very good and food was excellent, but if you want to know your fellow passengers- you are out of luck. My other comment leaves me a bit conflicted. I hold stock in Carnival (the parent company) and was heartened to see that Princess was attempting to save money on various items. On the other hand as an Elite passenger, I enjoy my little "precs" for my loyalty. I fear that Princess may be "nickel and diming" the passengers to the point of harming loyalty. It seemed that many items that had been gratus in the past were now chargeable items. Gone was the free ice cream cone. Gone was the availability of a slice of pizza. Those may seem petty, but when the alternative is a $5 ice cream cone and a $15 pizza, one begins to think about their Elite status' value. This may all seem petty, but if one has spent several hundred days traveling with a certain cruise line and thousands of dollars- an ice cream cone is not too much to ask. Too many art auctions and boutique sales for comfort; I went on a cruise to relax- not be constantly bombarded with sales pitches. It soured me on the entire experience. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
Had sailed on Sea princess before, a suitable size with just under 2000 passengers, but still plenty of room and easy access to all areas of the ship. Cabin was very suitable and convieniently situated, only a noise problem at night ... Read More
Had sailed on Sea princess before, a suitable size with just under 2000 passengers, but still plenty of room and easy access to all areas of the ship. Cabin was very suitable and convieniently situated, only a noise problem at night being over the Crooners Band, although it normally went off about 10.30 most nights. Dining generally satisfactory except there appear to be too many exotic items but this is covered later. Service very good. Entertainment generally very good, both in appeal and different types of activities. New places to see, mainly Iceland, Greenland and Eastern coast of Canada. Have seen West coast of USA and Canada by land in 2004, but not the East coast. Iceland and Greenland were very different to what we had seen before. Unfortunate that we could not get ashore at Easter Island but fully support the Captain's decision that it was too risky to attempt. Dining. How can you have roast Pork without crackling.?? See the chefs on Princess. I did have some in the Horizon bar on one occaision. A different supplier is required, as on the blurb, bottom right hand corner of the menu, the inference is that this is a Curtis Stone recipe. If I can find his Email address I will be sending him this message. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
The whole trip around the British Isles appealed to us as Australians. So many relatives originally hailed from here and even though we've been there on land trips this was a first to see so many destinations in a 12 day period. ... Read More
The whole trip around the British Isles appealed to us as Australians. So many relatives originally hailed from here and even though we've been there on land trips this was a first to see so many destinations in a 12 day period. Unusually for us, we embarked in Le Havre, as the majority got on in Southampton. This meant a speedy embarkation process. The weather was superb and we were able to see all ports as per itinerary. St Peter Port in Guernsey was gorgeous with plenty to see in the small town except, being such a huge ship and having another cruise line in port at the same time, meant it was packed to the rafters. We took 3 attempts to get on the local bus 91/92 to go around the island and then it was so packed couldn't enjoy the ride. I think better to pay for the local commentary bus for this excursion. The line up to get the tender back was horrendous. All other ports were straight forward with only Queensferry using tenders and no lines there. But it was the amazing shows on this cruise I want to give a shout out for. Don't, whatever you do, miss seeing The Secret Silk, by the producer of Wicked. THE best production show we've seen and that's up against Encore, another superb show. Cruise director Mat O' (born to do this job) and his superior put together a lot of incredible acts on this cruise...the Mersey Beatles tribute band, Greg London vocal impressionist who's recently performed at Las Vegas, Sopranoist Shelley Rivers, 2 comedians and a mentalist. All top acts! We never used Princess Shore Excursions other than shuttles and motor coach between Le Havre and Paris. We can recommend Invergordon Bus Tours. Our guide Kevin was so warm, easy and interesting to listen to, and very professional. We went with them around Lochness, Inverness and Cawdor Castle. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
We had an ocean view cabin with an obstructed view. This wasn't too much of an issue because the roof of the lifeboat, just outside our stateroom, only came up to the bottom of the window leaving plenty to see. The quality of our ... Read More
We had an ocean view cabin with an obstructed view. This wasn't too much of an issue because the roof of the lifeboat, just outside our stateroom, only came up to the bottom of the window leaving plenty to see. The quality of our stateroom was average (and average these days is pretty good) but there was only one American style plug socket wit a low voltage. Not much use for my wife's hair dryer. The Stateroom service from our steward was excellent as was the service from nearly all of the staff that we encountered. We had fixed dining and opted for a table of eight. The food was excellent as was the variety of dishes on the menu. The entertainment on this trip wasn't anything to write home about. In fact we were a little disappointed with what was on offer some evenings. The journeys up the Fjords proved to be the holiday highlights rather than the ports visited. Two of the four ports visited had very little to offer and could be done in a couple of hours. Bergan was the only really interesting port but our stop here was the shortest of all the ports. As expected we found norway to be very expensive for almost everything so not much shopping or dining ashore was done. I am glad I did this trip and would recommend it to anyone who appreciates dramatic scenery. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
We chose this cruise because of the price and itinerary. Embarkation was very smooth. The cabin (a BB grade balcony) was 'cosy' Dining was mostly excellent (had the odd 'strange' meal). The entertainment ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the price and itinerary. Embarkation was very smooth. The cabin (a BB grade balcony) was 'cosy' Dining was mostly excellent (had the odd 'strange' meal). The entertainment wasn't as good as other cruises we've done. Service was excellent throughout. Except for one occasion when a table waiter 'back-chatted' us due to a dessert my other half didn't like..!! Ports of call were all very nice. Especially liked the Rouen Notre-Dame trip which we did via the Princess Cruise Personaliser... very good value for money with an excellent multi lingual guide. We went as a couple, but my sister and her husband and their two friends were also on the same cruise. No children. The ship, Princess Royal, is MASSIVE..!! but strangely finding our way around was easier than smaller ships we've been on. The 'guests' were mostly American, i'd say 75%(?), and on their own were very pleasant, but in a group can be very noisy and brash, i'm not saying that's bad, its just not what we're used to. We thought the prices of all the alcohol on-board was excessively priced.... We did the 'wine tasting' at $9.50 each, and were served up 5 of the most disgusting wines i think i've ever tasted. Got home and googled them all and they all came in at around the $4.50 a bottle price, so goodness knows what Princess get them for. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
Background Couple in mid 50’s on their 9th cruise – 6 with RCI (Platinum) and 3 with Princess (now Ruby). This cruise sailed out of Southampton, UK visiting England, Scotland, Ireland, and Northern France. We spent two days in ... Read More
Background Couple in mid 50’s on their 9th cruise – 6 with RCI (Platinum) and 3 with Princess (now Ruby). This cruise sailed out of Southampton, UK visiting England, Scotland, Ireland, and Northern France. We spent two days in London prior to the cruise and 3 days in Paris after the cruise. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and the fact that our family was also on this cruise. We have sailed the Regal Princess (sister ship) so we knew what the ship would be like and what to expect. Stayed at the London Marriott Kensington in London and the Hotel Cambon in Paris – both hotels were excellent and in great locations. Embarkation We arrived early afternoon to the terminal after a stop at Stonehenge on the way from London. Stonehenge is a bit overrated and is more impressive viewed from the highway than from close up. We suggest that folks skip this stop and visit Salisbury instead. From the time we arrived at the port to the time we got on the ship was about 45 minutes – this was reasonable given the volume of people in the terminal. The Ship The Royal Princess is in great shape and was as nice as expected. We really don’t have any complaints or concerns about the ship other than our dining room was on deck 6 (Allegro) and there was no way to go directly to it from one side of the ship to the other while on deck 6. You have to go up or down a deck to make it to the back of the ship and then take the stairs or elevator to get to the dining room itself. Otherwise, the ship is gorgeous, the facilities excellent, and there is always something to do. For those that like to stay in their room and watch TV, the selection of free movies was exceptional and of course there are episodes of the Love Boat as well. The Cabin We had an interior state room for 3 people (our adult son came with us). While the room was quite small, storage space was great, and our son's bed came from the ceiling. Our cabin steward was exceptional and made our room up at least twice per day. We knew we were cutting corners on the room to save money and the room was better than expected. The shower had a curtain (vs a door) but was big enough that you didn’t need to be a Cirque De Soleil performer to move around in it. Water pressure was also very good. Food The MDR food was fine (not spectacular) and the portions on the small side (which is good for those of us trying to avoid gaining weight). The lobster night was a disappointment in that the lobster was overcooked and dry. The desserts were often a highlight and the wait staff (James and Arun) were superb! The buffet was extremely repetitive day-to-day for breakfast and lunch and nothing to write home about in terms of quality or selection. This was the first cruise we have ever been on where we never had to search for an open table. This may be due to a packed itinerary or the fact that we ate at different times from the masses – not sure. Also, the International Cafe on deck 5 often had better food options. Entertainment This is where the Royal Princess needs to up their game. The entertainment we did see was generally subpar compared to other ships (both RCI and other Princess ships). The comedian was horrible, and the production vocalists were weak. The band and dancers were good but of the four primary vocalists, only one sounded professional. A Beatles cover band was on board and they were excellent playing concerts in the theater one night and then one night in the Piazza. They literally had standing room only both in the Theater (2 shows) and in the Piazza. As a special guest one night, Pete Best (original Beatles drummer before Ringo) was interviewed live by the Cruise Director. It was very interesting and a really nice surprise (no he did not perform with the Beatles cover band!) There was one performer who is worth mentioning individually – Cory the piano player. He performed both a theater stage show as well as nightly in the lounge. He is by far the worst entertainer we have seen on a cruise ship in 9 trips. His show is basically him talking about himself, occasionally playing a song but interrupting every song to attempt to make a joke (he made the Foundation’s Build Me Up Buttercup into a song about passing gas). It appeared to us that perhaps this was Cory’s shtick because he had a weak singing voice and this was one way to cover it up. Finally, we cannot say enough good things about the Cruise Director Matt O’Brien. This was Matt’s first cruise this year on the Royal and he was spectacular! He brought high energy and humor we have not seen on a Princess ship to date. Hopefully we see him again on a future cruise! Disembarkation Unfortunately, Princess lost one of our bags between our room and the retrieval area. Other folks were missing bags from the same group as well. Other than the lost bag, getting off the ship was easy and we were whisked back to London on a Princess transport. As of this writing (a week later), the bag has not been returned. Excursions This was a port-heavy trip (9 ports in 11 days) with stops in Guernsey, Belfast, Dublin, Cork/Cobb, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Invergordon, Glasgow, and Le Havre. Some of these cities are quite far from the port the ship docks in so some drive time is required. For example, Le Havre is about 3 hours outside Paris so if you choose a Paris excursion, you spend 6 hours on a bus for 4 hours in the city. In a couple sentences, here is our opinion of the stops: Guernsey – Princess excursion to the Little Chapel – very nice and the countryside is beautiful. Dublin – we needed to buy shuttle tickets into the city and saw Trinity College and the Book of Kells via a Viator independent tour. Also drank a pint in an Old Town Pub. Dublin was somewhat dirty. Belfast --- HoHo bus tour – nothing special about Belfast other than the HoHo narrator made it sound like the revolution was still going on there. Cork/Cobb – visited Blarney Castle on a very nice day through Princess tours – we enjoyed the visit. The time at the castle was too limited though for those wanting to kiss the Blarney Stone and those folks were late getting back to the bus having spent their entire visit in line. Time on station was often limited and in this particular port it was an issue. Liverpool – took the Fab4 Taxi Tour (3 hour version) and it was outstanding! Steve our guide was very knowledgeable and took us to many places including childhood homes and key locations within the city. He dropped us off at the end where we asked (the Beatles Story Museum) and the museum tour was also excellent. If you are a Beatles fan, you do not want to miss either of these. Edinburgh – took a train and bus to St. Andrews for a walking tour of the Old Course. Highly recommended and we had a great time for only 10 pounds per person which includes a “free” logo ball and scorecard. Warning though – that stairway from the port to the Dalmeny train station is about 200 steps going up at a very steep angle – you need to be in good shape! Glasgow – this stop was really Greenock and Glasgow is an hour away by shuttle – we simply stayed on the boat here. Invergordon – we took the Princess tour to Loch Ness and the Ulquart Castle and it was great. No, we did not see Nessie. Le Havre (northern France) – we took the Princess full day tour to the Normandy landing beaches and the tour was outstanding. A lot of driving (2 hours each way) but worth every moment. Our tour guide was excellent! Also, the lunch provided turned out to be very nice -- others have written on this forum about the lunch being an issue, but we enjoyed it. Summary All in all, this was a typical port-heavy cruise with mostly good and some bad, The ship was nice, the food OK and basically what we expected. We will continue to consider Princess as an option in future vacations. Also worth mentioning we purchased a number of Viator-managed excursions and they performed flawlessly. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
From the moment we arrived at Southampton the experience was great, within being dropped off we were aboard within 30 minutes. Our Cabin was great, the view was good and we were well placed midships, with easy access to all parts of the ... Read More
From the moment we arrived at Southampton the experience was great, within being dropped off we were aboard within 30 minutes. Our Cabin was great, the view was good and we were well placed midships, with easy access to all parts of the lovely vessel. I really cant complain about anything on this cruise, we made all our stops on time and the weather was brilliant, we had a bit of a day when it was rough weather but the Captain diverted slightly to avoid the worst. Six Countries in one cruise, it was awesome. Every stop had something different to offer, favorite stop Tallin and SPB. I like to try different ships, but next year Sapphire is in Europe again so another trip on her awaits. The service, food and staff are good. My only complaint is cost of drinks on board, and the excursions are also expensive. But for all round quality and enjoyment, you cant go wrong. Read Less
Sail Date July 2018
We chose this cruise based on the itinerary including the overnight in Dublin that allowed for more than one excursion at that port. The food was pretty decent overall with an impressive number of selections but did not begin to compare ... Read More
We chose this cruise based on the itinerary including the overnight in Dublin that allowed for more than one excursion at that port. The food was pretty decent overall with an impressive number of selections but did not begin to compare to the quality of food offered by the Oceania Cruise Line during our 12-day Western Mediterranean cruise in 2016. Had we not taken the Oceania cruise, our rating of the food would probably be higher but the bar had already been set! The Princess excursions were very good for the most part, albeit a bit pricey IMO; we booked ten (10) excursions through Princess. It was a relief to know that the ship would not sail without us in the event that we returned late from any given excursion since the trips were offered by the cruise line. This was important during this cruise since the ship sailed out of most of the ports around dinner time which seemed too early to me. The early departures erased any opportunity to explore the port cities if one had booked an excursion for that particular day which was disappointing. Our cabin steward was outstanding and the mattress/pillows/linens in our cabin were so good that I recorded the name of manufacturers for future reference once we got back home. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We boarded in Southampton. Transfers from Heathrow were smooth. As Platinum members we had Priority tickets and were able to board the ship fast. The rooms were ready and we dropped off our carry on luggage and headed to the Buffet for ... Read More
We boarded in Southampton. Transfers from Heathrow were smooth. As Platinum members we had Priority tickets and were able to board the ship fast. The rooms were ready and we dropped off our carry on luggage and headed to the Buffet for lunch. We then walked around the ship trying to stay awake until the safety drill. It was hard but I managed to do it. I admit I dozed off during the talk so I really cant comment on it. After 20 or so cruises I think I have the plan down but understand the need for it. We also had to watch it on the tv in the cabin before we could watch anything else. The veranda cabin was plenty of room for two. The bathroom and storage was fine. Our cabin steward was maybe the best we have had. I told her what we like in our cabin and she had everything as we requested. she saw our routine and had our room done perfectly every day. We rarely saw her but everything was done. Overall the ship was lovely. We found the food in the buffet to be worse than usual. The system of being served beverages at the table was not good. There were several instances where we finished our meal and still could not get a beverage. I would have fathered just to be able to get it myself. Some waiters were attentive but to others we were invisible. We did not eat in the dining rooms. We gave up on that 2 cruises ago. I had arranged for 5 dinners in the special restaurants and those meals were excellent and the service impeccable. My favorite was Sabitinis. We had pizza in Alfredos a few nights and the pizza and salad were very good.The sangrias there were also very tasty. We took ships excursions at every port and they all were good and well organized. The port in Guernsey was difficult tendering back but there is a small dock area there in in the ships defense there was not much room for the tenders to load. We did have to wait in the rain for over an hour but then there were many people returning to the ship at the same time. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Tour was my favorite. The Dublin Pub crawl a close second. I used the laundry facilities twice and had no issue. Everyone was very considerate and helpful. We never used the pool. The tour guides kept telling us that the UK was experiencing a heat wave but it was in the low to mid 70's. I saw mostly young children in the pools. I also found it to be too cool to attend movies under the stars. I did watch them on the in room tv the day after they were shown outside. Disembarkation went smoothly. Transfers back to Heathrow took about 2 hours . Had no problem making a 12 noon flight. We enjoyed the cruise and the beautiful UK sights. We dealt with the dining issues, relying on International food court, Alfredos, burgers by the pool, and specialty resturants and occasional trips to buffet. All in all with all the walking I managed to lose 1 1/2 lbs on this cruise, a historic first for me. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We are not very experienced cruisers, so we can only compare/contrast our experiences with Carnival and Norwegian Most important: there was a heavy emphasis on hygiene: handwash stations at the entrance to the buffet; a crew member at ... Read More
We are not very experienced cruisers, so we can only compare/contrast our experiences with Carnival and Norwegian Most important: there was a heavy emphasis on hygiene: handwash stations at the entrance to the buffet; a crew member at the start of buffet urges everyone to use sanitizer; public restrooms had a reminder to wash hands and also provided towels to open restroom door and drop into the trash. At ports, staff did not try to steer us toward specific merchants; excursions did not stop at the ship’s chosen store. Horizon buffet was far above others: made-to-order omelets (that were delivered to your table), great pastry and both British/American styles of sausages and bacon. Many gluten-free items available: pastries, muffins several choices of bread, and desserts. Orderly movement through buffet; silverware at exit; seating was spacious and usually easy to find. There was excellent service in the buffet; coffee and juice waiters were very good. We are somewhat mobility impaired, and the staff carried our plates as we went through the buffet. Alfredo’s pizza deserves its “best pizza on the sea” title. Pizzas were varied and extremely good. The steakhouse food and service were outstanding; Tan a great server Large choice of free movies on-demand, including a few new releases Major productions were outstanding (a different show each night.): such as The Backbeat Beatles, very understandably the PREMIER Beatles tribute band—terrific; a classical violinist (who wasn’t at all stuffy), a ventriloquist who takes his talent to a higher level, and a very talented team of musicians. The crew’s own show was very good Because of the talent of the cruise director’s staff, normally tacky audience-participation games were very good, aimed at adults: Bean bag toss, and takeoffs on jeopardy, who wants to be a millionaire, and liars club Because my wife and I both need canes, we received excellent care: wheelchairs to and from the ship.; there were many ramps; Also, there were reserved seats in the theatre for mobility-impaired guests. Other positives: a $250 OBC for vets; 3 banks of lifts…very little waiting; there were mostly older adults, so it wasn’t much of a party ship; classes in both ballroom and line dancing; Zumba classes earlier in the day, for younger cruisers formal nights loosely enforced (no bare arms for men); waiters/waitresses in lounges always nearby, but not intrusive; Lots of storage space in balcony cabin; Very attentive to our needs to use a CPAP machine; Soft-serve ice cream was served by the crew; no sticky or germ-filled hands. Some not-so-positive comments: Princess guaranteed us a cabin on our desired deck, but did not actually assign us a cabin until a few days before departure; however, they probably realized our limitations (we had asked for wheelchairs) and put us near the mid-ship elevators. breakfast and lunch in MDR just average—don’t order the eggs benedict; our cabin steward was just OK., far below cabin stewards we had before; MDR entrees so-so; tough inedible prime rib, but fish and seafood were good, and excellent desserts; service just so-so. The crew is always selling something, even included “enrichment" articles in the daily newsletter that were actually ads for the jewelry shop. Information on ports was available in a morning presentation (and later on cabin TV) the day before, but they were basically history lessons with little information about things to see and do except historic buildings; needed more maps of port areas. Crab shack restaurant was hardly mentioned; when we found out about it on the 3rd day, were told they already had one dinner in the restaurant and planned no more due to “lack of interest” (obviously because it wasn’t publicized). There is a step up into the bathroom, which makes it difficult for senior citizens. Toilets a bit noisy, but fast, and the vacuum system eliminated any nasty odors. Signage for everything could be improved, especially for restrooms in public areas. They should replace some lounge chairs on sunning decks with regular chairs for mobility-impaired. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
This review will be mostly geared towards giving tips to future cruisers going on this itinerary, and I will try to include pictures but keep the text as short as possible! You can contact me for more detailed info. Four stars are for the ... Read More
This review will be mostly geared towards giving tips to future cruisers going on this itinerary, and I will try to include pictures but keep the text as short as possible! You can contact me for more detailed info. Four stars are for the services from Princess, the tours I booked, awesome weather, and the relaxing experience as a whole with my DH! I took off one star for a variety of things that won't change but I feel is worth mentioning anyway as it affected our experience: there were some fellow cruisers who displayed general discourtesy at times, especially out in the countries we visited, which caused tensions among other cruisers and with locals. Also, I have noticed more of the Princess staff on board seemed less interested in their job/less agreeable than they used to be about a decade ago, though a good number of them show signs of honest enthusiasm. Could just be the luck of the draw this time, or maybe I'm paying more attention this time, but overall our trip was truly wonderful and we are both so glad we went! We wish we were retired and rich so we can do this more often! ;) Day 1: HEATHROW: The Heathrow “passport control” (customs) line for non-EU/UK/electronic passport holders on the weekend of our cruise was HORRIBLE, even according to people around us familiar with Heathrow. We got off our red-eye flight around 9 AM, and it took about 2-2.5 hr from there, through passport control, and to baggage claim. On the plus side, towards end of the line security people put out mini water bottles for us, and I accounted for the long wait and for the transfer time so that all the timing worked out. On the down side, we'd been in the line for so long that all our baggage was standing on the floor off the belt. One of ours was standing by itself at the wrong baggage area. PRINCESS TRANSFER SHUTTLE: The Princess transfer people were pleasant and sympathetic to the line wait, and they made the process from there simple. We handed over our luggage tags when asked so they could staple it on for us, and waited a few minutes before getting called to board their bus. TERMINAL CHECK IN: There was more sitting and waiting, but our excitement was building as we sat with the ship in view next to the terminal, and the terminal staff were pleasant and kind. Your passport is taken by staff and is returned to you on the morning on Dublin by your room steward, if you run into each other. Based on a tip from a former cruiser on this site, I printed out a copy of our passports and drivers licenses to carry around with me when going off the ship, and kept the actual passports in the room safe. RANDOM FYIs: 1) On ship there is a really nice, well-sized gym, which we didn't know about or we *might* have used it (but probably not!). A number of people did use it though! 2) If you're an adult, use the Sanctuary! People don't remember/realize it's there! It's quiet, and has a pool, a hot tub, and a bar. 3) I brought a 1 liter Nalgene water bottle and never used it. I ended up using plastic bottled water from airports/excursions and refilling by bringing a cup of water from the buffet to our bedroom or by using melted stateroom ice water or from bathroom tap. All are drinkable, though the ice water from the buffet and the room ice bucket can sometimes have a slight strange ice taste, and the bathroom tap smells mildly chlorinated. Totally drinkable tho. 4) I took a gamble and decided not to buy a sim card during the trip. I would have only used it to contact Overlord Tours in the event that we couldn't dock at Le Havre so I would get a refund. However, the weather forecast turned beautiful for almost everyday! Day 2: Guernsey PLAN: I booked nothing, on purpose! We ended up sleeping a solid 12 hours from exhaustion! WEATHER: The captain said around 3 AM there was fog, but since it cleared up we were good to go. Our time there was perfect, even warm for a projected 60 degrees F! After we got back to the ship, we found that steady and increasing drizzle had developed. MAPS: Princess provides maps in the Patter of places we dock at but for all of our excursions I used my printed out and self-marked-up google map with landmarks I wanted to note. HORIZON COURT COFFEE: DH thinks coffee is very dark/burnt but not as badly as Starbucks. I don't drink coffee so I can't comment! We did not buy a coffee card or any beverage package, anticipating to be mostly off ship during port days. INTERNATIONAL CAFE COFFEE: Not free but DH says it's better (i.e. less burnt) than the buffet's. Also, you can't take coffee or any produce/etc off the ship with you, DH found out the hard way and had to chug his coffee.... TENDER: At 11:20 AM, boarding didn’t take more than 20 minutes between waiting to be called and the tender boat starting to move away from the ship. The tender docks and leaves from Albert Pier. We lined up for return around 2:10 PM and the line was three people deep. The wait wasn’t too long though and gave me a chance to briefly check my email and respond to texts. Princess thoughtfully supplied free coffee along the line. WIFI: Free Albert Pier WiFi ("Free Guernsey WiFi"). RECOMMENDED ACTIVITY: It's fun to just walk around, even with all the hills. Btw, just get used to hills and winding streets.... I was ready to pay cash for Le Petit Train which was supposed to be at the Albert Pier, but it wasn't there when we got there. Many others seemed to have got to it at the right time though! Had a yummy snack and coffee at Cafe Delices. TIPPING: Princess will give tipping guidelines for every port on the Patter, but it is still discretionary. FORMAL NIGHT: You can go fancy if you like but I packed the dress that would fit the luggage the best, match most shoes, and would have the least noticeable wrinkles. :) DH had nice dress pants and a nice shirt. Day 3: Cobh (pronounced "cove") PLAN: Stay around Cobh and/or go to Cork. If I ever go back, I would try to spend all day to see the Ring of Kerry, or go to Kinsale/Fort Charles. WEATHER: Cold and windy by the gangway but comfortable on land. Slight drizzle at one point but mostly just cloudy. Some breeze. Husband ended up only wearing his short sleeve shirt and was fine despite eventual high reported to being 64. WiFi: Cobh heritage center WiFi actually needs a password, which I didn't have. RECOMMENDED ACTIVITY: Walk around the town, visit St. Colman's Cathedral, visit the Centra out of curiosity (like a 7-11), shop, Cobh Heritage Center if you like history.... The Titanic museum is rated well but we didn't go, and found out that the Cobh Heritage Center has plenty of Titanic history in it too. If you have nothing planned, you can still pick up a taxi or join Great Island Tour and a walking tour. You'll find this to be the case at all the ports. We had so much time we could have gone to Cork but we didn't feel like it. We got a nice exercise by walking pretty far into residential areas uphill, haha. DUBLIN SHUTTLE: In small print at the bottom of Cobh’s Princess Patter, it states you can prepurchase Dublin shuttle tickets ($8 pp, one way). Do this and save time on Dublin morning. SAIL AWAY: Cheer on the small community wind band and Victorian dancers performing on the dock! Day 4: Dublin PLAN: Trinity College + Book of Kells tour (cash only), then green HOHO (pre-purchased online, slightly cheaper to do so), with food/pubs in between. WEATHER: Partly cloudy, comfortable except on the HOHO upper level! DUBLIN SHUTTLE (bus): Get to waiting area early. We arrived at Concerto dining room around 8:12 AM with 50 people already waiting. First shuttle was boarded around 8:40 AM but didn’t leave right away. A small crowd at this hour decided to walk but the first half of the walk will be VERY unpleasant due to a TON of construction going on, way more than seen on Google maps' street view. The shuttle ride took ~30 min due to heavy traffic and a freight train. It dropped us off at North Merrion Sq, approx 9:33 AM. WiFi: Just at specific shops/restaurants. RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES: If you're interested in seeing the Book of Kells, go early. From Merrion Sq, walk immediately and directly to the Trinity College entrance, as there seem to be only locked gates along the side of the college, and go through the entry way to a very small wooden concession stand where you will find a college student wearing brown robes. The college tour was (surprisingly) really worth it and with the Book of Kells is a much better deal than the tour or Book alone. Our tour guide, Catie (sp?), was excellent. Most people will go through the long line outdoors for the Book of Kells but from 10:30 AM to even around noon it remained about the same length and the wait was probably 20 min. at most. Unless you have an e-ticket for the Book of Kells, you still have to wait in the long line but get to skip the ticket stand when you finally get inside. After a snack/drink at Hatch and Sons, we got on a green HOHO for the full tour, with a very knowledgeable and funny tour guide (Chris?), which is about 2-2.5 hours total. We had a late lunch at the Hairy Lemon, and walked around the shops. Around 5 PM we walked back to Merrion Sq for the shuttle back. GAELIC FLOAT DANCING + MUSIC TROUPE (onboard): very entertaining but just FYI they pick four people from the audience to dance with them! Day 5: Belfast PLAN: Giants Causeway with Irish Tour Tickets WEATHER: Sunny, breezy, becoming temperate after the cold morning. BELFAST SHUTTLE: Complimentary. DISEMBARKING: By now we knew to be ready early, as crowds can cause delay. There were no instructions on disembarking but people lined themselves up anyway today. RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES: Giant's Causeway, hands down!! This was my favorite excursion (Le Havre was a close second). I have a TripAdvisor review up for the tour with Irish Tour Tickets. I highly recommend them. The value is excellent and the tour is very well done. If you go and the weather is good, I highly recommend walking around the Giant's Causeway area as much as your time will allow (we had about 2 hours). From the Giant's Causeway we went up the 162 steps to the Cliff Walk and back to the entrance, but I could've gone much further if there was more time! It's so beautiful. The weather was PERFECT and all timing was PERFECT, as we clearly missed the biggest crowds on our way out. Only had two elderly couples delay us by 15 minutes due to confusion about bus location.... The coastline and hills are unbelievably gorgeous. We arrived at ship just shy of 6 PM. Definitely looked forward to sleeping in the day! Day 6: Greenock PLAN: Free local Inverclyde tour (sign up in person only; https://www.inverclydetouristgroup.co.uk/content/tours/) and/or walk around and/or stay on ship WEATHER: Mild/warm, breezy, partly cloudy GLASGOW SHUTTLE: None but there are taxis outside the port for 35£ per hour. WiFi: Free at port terminal, but everyone is using it too so it gets slow. RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES: If you're interested in Glasgow, definitely go, as everyone who had gone seemed to have really enjoyed it. I had considered booking a Loch Lommond tour either with a private group or with Princess, but I was concerned about scheduling too many activities and also I wasn't fully convinced of the appeal.... We ended up going into the Greenock terminal building, using their wifi, and signing up for free Inverclyde tour to Gourock at 1 PM. The port terminal staff were very friendly, with little stores, cultural interests, and Inverclyde Tourist Group people ready for visitors. The town of Greenock itself seems a bit depressed, definitely not a tourist hot spot, but does have a bit of important history. I would read Emily's entertaining review on the area for more info (https://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1652129&page=10). There are clear efforts to make the town more modern and family friendly, like a very large water fitness center and a lovely boardwalk (the Esplanade). Unfortunately our tour got cancelled because the buses that they received were unfit for use. I felt really bad for them, as they rely on others' generosity to continue what to provide what their services. We ended up buying some snacks/gifts from a vendor in the terminal and just went back to wander/read on the ship. SAIL AWAY: A large local band including bagpipers and drummers played, while a huge creepy + hilarious Hagrid-like costumed person jumped around with the too-tall head lolling around. Day 7: Sea Day + second formal night, which we skipped by just eating in the buffet! Day 8: Kirkwall PLAN: T11 bus tour (pre-purchased online) and walk around Kirkwall WEATHER: Sunny turning to cloudy and breezy/cool then warming up slightly. Definitely wear a long sleeve shirt and a jacket---a fleece too if you're sensitive to cold. Waiting outside in line was a chilly experience even in bright sunshine. I'm soooo glad it didn't rain. KIRKWALL SHUTTLE: Complimentary, thanks to Kirkwall. WiFi: Becomes free around 9 AM at the tourist center when it opens, but loads of people are using it too. T11: If you are at all interested in this, buy it online (12£ pp) when you're still at home. This is a fairly new tour offered by Kirkwall but is essentially just a new bus line, so it is only transportation; do not expect commentary. We were on the first shuttle into Kirkwall from the ship (around 8 AM), and walked around the empty town until it got closer to 9 AM. There were TONS of people waiting in line, with more coming in busloads, to try to buy it in person by 9 AM when the single booth opens. If you bought it online, definitely be there before early to get called up and put at the front of the bus line! Only about 10 of us had these, and many people were turned away. For T11 there were only two double deckers that would hold about 100 people each, and the second bus was open air on the second level! With even partly sunny weather and no rain, it was too cold! People from that bus eventually crammed into our bus, even just using standing room, leaving no open seats. If you have trouble buying online, refresh your page or try another day. Several people have had trouble despite trying weeks in advance to buy. Because of this trouble, one couple we'd met got on the first shuttle (same as us) from ship to visitor center and waited there until the ticket booth opened to buy tickets! But even if you don’t get the T11, catch other buses, as a whole lot of people were doing instead, taking the X1 or something. Just know that the bus stops you'll then have to wait at after you get off can mean just standing in the road at an intersection, quite a distance from the site you visited. So again, if it was raining, I can’t imagine how horrible the experience would be. The T11 bus waits for you at the scheduled stops at Skara Brae and Ring of Brodgar. GENERAL NOTE: It's important to remember you're a visitor in someone else's homeland and to be kind to each other! A number of site staff people, especially at Skara Brae/Skaill House, looked and sounded stressed and harassed by some impolite tourists who didn’t abide by clear rules or who didn’t exercise basic courtesy. Despite that, they definitely did their best to serve and answer customer questions. I’ll give them kudos for that. Can’t imagine what it is like to have 4000 foreigners vomited in waves onto my small neighborhood for most of the day. Day 9: Invergordon PLAN: Nothing! Go to Inverness if we feel like it. WEATHER: Beautifully sunny and warm afternoon in Invergordon/Inverness which turned to chilly cloudy windy weather when we arrived back in Invergordon. INVERNESS SHUTTLE: None... INVERGORDON: ...but the locals who set up an information booth and provide a small shop and toilets are nice. I feel kind of bad that Invergordon gets overlooked as tourists head to Inverness to spend their day and money. But Invergordon does its best with upkeep, and it has mostly clean and quiet streets, with flowers along the sidewalks, and history-depicting murals. The Invergordon Church also apparently offers cruise crew free tea and coffee, WiFi, Bibles, and other things as a gesture of fellowship and kindness. I only found that out from a booklet a volunteer at the port end gave me. TRANSPORTATION to/from INVERNESS: On High St. you can take the 25X bus or the train next to St Joseph's church. I recommend the bus, as it is far more regular than the train, and also check the schedules while you're still at home, which I astonishingly had forgotten to do. The 25X fare was 13.40£ (cash only unless you use their other official forms of payment) for two people round trip to/from Inverness, NOT 11£ as described online at whatsinport.com. However, I'm not sure what's better to take back to Invergordon.... With an all-aboard call of 5:30 PM and a 45 min ride back, we decided to head to the bus station around 3:30 PM. There was a growing crowd at stance 5, with a tense mix of tourists and locals. This is where things from Inverness and tourists were handled poorly. Inverness did not account for enough buses for the massive influx of tourists for today. Thankfully after a tense 20 minutes of some bickering and muttering among locals and tourists, a bus that pulled into stance 6 or 7 that was not in service got pulled into servicing just the cruise tourists so we could go straight to Invergordon. This was a good thing. Tourists were being quite obnoxious in their anxiety about not getting a seat and there was a disgraceful amount of shoving as people surged towards the bus. I’m afraid locals will have a very bad impression of tourists if they haven’t already, and that even tourists will have a bad feeling towards other tourists. CROWN GRILL: I normally balk at spending extra when I know everything we need is already paid for, but relented because DH wanted to dine here because it is a good deal compared to private steakhouses. The service was great, and the rib eye steaks we ordered were delicious. I would recommend it if you want real steak---I had been a little disappointed with the beef in the main dining rooms for the entire cruise because the texture of the meat seemed really odd. My guess was that it had been preserved or brined or...?? I have no idea why it looked like that but it still tasted fine. Day 10: Edinburgh PLAN: Edinburgh Castle + Royal mile (same as everyone else) but would’ve loved to do Arthur’s seat if I felt confident about the timing. WEATHER: Supposed to be a high of 79-81 degrees F but husband turned on TV around 7 AM and saw it was still only 53. In Edinburgh it was cool and humid in the morning but became quite warm and sunny, beautiful weather in the late morning/early afternoon. By late afternoon though the ship was shrouded in cool fog. TENDER: We were waved down to deck 4 just before 7:15 AM where the first tender was waiting. The tender arrived at Hawes Pier around 7:33 AM, and the pier was slick with slime and water. EDINBURGH SHUTTLE: Two Lothian X99 double decker buses (in great condition!) waited on the road with friendly drivers selling tickets at 6£ per adult for round trip (we paid in cash). The last returning bus was 5 PM but otherwise runs every 20 min. The bus left around 8 AM, as scheduled. Two extra X99s were waiting just beyond. These buses were provided specifically for cruisers, like the Kirkwall shuttle buses are. I found this system very efficient with constant tenders and plenty of these new buses, superior to the transportation at Invergordon. After 45 min, we got off the bus north on St. Andrews Sq. RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES: If you want to go to Edinburgh Castle, go early. From St. Andrews Square, we immediately walked back down to the Scottish National gallery, up The Mound, stopped at the Cafe on the Mound (because of its funny sign and our need for breakfast), up Mound Place around 9:10 AM, then Ramsay Lane, which ended abruptly at the end of a line of people already waiting for Edinburgh Castle to open! At 9:18 AM they let us into the first gate but in the area where the tattoo is held, we then split up into two lines: left side for people with online tickets and right side for people needing to buy. Both are long but needing to buy is longer. There were already a whole lot of people there. Thanks to our ticket and my research from other people's experiences, we were literally the first people at the Crown Jewels exhibit. To get here, take the stairs on the left after you turn in your ticket and enter the castle grounds. At the top of the stairs there is a building labeled something like "Crown Jewels and History" but go to the right side entrance of the building instead to see the Crown Jewels directly. For those unfamiliar with the significance of these objects though, do the history part first. ;) Holyrood Palace was closed through July 7 due to the Queen being inside it. Arthur’s seat looked absolutely fantastic from the ground on this beautifully sunny day. I would recommend hiking this if you have plenty of time! We went to the interesting Museum of Childhood, shops, restaurants. At the tender line back to the ship, Princess staff offered cool wet hand towels and drinking water. Day 11: Sea Day BREAKFAST: Finally got to try the Allegro experience. It's less busy than the buffet, and the pancakes and eggs are made to order. Day 12: Le Havre PLAN: Overlord Normandy and Bayeux tour (option 9B on their website) WEATHER: Beautiful!!! But by the ocean definitely windy/cooler. LE HAVRE SHUTTLE: I believe this was $8 pp one way via Princess. TOURS MEETING PLACE: There was a surprising amount of confusion about the private tours' meeting place. Nothing was labeled and even a French port worker gave us the wrong info. On the other hand, there were TONS of Princess tour buses in main parking across the street from the terminal. If this is what you've booked, just follow most of the crowd where these buses are. It turned out that private buses and vans met across the street too but in the smaller parking area to the left of the Princess bus tours when you exit the terminal building. Then there are also buses to take disembarking passengers, which were sitting right outside the terminal exit. OVERLORD TOUR 9B: I'd been really looking forward to this excursion since booking it. We only had 15 people in our group though this tour can take up to 50 or so. Our smaller van/bus came around just before 8 AM, though we were waiting around for a good thirty minutes already, confused before we found others in our group. There were even smaller private Overlord Tours meeting there too. Our tour guide was the very friendly and knowledgeable Yannick, who took us to the Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery, then Bayeux where we got to have a lunch at a place he recommended and then see the tapestry and local cathedral, spend an hour at Honfleur, and return back to the ship around 6 PM. He gave us lots of history and personal stories of the men (and women!) sacrificed their lives in the war. It was an extremely sobering experience, and I consider myself blessed to have been able to hear the stories and pay my respects to the thousands upon thousands of people who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. I recommend visiting Normandy, and signing up with Overlord, to anyone. I also recommend seeing the Bayeux Tapestry, a remarkable piece of history. It only takes about 30 min and an audio guide is included. Finally, back on the ship, around 8:15 PM or so we watched as the port workers prepared the ship to leave port, and the last gangway was literally about to be lifted off the the ship when in the distance we saw a black sedan gunning it into the port, past the gates, and drive right up to the ship! A lady leapt out of the car and ran to and up the gangway to the cheers of her friends watching on the upper deck. So glad she made it! Don't be the one the ship leaves behind! *shiver* Day "13": Disembarkment Disembarking was fairly seamless, no surprises. Heathrow was very busy, but the lines kept moving. I'm thankful that the workers there are still friendlier than the ones at JFK, though for the first time ever in my travels through JFK, a female TSA worker at JFK gave us a big smile and welcomed us back to the States. Someone give that woman from Terminal 4 a raise! Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
this was our first cruise from Southampton and embarkation could not have been easier we were settled in and drinking coffee before we would ordinarily have even taken off on a flight to a start port further afield. Sapphire Princess is a ... Read More
this was our first cruise from Southampton and embarkation could not have been easier we were settled in and drinking coffee before we would ordinarily have even taken off on a flight to a start port further afield. Sapphire Princess is a lovely ship although some of the bars are a little too dark for daytime use on wet sea days. The conservatory is a useful addition for those days tough. Dining was up to the usual princess standards, although the horizon court a bit of a bunfight as the servery is quite small - we just didn't use it after the first attempt. The disappointment of the holiday were the seriously overprices tours on offer. particularly the Flor og Fjare gardens in Stavanger. They are truly beautiful gardens but the paltry 90 minutes that we were allocated - which was actually only 60 minutes due to late transfers , did not allow us time to do them justice. I had tried to self source this tour but couldn't - so i expect that there is an arrangement between the gardens and the cruise companies on cruise days. In all other ports we self sourced tours and busses at at about 50% of the cruise cost. It would also have been better to spend a longer day in Bergen. we left at 13.30 Thursday to sail back to Southampton - we could have stayed in Bergen another 3 hours and still made it back for 7 am on Saturday. So yes - a good holiday but could have been better. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
Loved all the stops, that is why we chose this cruise. Wanted to see all of Great Britain, Guernsey and the beaches of Normandy. The cabin was tiny too small for 4 grown people. 2 people would be good. We got on each other’s nerves ... Read More
Loved all the stops, that is why we chose this cruise. Wanted to see all of Great Britain, Guernsey and the beaches of Normandy. The cabin was tiny too small for 4 grown people. 2 people would be good. We got on each other’s nerves and ugh it was annoying at times but we made it work, we had to. The staff aboard ship was phenomenal! Everyone was welcoming and warm and truly made you feel special. We used the aft elevators more frequently to get around the ship as they were much more available than the forward elevators. We used the promenade deck and the lido deck to get around the ship! I wasn’t too impressed with the spa. I could get the same treatment here at home. The staff there was just ok. They really didn’t impress me. I will not be going for spa services in the future if we do another Princess cruise, too hard on sales of their product and the treatment was just so-so. Overall though, the cruise was comfortable and very enjoyable. I would cruise with Princess again, given the opportunity! Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
We enjoyed the variety of ports we visited . As to the ship,it was very nice,food was good and service was as well. The entertainment most nights was enjoyable and the theater had good views from almost everywhere. Our cabin on deck 11 ... Read More
We enjoyed the variety of ports we visited . As to the ship,it was very nice,food was good and service was as well. The entertainment most nights was enjoyable and the theater had good views from almost everywhere. Our cabin on deck 11 aft was nice and our room steward Jericho was excellent . Small Balcony however. Only one negative was getting on and off the ship . The tender service was not very good as we waited almost 2 hours to get back on the ship in Guernsey which is unacceptable !! About and hour in Edinburgh. Vast improvement needed in this area ! We missed docking at one port due to HIGH WINDS. But other than that we got lucky on dry days and sunny in most locations. If you like huge boats with lots of amenities and PEOPLE , the Royal Princess is for you. We prefer smaller boats with less people personally. . Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
Whilst porting Invergorden we decided to try a day of whiskey tours. We contacted a local company DM Executive as a private tour, and we were not disappointed! Our driver Daniel was extremely knowledgable and passionate about Scotland, and ... Read More
Whilst porting Invergorden we decided to try a day of whiskey tours. We contacted a local company DM Executive as a private tour, and we were not disappointed! Our driver Daniel was extremely knowledgable and passionate about Scotland, and it's whiskey. We started at Clynelish, made our way to Balblair and eventually finishing the day at the famous Glenmorangie. When booking a Whisky tour, look no further than DM Executive and your day will be one to remember. We chose this cruise based on itinerary: we wanted to visit Scotland and Northern Ireland. We enjoyed those ports immensely, and wished we had several days to spend at each! The ship was beautiful, our mini-suite was very comfortable, and service was outstanding. We had "club class dining" due to our selection of a mid-ship mini-suite, and it was very nice: we never had to wait for a seat, and the waitstaff knew our names and preferences by the first day. There was always a special main course offered in club class (not on the regular menu); twice it was lobster, other times tuna steak or beef steaks. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
This cruise went to all of the locations that were must see for us. This is my second Princess cruise and I found everything was good, except the food. On this cruise there were many options for sea food, which I am not a fan of. I had ... Read More
This cruise went to all of the locations that were must see for us. This is my second Princess cruise and I found everything was good, except the food. On this cruise there were many options for sea food, which I am not a fan of. I had steak twice and prime rib once. Twice I sent it back because it was not cooked properly and the other time, I just could not eat it and went up to the buffet. On our first Princess cruise there was always an option for tritip steak if one didn't like the daily options, this time, the only thing on the menu that might have interested me was a dried chicken breast or the beef option of a hamburger. Not my idea of a great fine dining for two weeks. Staff were wonderful, the ship and amenities were good. Our balcony cabin was very comfortable. The upgrade in bed and pillows was a great addition for Princess. The nightly shows involving outside entertainment was, for the most part, very good. The regular dancers were very talented, the regular singers were OK, at best, which is the same experience as my first Princess cruise, but not that big of a deal. The ship band were very good musicians and played well except that the drummer tended to drown out many of the other instruments which was annoying after a while. I could only handle the in house singers twice and didn't go any other times. We took excursions in St. Petersburg and Helsinki with SPB Tours. They were phenomenal and their price was about half of Princess. We took Free walking tours in Copenhagen and Tallinn, and Princess excursions in Brugges, Gdansk and Stockholm, mainly because the ship docked many miles from the drop off locations, we didn't want to take the chance of missing our return. Most European cities have free walking tours that can be found on line. We used Sandeman Free Walking Tours. The guides only get paid via tips so there is incentive for them to give a great tour. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
I have never liked the idea of being crammed onto a boat with 3,000 of my closest friends, so resisted cruising for decades. Finally succumbed to family peer pressure and went on a 12 day tour of the British Isles on the Royal Princess ... Read More
I have never liked the idea of being crammed onto a boat with 3,000 of my closest friends, so resisted cruising for decades. Finally succumbed to family peer pressure and went on a 12 day tour of the British Isles on the Royal Princess with my husband, sister, and brother-in-law. It went just fine. I get seasick, so made sure I had patches, but I never opened the box. That ship was steady. On the first day, the captain skipped St. Peter Port due to inclement weather; there was no indication on board that we were facing high winds and waves which would make tendering there a problem, but I appreciated the captain's decision to err on the side of caution. Only once did we have a problem finding a table in the Horizon Buffet; usually there was plenty of seating. There was a wide variety of food available. I like vegetarian fare and my husband is a carnivore. We were both happy. I appreciated all the fresh fruit options, although the cantaloupe was consistently either underripe or overripe. They try to make the buffet lines easy to navigate by creating niches for different fare, but that didn't work well for a person with no internal mapping ability: it took me days to figure out the system. I was always turning the wrong way. They are cooking for thousands of people, so the food can be slightly industrial; the scrambled eggs were always the consistency of pudding, looked inedible, and according to a family member who tried them once, were. The oatmeal contained no evidence of oats. One day we chose quiche for breakfast which was so rubbery that my sister entertained herself for five minutes by bouncing a spoon off it. Otherwise, the Horizon Buffet was acceptable. The hot dogs at the grill by the pool were fabulous. The soft-serve ice cream at the ice cream bar near the pool was not great. My husband tried the gelato on Deck 5 once and didn't buy it again. Carlos, Victor, and Paskulis in the Allegro Dining Room did a great job for our table of ten every night. I know we were the last seating and they were tired, but it never showed. The food was good, well-prepared and attractively presented. It was never anything to rave about, about the same as a good-quality restaurant at home, but again, they are cooking for thousands. The only glitch was that the last night of the cruise, we all arrived for dinner to find our regular table already occupied and no other table for ten available. Nobody had mentioned that the stop at LeHavre changed the system from Traditional Dining to Anytime Dining. Several nearby tables were also complaining about this. Carlos apologized, but said there was nothing he could do to find a table which would accommodate all of us. As each of our tablemates arrived, the complaints increased, and I think poor Carlos realized he had a mutiny brewing. I know it upset the whole system, but he found us a table and we were able to have a final dinner together. Apparently not all strangers seated at the same table get on as well as the five couples at our table did, but we really enjoyed every person who was assigned to our table on the first night and valued the chance to have a final meal with them, so thank you, Carlos, for your help. We know it disrupted your whole system. Port times were long enough. Generally the shuttle system worked well, although we were all pretty disappointed in the shuttle system at Le Havre, where we had to pay $32 roundtrip per couple to get from the ship to the center of town. That didn't happen any place else. The shuttles were always provided in ports where the walking distance was either too far or too dangerous due to port activity. We stood in the rain for thirty minutes waiting for a shuttle back. There was no bus shelter, and the crowd consisted of passengers from two different ships, so there were quite a number of people there. It wasn't possible to dash across the street and find shelter to wait, because there was no way to tell when the shuttle was coming back and the streets were busy. Two ladies in front of us said they'd been there over an hour, waiting. We were all soaked. It would have been equally miserable on a hot day, possibly even dangerous for someone sensitive to heat stroke. When the shuttle finally came, everyone swarmed for both the front and rear doors. The poor young woman at the front, who apparently was supposed to be collecting tickets, shouted that everyone needed to get off again and come through the front doors. Not a single wet and irritated person complied. I felt bad for her, the system wasn't her fault. When we got back to the ship there was an empty shuttle sitting there with the driver reading a book. I will not repeat here what the two ladies who had waited over an hour in a driving rain had to say about that. We bought into the offer for The Enclave, which was a big disappointment to me. I should have known better. They closed without warning for a day and a half, which was surprising, but they said they needed to deep-clean and that had been factored into the reduced price. The Enclave is basically a giant hot tub with a couple of bubblers, a couple of water features, and some sort of contraption evidently designed to massage. It consisted of long steel pipes one could hoist oneself onto, lie back, and feel some water pressure. It was the most uncomfortable thing ever. Those racks actually hurt. I hated having to strip down in the locker room in front of strangers. The alternative is to change in a toilet cubicle, which is not fun. The sandals provided were two sizes too small. I wear a ten US, and that's not unheard of, but the standard sandal fits about a seven or eight. The hot stone benches were likewise extremely uncomfortable. There was never a problem finding one open, which told me I wasn't the only one who thought that. The hot tub wasn't particularly warm, and was full of big hairy men. One fellow was the most hirsute individual I have ever seen outside the zoological gardens. I suspect everyone left with a little bit of that guy on them. It was basically a big tub of warm skin soup and after the second time, I abandoned the whole idea. My husband liked the bubblers when he could get to one, but I loathed the entire thing. Not the fault of Princess, really, just a personal preference. The pool on Deck 16, on the other hand, was very nice, exactly warm enough, and never crowded. The servers assigned to asking sunbathers if they wanted drinks were just attentive enough, and never pushy. Speaking of which, I was prepared for over-the-top sales pressure, and that really didn't happen. Many of the daily activities were designed to sell you something: mini-facials, "natural" eye lifts, back help, foot help, etc., but those were easy to skip. There seemed to be lots on offer during at-sea days, but we are readers, jigsaw puzzler workers, and card players, so we did our own thing and were perfectly happy. The library is small, but has enough reading material so that everyone can find something, and it was fun sometimes to work on puzzles people had started and abandoned. Our cabin, D321, was large enough, contained plenty of storage, quiet, had a balcony the right size for two of us, and was cared for by TingTing, who was efficient, clean, pleasant, and always willing to answer any questions we had. Those room stewards work their fannies off for not much money, and we made sure to tip her the day we embarked and the day we left. We chose the eight pm dining, which kept us from seeing most of the shows, except the the one show on Scotland on an at-sea day. It was very good, which a nice mixture of Scots and Celtic songs, a congenial host, three sweet and talented young Celtic dancers, and a fabulous fiddle player. Not sure I'd pick the later dining time again, though, because we think we missed some good experiences. We were thinking it would give us time to relax a little after our port time, but it turned out to be really too late. Dinner took a minimum of two hours, so that kept us from seeing shows. One night we got out a little early and caught most of a show called Encore in the Princess Theater. All I can say is, if that's the normal quality, Princess is really on to something. It was amazing. Their guest soprano was fabulous as were all their singers and dancers. Sets and lighting were amazing. I wish we'd been able to take advantage of their offerings at other times. We took only two Princess excursions, preferring to explore the ports mostly on our own: one Princess tour as we disembarked to Windsor and then to Heathrow, and the one in Kirkwall, in the Orkneys, to the neolithic site at Skarra Brae. It was absolutely worth the money. Do it. The site was fascinating, as was the manor house nearby, and the guide was interesting. My husband took a fly-fishing trip, booked independently before we left, when we were in Inverness/Invergordon. He booked with You Fish Scotland Dot Com and he had a great experience. The guide picked him up at the ship, fished with him (at my husband's invitation) gave him a good lunch and a "wee dram" and brought him back in plenty of time before the ship left. They caught only one fish, but the water was warmer than usual after days of no rain, and the guide said that can make the fish sluggish. Regardless, he was informative and professional, and that experience was a highlight of the trip for my hubby. At the same port, my sister and brother-in-law and I took a tour booked independently before the trip to Brodie Castle, Culloden, Loch Ness, and Inverness, with a company called WOW Scotland. Do that, too. HIGHLY recommended. They communicated well before the trip, as did the You Fish Scotland folks. The coach was comfortable, Bill the guide was excellent, and we all agreed it was well worth the cost, which was very reasonable. Skip their lunch offering, though, and bring your own lunch from the ship. Those were the driest sandwiches on the European continent. We saw a bunch of them rewrapped and disposed of. We stopped briefly outside the cathedral in Inverness and got to see the end of a wedding. The piper piped out the newly-married couple, who stood on the steps while we all snapped their photos. The bride looked somewhat surprised to see a bus load of tourists clapping and cheering for her and her new husband, but took it all in stride. The cathedral is beautiful. Every cathedral we saw on the trip was beautiful. The Windsor tour was great, although the time was too short to see Queen Mary's Dollhouse and to explore the charming town of Windsor, as the lines to get into the castle were long. We waited 45 minutes, which was actually not bad, according to the guide. She said that the lines had been as long as two and a half hours, probably due to the extra people wanting to see St. George's Chapel after the recent royal wedding. Windsor Castle is designed to impress, and that has been the theme for centuries: "We are a wealthy and powerful nation; take heed." I liked it. The only port we didn't much appreciate was Le Havre, and not just because of the shuttle debacle. It wasn't very clean, with cigarette butts and dog feces everywhere, and it looks like it's struggling. 86% of Le Havre was destroyed during World War II, bombed into rubble by Germany to eliminate its function as a port city. The cathedral took a direct hit, but has been restored. We were really happy to find the cathedral so close to the center of town, as it is the place where my grandfather sold melons as a fourteen year old boy fresh off another boat from Greece, as he tried to earn enough money to get passage to America. It took him two years to earn the money. How many fourteen year old boys now would be able or willing to do that? We were touched, thinking that as he stood there in all weathers peddling fruit, he likely never thought that one day his granddaughters would stand where he stood, thinking of him and admiring his strength and spirit. That was the highlight of Le Havre for us. So, there you go. This was long, but I appreciated reading long reviews while we were planning this trip, so I knew what to expect. Take from it what you will. We are glad we went. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
This cruise was an excellent way to explore the British Isles without having to take a U.K. driving course. The cruise itinerary was inclusive of many of the best ports of Ireland and Scotland and there was ample transportation options if ... Read More
This cruise was an excellent way to explore the British Isles without having to take a U.K. driving course. The cruise itinerary was inclusive of many of the best ports of Ireland and Scotland and there was ample transportation options if you wanted to explore on your own versus taking shore excursions. Ports of call included South Hampton (Embark/Disembark), St. Peter Port, Cobh (Cork), Dublin, Belfast, Greenock (Glasgow), Kirkwall (Orkney islands), Invergordon, South Queensferry and finally Le Havre, France. The region is rich in history, culture, architecture, royal bloodlines, and maybe even a visit or two from ancient aliens in the Orkney Islands (Ring of Brodgar). No matter one's taste, you would be hard pressed not to find something of interest. On a mostly clear and mild Friday, we set sail from South Hampton, England (The 1912 departure point for the ill-fated RMS Titanic) on the 19 deck Royal Princess (2013). With approximately 1,780 guest rooms, 3,500 guest passengers and 1,350 crew members, the Royal Princess is a big beautiful ship, but not so large that one feels as if they can't find their way from deck to deck. The focal point of the ship is the glittering piazza with boutiques, food venues, and bars strategically located around the open spiral staircases inviting the guests to mingle with shipmates, browse from shop to shop, or maybe even meet new friends from other parts of the world. The embarkation was extremely smooth and efficient as the guests progressed from the terminal to the ship in a very organized manner with the ship's staff and a bountiful buffet awaiting their arrival. So, with adventure at hand, let the journey begin. My wife and I stayed on deck 11 in cabin B108, the Baja deck. We always try to book a room that has guest rooms above and below so that noise generally isn't an issue when we are relaxing or have retired for the evening. We also try to book a room that is somewhat in the middle of the Lido deck and the Piazza so that we can take the stairs throughout the cruise to counter having dessert with our evening meal every night, not to mention pizza, ice cream etc. The room was a smaller balcony, queen bed, clean, and welcoming with plenty of space for the two of us. The bathroom was average size for a cruise ship, but manageable, with ample room for the normal toiletries. There was plenty of closet space and sufficient storage for clothing. Julio was our room steward and he was fantastic. Julio kept the room spotless, went above and beyond expectations, answered any question we posed to him, and always had a smile. If he ever had a bad day during the cruise it was impossible to tell. The available food and dining options, as always, is far and above our everyday hum-drum meal plans. We always choose the anytime dining (Usually anywhere between 5:00 PM and 9:00 PM) as it is easiest for guests that don't usually stick to a set meal time, but there are also traditional meal times with scheduled seating, generally at the same time, table, and with the same table guests. My wife and I prefer to share a table and meet other cruise guests throughout the duration of the cruise, however, you can also request a table just for two if that is your preference. The menu is adequate with a variety of seafood, steaks, poultry, and pastas with a few interesting options for those that may be a bit more adventurous. The buffets offer a wide variety of choices including regional fare, and of course you can simply grab a hamburger, hot dog, or a slice of pizza on the Lido deck. If you are a foodie or a chef then maybe you won't be happy, but if you can't find something you like to eat on a cruise I would be extremely surprised. Overall, there are well over a dozen different locations on the Royal Princess to satisfy your hunger with one of my favorites being the International Cafe open 24 hours a day. The Cafe offers sandwiches, salads, soups, quiche, and the best coffee on the ship. If you are in a hurry or just enjoy a small meal, then this is the place to go! Overall the ship's food service was good, but the dining rooms seemed to be understaffed and somewhat slow. The good part, at least in my opinion, everyone was on vacation and hopefully in chill mode instead of the normal hectic everyday hustle and bustle of routine life, so it didn't matter. I rather enjoy talking with the other table guests and getting to know a little bit about their background as well as what brought them to this particular cruise. The buffets were plentiful with decent variety and service on the Lido deck, at least my experience, was very good. For the size of the ship and guest count the lines were never daunting, table service was readily available, drinks were brought to the table quickly, and refills were non-stop. We also used room service on several occasions and it always arrived on time or before estimated time of arrival. The entertainment provided on this cruise was family oriented with a magician, comedian, Opera vocalist, local musicians, singers and dancers (Think bag pipes or River Dance) as well as the Princess orchestra, singers, dancers, and excellent (Usually standing room only) Piazza music venues including a Classical String Trio, Prestige Quartet, Piano Classics, Guitarists, and even the Beetles stopped by to perform (Okay, it wasn't really the Beetles, but it was still a lot of fun and dancing!). There was definitely something for everyone and you didn't need to worry about bringing the kids. I felt the overall service received on this cruise was adequate, the dining service tried extremely hard to please, the bars, clubs and lounges was generally quick (However, not always accurate), while the stateroom services was exemplary. We didn't use the Captain's Circle desk or shore excursions desk on this cruise, so it wouldn't be fair to critique those items provided by Princess. In regards to the cruise itinerary and the ports of call we couldn't have been happier. My wife and I tend to go off on our own and explore and this cruise definitely didn't disappoint. At every port one could just exit the ship and seek their own adventure. There was plenty of transportation options from bus shuttles, hop-on-hop off buses, taxis, trains, and simply walking. The locals were extremely friendly and eager to assist if you were looking for a specific location or just interested in the local history. I was truly amazed at how easy it was to strike up a conversation with the local residents and shop keepers as well as the amount of time they were willing to spend talking with tourists and sharing their knowledge. The history, architecture, and landscapes were the primary reasoning for booking this cruise and there were castles, cathedrals, palaces, universities, and culture to be explored at every port. Unfortunately, we missed St. Peter Port due to weather conditions, but we were able to dock at all of the other scheduled ports. Cork, Ireland (Cobh Harbor) was a small port that visitors could easily explore on foot in one day. A visit to St. Colman's Cathedral, the local history museum, and of course Kelly's Pub are musts if you're staying in port or you can venture out on an excursion and visit the Blarney Castle, Killarney National Park, or any number of other locations. Dublin was the first major city to visit and a shuttle to the city center was provided by Princess. Again once in the city, there are numerous attractions within walking distance including St. Patrick's Cathedral (A stunning example of early architecture and history), Trinity College, and Dublin Castle to name just a few that we visited. And don't forget the Guinness Storehouse and Pub if you are so inclined (You can't visit Dublin without having a pint, right?). Belfast was the next port of call and Princess again offered a shuttle into the city center. There is plenty to see in this port, but it is much more spread out, so I would recommend a hop-on-hop-off bus to see as many of the points of interest as you may be interested in. Greenock followed and this was another port in which you could stroll off the ship and walk to different city buildings that were architecturally worth viewing, but many guests from the cruise ship went on excursions in the neighboring city of Glasgow known for art galleries, museums, castles and cathedrals. One of my favorite ports of call was Kirkwall, Scotland and the Orkney Islands. This is the only port that we took a planned excursion and it was worth every penny. We were able to book a small private guide (Pat from "About Orkney") who made the day everything we had hoped and then some. We visited the majority of the main points of interest including Skara Brae, Ring of Brodgar, the Italian Chapel, Scapa Flow, St. Magnus Cathedral, the Kirkwall Museum, and even had time to stop for ice cream before heading back to the ship. It was a great day and if you are only going to splurge on one port of call this would be a good option. Invergordon was the next port of call and although it doesn't have the fanfare of some of the larger cities, it was still a nice village to take a leisurely walk to explore churches, a small museum, and many beautiful murals painted throughout the town. The city was inviting, the people very friendly, and be sure to take the time to walk to the local train station to view and photograph the war murals. Invergordon was also the stepping stone to get to Inverness, Scotland for those who wanted to visit numerous castles or even try to catch a glimpse of Nessie at Loch Ness. There were many options depending on one's interests. South Queensferry was the next port which is also the gateway to Ediniburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh has both Old Town and New Town which is a striking contrast between the past and the present. There are several means of transportation from the port to the city including buses, taxis, and train with the train being the cheapest. There is probably too much to see in one day, but it is definitely worth the effort to walk the Royal Mile starting with the stunning Edinburgh Castle, the many shops and boutiques, and ending with Holyrood Palace, the official home for the monarch while in Scotland. We explored Edinburgh on our own and enjoyed every minute of our time there with the only regret being that it was just one day. The final stop was Le Havre, France, but we opted to spend a relaxing day on the ship instead of taking the long trip into Paris. Disembarkation was just as efficient as embarkation and at least for our group went without a hiccup from beginning to end right up to our arrival at the airport. This was one of those bucket list type of trips and we were fortunate that everything went as planned from start to finish. The ship was beautiful, the staff was wonderful, the weather cooperated, and the sights were stunning. Definitely the type of trip you don't want to end and would jump at the chance to do it all over again. The Royal Princess was the largest ship my wife and I have ever cruised on, but we wouldn't hesitate to book a cruise on her again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
DH and I with our friends started our vacation in London for 2 days before embarking on cruise. We stayed at the Premier Inn County Hall right next to the London Eye. Of course we went on the Eye. The next day, we all took the ... Read More
DH and I with our friends started our vacation in London for 2 days before embarking on cruise. We stayed at the Premier Inn County Hall right next to the London Eye. Of course we went on the Eye. The next day, we all took the “Afternoon Tea Bus”. This is a double-decker bus outfitted with tables and a proper tea is served while you drive around and see the sights. Both savory and sweet treats were wonderful. Since we all had been to London before, we wanted something a little unique and we found it. Our car service picked us up Sunday morning to drive to Southampton. As usual, Princess embarkation was a breeze. They know how to do it! There was a delay is accessing our rooms but we had no problem getting a wonderful lunch at the buffet. We have sailed with Princess multiple times. This was the first time on Royal class ships. We had a standard balcony room. The storage still remains good. The balcony is definitely smaller but held two chairs and a small table. Since this was a port intensive cruise, the balcony wasn’t much of a factor here, but, had we been on a longer cruise with more sea-days, I probably would not have been as happy. We both LOVED the entertainment choices available to us. We had a large TV (?42 inches) with on-demand movies that you can start when you want. Other than the on-demand programming, which included all of the port talks and lectures, the news programming was Fox news, MSNBC news, ESPN, BBC and some other channels. The food was good to very good. Mostly we ended up in the Horizon Buffet as the choices and quality was very good. We liked the setup there with most of the dessert items in a separate space. The only time we had difficulty finding a table was the usual times. On port days, before excursions and on sea days, if you came later. Also, the weather was not always warm, so tables outdoors on deck were not really utilized much. We did eat in the main dining room once without any complaints. Food and service was good. We had dinner in the Crown Grille. Although the food was delicious, we all felt a bit rushed. We were still enjoying our appetizers when our meals arrived. So, the pacing was off. We also ate at Sabatini’s. The last couple of cruises, we have been disappointed by Sabatini’s. The food is always good and the service is exceptional, but, there’s something missing for us. I really prefer the old way, where multiple small plates are brought around – almost a sampling menu. Again, personal preference. The reason we were at Sabatini’s was it was a customer service gift because of a situation in our room that was ignored by maintenance for 3 days in spite of our steward reporting it multiple times. I finally went to customer services. It was fixed later that day. FYI-our room telephone was not working. The only other places we ate were the Alfredos Pizzeria. This is a sit-down restaurant – no charge – that serves made to order pizzas, calzones, and pasta. Very nice addition. The other place was the International Café. Love, love, love this place. We noted that the seating options on the Royal class ships had greatly increased our ability to find comfortable seating. Our main criticism was during shore excursions. Both DH and I have some mobility problems. DH uses a cane. We deliberately picked our shore excursions keeping that in mind. The worst problem was on our first excursion in St. Peter’s Port, Guernsey. This is a tender port. We boarded the tender as directed, then proceeded to sit bobbing up and down for 45 minutes with no explanation. Apparently, there had been an accident earlier that caused the delay. We certainly understand that, but an announcement on the tender would have made a major difference. On our return that day, we were not able to board the tender back to the ship for one hour and 20 minutes. During that time, we had to stand in line. Some of the locals did approach my husband asking if he would like to sit somewhere. Not wanting to leave me and our friends, he did not take advantage of the offer. Again, miscommunication. Perhaps a few benches for those needing relief. Many of the passengers are in the same position we are – not young and with some difficulties. Princess, please communicate. Overall, we had a wonderful cruise and have already purchased our future cruise credit. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
My wife and I joined a group of friends of 30+, also as our Anniversary celebration trip. Overall, we had a very good time. Unfortunately, weather was cold, and a few rainy days, so we could not take full advantage of all the ... Read More
My wife and I joined a group of friends of 30+, also as our Anniversary celebration trip. Overall, we had a very good time. Unfortunately, weather was cold, and a few rainy days, so we could not take full advantage of all the facilities. Food - quality in general was acceptable, I would only give my LIKE's to 2 items: the dinner rolls and the minute steak. Generally, all the soups and sauces were too salty. Taste in general was good, but far away from being excellent. Service - our waiter and his assistant did a wonderful job in serving our dining demands. Majority of the Buffet dining room need to be retrained for a better smile and manner. Spa - we signed up the first night we boarded the ship after we were shown the facilities. One of the steam rooms was supposed to be scented by Eucalyptus, however, out of the 8 times we used it, only 2 nights were scented. The first night and the night after my verbal reminder of three times. The pool was not kept clean to our expectations, but we could understand that some of the users did not shower before getting into the pool. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Having cruised for many years mostly with Celebrity and Azamara, we saw this 7 day cruise on Sapphire Princess advertised at a bargain price and, having heard good things about Princess, decided to book. Another first for us was embarking ... Read More
Having cruised for many years mostly with Celebrity and Azamara, we saw this 7 day cruise on Sapphire Princess advertised at a bargain price and, having heard good things about Princess, decided to book. Another first for us was embarking and disembarking at Southampton. We arrived by taxi at Southampton and our luggage was immediately taken by a porter and next appeared in our stateroom about an hour later – just after lunch. Check-in was quick and easy and we were on board in just a few minutes. Tipped off by someone on Cruise Critic, we headed to the almost empty International Dining Room for an excellent lunch, although the Daily Patter directed guests to the Horizon Buffet. There was no 'welcome aboard' bubbly but with so many guests I expect it would have caused some congestion. We understood that there were around 2,750 guests on board. Our stateroom was on Baja deck 623, a balcony room. We chose this because the floor above is Aloha and above that are pool areas, buffet, etc and thought it might be noisy. Both Aloha and Baja decks have balconies that cannot be looked into by anyone above. The decks below may have larger balconies but we could look straight down into them. The room was fine, if a little worn and dated but perfectly clean and comfortable. The new bed and bedding were fabulous, the large screen tv worked ok, the fridge got really cold and the air con/heating was easy to use and very efficient. The balcony was very rusty and the wooden rail needed some varnish. The ship had recently been repainted but I think they forgot the balconies! The shower area was the tiniest we have ever had on a ship – just over 2' square but with one corner cut off where the curtain hung. However, there was constant hot water and great power. Shampoo/conditioner, shower gel, soap and body lotion were all supplied. One of the first things I have always done on a cruise is to ask the steward for extra coathangers but 40 were already supplied, so I was pleased. Bath robes were provided on day 2, but no slippers. We brought on board two bottles of wine but were able to bring on another without problems in France. Our steward kindly brought us wine glasses and a corkscrew. Towels were changed twice a day and were of good quality. Food was patchy – some days there was a great choice at dinner and others not much appealed. Can't think why tripe and sweetbreads were included or maybe I don't have a sophisticated taste! Steak only appeared once on the menu but I expect they wanted guests to pay extra for the Steakhouse. Starters, soups and salads were all noted together on the menu which led you to think that you should only make one choice. Fish featured heavily and it was always very good. We had chosen Any Time Dining and most days had no waits for a table for dinner, although we were always happy to share with others. The one day when everything went completely haywire was following the Captain's welcome and champagne tower. It seemed that afterwards everyone on AT dining went for dinner. There were long queues at all the restaurants and we were told by the staff that there would be a wait of between an hour and a half and two hours! So many people were complaining, not unreasonably and so did we. Breakfast in the Horizon buffet was excellent – omelettes were made to order and waiters circulated with juice, teas and coffees. Although always busy, we managed to find a table. We were very surprised that the plates, mugs etc were plastic. This was a newly refurbished room with nice tables, chairs and carpets. Coffee here was lousy but they did provide Twinings tea, not just Liptons. The made to order pizza at Alfredo's was delicious and thoroughly recommended. It is beautifully situated off the Piazza so you can listen to whoever is performing whilst eating your pizza. The grill on the open deck was poorly organised. Long queues built up but the guys doing the cooking didn't know how to work together and just cooked one burger or sausage at a time, until a chef appeared and showed them how to do it. The burgers were okay but there was no tomato, lettuce etc, as shown in the pics, just ketchup or mustard. We noticed that prices for the drinks packages were less if booked before the cruise. I had the soda and more package for $7 per day plus 15%. I believe it was $6.45 if booked prior. You only need to have two drinks a day – soda, pepsi, juice, hot chocolate, delicious mocktails etc., to get your moneys worth. Our first port of call was Guernsey where we joined with a lovely couple who we met on our Roll Call on Cruise Critic and had a wonderful and interesting private tour of the island. The weather was beautiful and the ship anchored in St Peter Port bay as guests were tendered to shore. Next was a sea day and there was so much to do on board. Sapphire Princess is the largest ship on which we have sailed. There are multiple entertainment venues, which was great and we enjoyed so many different performers. This is the up-side of a very large ship. The indoor pool was a real advantage when the weather wasn't so good and was in use by lots of folk, including a big number of children, although it wasn't school holidays. The ship was due to call at Le Verdon, for Bordeaux, but due to a strike the port of call was changed to La Rochelle. I was thrilled about this as I absolutely adore the place. Of course, it was quite disappointing for those who had booked tours, private tours especially, as La Rochelle is a lot further than Le Verdon from Bordeaux. The ship provided a shuttle bus into town but there were long waits to get back on the bus. Some people we met waited an hour and a half and watched 11 buses go before they got to the front of the queue. We only waited 15 minutes but we returned quite late in the day. Loved every minute in La Rochelle. Next day we docked in Gexto, the port for Bilbao. Again, a free shuttle bus was provided which dropped us within 500 yards of the Guggenheim. What an incredible building, inside and out. Worth seeing just for the architecture as the permanent collection was nothing special to me and the second of three floors was closed as they were preparing for a major exhibition. Enjoyed a walk around the town afterwards but again the queues for the shuttle bus were long. We watched 4 buses go before we could get on one. The special guest entertainer on this cruise was Gareth Gates from Pop Idol. We didn't see him perform but others enjoyed his show. We saw him around the ship and he was always willing to stop for a selfie with folk. Final call was La Corunna. From here lots of guests went to Santiago de Compostela. As we had previously visited this awe inspiring place (the cathedral where the pilgrims gather especially), we chose to walk around La Corunna. There were some great shops and we walked around the old town which was packed with history. Another good day. Theatre packed after dinner so we couldn't get in to see the show. Last day was a sea day and we enjoyed winding down and relaxing in the multitude of places on Sapphire. Skywalkers at the stern of the ship is a nice quiet space by day and a disco at night. My husband enjoyed a pedicure, bought some lovely cuff links in Effy's and we joined our Cruise Critic friends for a last night dinner. Princess have got disembarkation down to a fine art. Colour coded, wait in a designated lounge with tea/coffee provided and then escorted off the ship at a time you choose. Perfect. All in all, we had a great cruise and met some lovely people. It was so convenient to sail from Southampton, exceptional value and we visited ports that were new to us, except La Rochelle where we were thrilled to visit again. On the down-side, we felt that the ship was too big with too many guests packed in as they couldn't properly manage the numbers in the theatre, on shuttle buses, getting on and off the ship, at Any Time Dining in restaurants at peak times. Just felt that there was a lack of communication and sometimes things were chaotically disorganised. Having said that, we came back refreshed and very happy. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
This was to be a short cruise of seven nights on Sapphire Princess, taking in Guernsey, Bordeaux, Bilbao and La Coruna. Unfortunately, the itinerary changed as we embarked, the French were on strike in La Verdon (port for Bordeaux) and we ... Read More
This was to be a short cruise of seven nights on Sapphire Princess, taking in Guernsey, Bordeaux, Bilbao and La Coruna. Unfortunately, the itinerary changed as we embarked, the French were on strike in La Verdon (port for Bordeaux) and we were going to La Rochelle instead. Sapphire Princess had just completed a refit and this was her first season based in Southampton. Embarkation/Disembarkation The ship was using the Mayflower Terminal in Southampton. The terminal works very well at getting people through as quickly as possible. Porters take your luggage from you in the drop off lanes, next time you see it is outside the cabin. We literally flew through the terminal, w have Priority Boarding but this was amazing. We arrived at 11:50 and stepped onto the ship at 12:15. Disembarkation is equally efficient. A couple of days before the end of the cruise a form was left in the cabin to be completed. We got the independent slot that we wanted and got off at 8:30. In the baggage reclaim hall the luggage is arranged in disembarkation groups, which are smaller than complete decks, and you can find you bags very quickly, we were in the line for a local taxi by 8:45. Dining We had opted for Anytime Dining which gives great flexibility, but it can get busy at peak times, the best strategy is to be prepared to share a table (requesting a table for two will probably result in being given a pager). We tried all four of the dining rooms, here is a good number of tables for two, although they are very close together. The selection of dishes each evening was good and there were at least two choices that we wanted to eat. The breakfast choices in the MDR are a bit limited and very much to the American taste. Lunch in the MDR is also pleasant, and fairly quiet with a good set of menu choices. Other dining options that we tried were the Horizon Court (buffet) is a useful alternative for breakfast, with a very good selection of fresh fruit. If can become very crowded at peek times, we tended to take our meals to the covered pool area which was a lot quieter. People did tend to spread themselves out and hoard tables. Alfredo’s Pizzeria is a nice place to eat, limited menu, but the pizzas are very good. Both poolside options, Prego Pizzeria and Trident Grill both produce quick tasty quality snacks, but you can always go back for seconds! Sabatini’s does excellent Italian food, there is a charge of $29, but it is always busy and they are not pushing this restaurant. This can be a four course meal, and the portions are big. The quality of the food and service is very good. When we needed an early start we did try room service for breakfast, it arrived promptly, and avoids the queues (lines). We did use the International Café for teas and coffees. We didn’t manage to try the Sterling Steakhouse or the Crab Shack. Bars We were both on the premium drinks package, and it’s a bit like being a big kid in a candy store! All the bars serve more or less the same selection, some of our favourites were the Outrigger Bar, Tradewinds, Calypso and Skywalkers Nightclub. Sky walkers was a regular haunt around five o’clock when anyone who is Platinum and above can have exclusive use for drinks and snacks. Our main drinking location before and after dinner was Vines Wine Bar where Ronnie Rodrigues did an excellent job on keeping our glasses full and providing entertaining conversation (definitely the consummate host!). It’s worth pointing out that the premium drinks package ‘limits’ you to 15 alcoholic drinks a day, I was never told that I had exceeded my quota! The package also covers unlimited teas, coffees and soft drinks. Cabin Our cabin was port rear on deck 11 (B227), this is a balcony cabin, starboard side, just forward of the forward stair tower. It has some very recent updates such as a large LED TV, a new mattress and topper along with soft new pillows. The bed is extremely comfortable, and we did get very good night’s sleep on it, The décor and fittings were in reasonable shape. Between the bathroom and main room is a spacious hanging area that really works well. The beds are high enough to take some pretty big suitcases underneath. Our steward Enzil looked after us well, and was always keen to do more. The carpet did look in need of replacement, and the doors onto the balcony creaked at night. This cabin was quiet. Entertainment We didn’t make it to any of the theatre shows and just took in the live music around the ship, which was very pleasant. Photography Although the quality of the photographs taken was high, we felt that they were over priced. Gym This has to be one of the best gyms afloat that I’ve tried and I used it 3 times (still put on weight though!). The 15 weights machines give you a complete workout. Plenty of tread-mills, cross trainers, bikes and rowing machines. Ports of Call St. Peter Port, Guernsey, UK Sunday morning in St. Peter Port is very quiet, most shops and bars do not open until 12 noon. We took the tender late morning, had a wander round the shops (cosmetics prices on board can be cheaper) and lunch in a nice Italian restaurant on the front. A large shore tender took us back to the ship, and as it was a nice sunny day we could sit outside and take in the view. La Rocelle, France This was instead of Bordeaux where at the nearest port, Le Verdon, the dock workers were on strike. We took the shuttle bus into La Rocelle, it is a pleasant town and it was a sunny day. After a good walk round we found a nice restaurant for lunch and enjoyed moules and frits! There was a wait of about 30mins for the return shuttle due to high demand. Bilbao, Spain Only got off briefly here, took a look around the terminal, which although new has not got any shops yet. La Coruna, Spain We took a ship’s excursion to Santigago De Compostela, a very interesting tour with a good guide ‘Jesus’! The ship berths in the middle of La Coruna, and the town is very accessible on foot. We were there on Assentation Day, which is a public holiday, and a lot of the town was shut. Anything Else? There was one bumpy night between Bilbao and La Coruna, bed was the best and safest place to be. On our last sea day there was a medical emergency, and blood donors were requested (always take your blood donor card on a cruise). In the end the casualty was taken off by helicopter and flown to Plymouth. It was very reassuring to see this being done. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
5th May 2018, our first view of Sapphire Princess was from the end of Hythe Pier and she looked terrific. After dropping off my car at the terminal, it was the fastest check-in and boarding that we encountered. No, we weren't late ... Read More
5th May 2018, our first view of Sapphire Princess was from the end of Hythe Pier and she looked terrific. After dropping off my car at the terminal, it was the fastest check-in and boarding that we encountered. No, we weren't late nor were we early - It was just quiet. Everything went so smoothly and so quickly and this time we tried a mini-suite which was big but a bit disappointing for the centre console which once held two televisions was really no more than wasted space and an obstruction. As for the bathroom well the bath was off-putting for neither of us like climbing in and out of a bath like an orangutan for a shower, our joints won't cope! I wish Princess would drop the 'Love Boat' themed TV intro and safety video which should be taken seriously and not against a dated musical background performed by aged has-been singers. We left Southampton quietly and after unpacking met the waiting staff in the Piazza, most of whom joined the ship in Singapore following her refit and being their first time in Europe were a bit shy of us Brits, they soon settled down when they realised that we're tame! Now for dinner! There are four restaurants off the piazza, two on Deck 5 and two on Deck 6, all four were approximately the same size and differently themed yet the menus are the same and service was exemplary. Theatre entertainment is always variable from the dire to the excellent. Jim Stevenson, comedian is an excellent ice-breaker on the first night and even better on a final night. Princess Singers and Dancers excel themselves on their performance nights but their shows appear to reduce in size and time each year. Breakfast is standard self-service in the Horizon and even though Sapphire Princess carries slightly less than her Crown and Emerald sisters, she is better laid out with no hint of overcrowding particularly in the Piazza and the Horizon Court. Now for the cruise, you all know how wonderful your room steward is and you all want to adopt him and take him home! So I'll gloss past that one. First Port of Call was Guernsey and we anchored and got off - Wow!! Excuse my enthusiasm but I usually see St Peter Port harbour in rough seas as the captain plans a diversion to the next port. So we were in Guernsey and it was Sunday and not being directly part of the UK (Guernsey has its own laws) the shops were closed!!! Just like the old days here, but the cafe's did a roaring trade out of us basking in the sun. La Verdon was meant to be the second port but due to a French dockworkers strike we went to La Rochelle and a day there is far better than looking at container cranes in a strike-bound port - it was 8th May and a national holiday in France so some shops and all cafes were open and what a lovely place to visit, it is definitely a 'Must Return To' place. Bilbao was our third port and the weather changed, for it was warmer in East Anglia than in Bilbao! We headed for the Guggenheim Museum and all I can say is that it has the 'Marmite effect' and I hate Marmite! The rest of Bilbao was interesting. La Coruna was our final port and we found a cafe (as we usually do) and then a spice shop where my wife bought bags of spices for home cooking - I think we have to do this cruise again even if it is just for bulk spice shopping in La Coruna! A final special word goes to Captain Paulo Rivera for it was his first time with Sapphire Princess in UK waters, he had to cope with the ship being audited continually by Maritime and Coastguard Agency assessors and Lloyd's Registry auditors for the ship to get its UK Passenger Certificate and he had to handle an emergency helicopter evacuation of a seriously injured passenger south of Plymouth. Well Done Captain. I returned to Sapphire Princess in October for another 7 day cruise but more about that in my next review. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
Choose the cruise for the itinerary . We wanted an itinerary that was different to the mass market and felt that northern Spain and France delivered. Bordeaux sadly cancelled due to a strike. La Rachelle the new destination did not ... Read More
Choose the cruise for the itinerary . We wanted an itinerary that was different to the mass market and felt that northern Spain and France delivered. Bordeaux sadly cancelled due to a strike. La Rachelle the new destination did not disappoint fabulous. A shuttle bus dropped the passengers right into the heart of the city. Bilbao again fab we toured the football stadium a great way of finding out the history of the people of this amazing vibrant city. In La Coruna we hired a car and visited the near by coast and national park area stunning scenery. The ship is in very good condition and extremely clean. The first evening in the savoy was a disappointment. I ordered the prime rib steak given that I am a good cook and eat out at great restaurants I have never eaten such a bland tasteless beef in all my life. We have worked hard and a lot of hours to save for the cruise and would expect basic cooking to produce good results. The second night over done basic chicken. Third night gave up went to the horizon had an amazing tasty meal great best curry ever. There after dined every night at the horizon court. Slight criticism no fruit juice after breakfast there is lemonade but you have to ask for it. The theatre shows where a disappointment short and disjointed no set story. All other entertainment venues where fabulous. The cruise directer Paul so funny along with the Australian and all of the entertainment team. Endless activities on board. An ill passenger on board was evacuated from the ship the incident was handled very well. The captain is a very caring friendly man and I hope that the passenger involved is hopefully recovering . I will recommend the Sapphire it has something for every one formal or non formal. Embarkation and disembarkation was perfect. Read Less
Sail Date May 2018
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