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Sail Date: May 2005
We just returned from the British Isles cruise. It was our first time with a balcony and we loved our location! We enjoyed every moment of this cruise. The only downsides were the Lido breakfast buffet was less variety than we have had ... Read More
We just returned from the British Isles cruise. It was our first time with a balcony and we loved our location! We enjoyed every moment of this cruise. The only downsides were the Lido breakfast buffet was less variety than we have had previously on other cruises and we had to miss the ports of Holyhead, Wales, and Kirkwall, Scotland due to inclement weather and them being tender ports. We heard many complaints about this but personally felt safety was more important and the fact remains you take it easier on sea days than port days. We felt the food was excellent - we ate in both of the specialty restaurants and thought both were worth the extra money - esp. Sabatini's - they gave samples of almost everything on the menu! The Desert Rose had wonderful steak and live music. We had anytime dining and it worked out great - if we knew what time we wanted to eat, we called in reservations that morning - never had to wait at all. The entertainment was great - we had Irish step dancers, bagpipers, English humor all in one cruise - how do you beat that? A highlight was hearing 'Danny Boy' a favorite song since my husband is Dan! The only tour we booked was in Belfast - a crafts tour we really enjoyed - just would have liked more shopping time on it. Otherwise we went on our own and had no problems - using either taxis or buses. Just a note - Dublin uses Euros, and all the other ports used English pounds. We felt the ship was clean, service was excellent, food was great, and we really enjoyed all of the port stops as well as the relaxation on sea days. (I personally have Irish, English, Scottish, and Welsch ancestors) This was an early 50th birthday gift and one that will always be remembered. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2005
My spouse and I just returned from the British Isles cruise on the Golden Princess. The ship is well appointed and our cabin was roomy. Our cabin steward was excellent. We made transfer from and to the cruise ship. When we arrive at ... Read More
My spouse and I just returned from the British Isles cruise on the Golden Princess. The ship is well appointed and our cabin was roomy. Our cabin steward was excellent. We made transfer from and to the cruise ship. When we arrive at London Heathrow, there was no Princess representative. we finally located the Princess representative at the airport only to be told that we wait until they figured how they were going to transfer us to the ship. My spouse and I along with additionally 39 Princess cruise passenger waited four hours at the airport for transportation to Southhampton. We arrived in time for the emergency drill. I feel that Princess really dropped the ball. We were very disappointed with the food menu. The food was bland. Additionally, due to weather conditions, we missed two ports of call (Holyhead and Kirkwall ). The onboard activities were limited based on the number of days we were at sea. The pursuer office and on shore activity personnel provided very little information about the ports of call if you wanted to travel independent. i would rate this Princess cruise experience as a 5. This is our second sailing with Princess and do not plan to use them again. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2005
This was a 50th birthday gift from my husband. It was our 3rd cruise, 1st on Princess. We had a balcony room and loved our location. I loved having the privacy of a balcony. We did encounter rough seas and did not get to have our stops ... Read More
This was a 50th birthday gift from my husband. It was our 3rd cruise, 1st on Princess. We had a balcony room and loved our location. I loved having the privacy of a balcony. We did encounter rough seas and did not get to have our stops at Wales and the Orkney Islands which disappointed a lot of passengers. We did anytime dining and it worked out great! If we did know when we wanted to eat we would call in a reservation that morning but never did have to wait more than 15 min. anytime. We ate at both specialty restaurants and thought Sabatinis was especially worth the extra cost. We did a tour in Belfast -- the crafts tour and enjoyed it. We hired a taxi and visited Loch Lomond and the Sterling Castle at our first stop in Scotland, took the hop on hop off bus in Dublin, and walked on our own along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. We enjoyed the entertainment related to these British Isles stops but think it could have been enhanced by showing related movies, more related foods/Irish pub, etc. We had room service a few times and had great service. Our cabin steward was excellent and we ate most meals at a table for two with the same waiter/waitress so had great service from them! This was a great relaxing time and we enjoyed the food and service on Golden. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
This was an incredible cruise which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to sample the British Isles without being fleeced by the Euro and Pound as the American dollar does not go far in Europe. This is why we spent our vacation on a ... Read More
This was an incredible cruise which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to sample the British Isles without being fleeced by the Euro and Pound as the American dollar does not go far in Europe. This is why we spent our vacation on a cruise ship this time. We have made 10-15 trips to Europe before when the dollar went further, but the exchange rate was too bad this time. This was our 4th European cruise and 8th cruise total. I always rate the ship by value. Therefore, I have to give Princess very high marks. For what I paid, Princess and the staff of the Grand absolutely exceeded my expectations. I paid $40/day to be on this ship and Princess allowed me to see the British Isles and to have plenty of money left over for other vacations this year. (Pride of Aloha next month)I sometimes overhear people that are never happy when I'm cruising. (You know the ones that never leave the dining room with the whinny nasal voices that never seem to leave the ship.) They get the worst cabin on a ship with 2000 people and expect perfection. When I want that I shoot the would and go on Seaborne, Raddison or Windstar (my favorite). The Grand Princess was like every other ship I have been on in it's class. I couldn't tell it from a Norwegian or new Carnival ship. The crew was fine except for the person that is at sea now 7 months, completely homesick making next to nothing. (A good tip and some kind words will usually help this and get you better service). I chose the cheapest cabin because we were always in port and I wanted off the boat. The cabin was fine but nothing special. The food was lackluster. Maybe the worst I have had but I could always find something delicious if I looked. So in a nutshell. If you want luxury and the best of everything spend $5,000 and get it on Seaborne. If you want a fantastic itinerary and to take 4 vacations you can not go wrong with Princess and the British Isles!!!!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
My husband and I sailed on the June 11 cruise of the British Isles to Ireland, Wales and Scotland to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary (the kids stayed home with grandparents). This was our 4th cruise but our first on Princess. ... Read More
My husband and I sailed on the June 11 cruise of the British Isles to Ireland, Wales and Scotland to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary (the kids stayed home with grandparents). This was our 4th cruise but our first on Princess. Getting on the ship was very easy and quick. We took a train from the airport to Southampton and then a brief cab ride to the ship. The ship was beautiful and large with many different activities to choose from. It seemed like we didn't have time to try all of the amenities on board and I would love to sail on this ship again. There were plenty of heated swimming pools, hot tubs, ping pong tables and sitting areas. There weren't many children on our cruise (about 145 total) but they looked to be having fun. The teens we talked to were very nice and said they were having a great time. We had an inside room at the back of the ship. The room was nicely furnished with a large closet and the bed was very comfortable. We also enjoyed having a refrigerator in the room. Our cabin steward was great. We loved the location of our cabin for the great views from the back of the ship and easy access to the pools and buffet. We used the ship's laundry room several times. It was always busy but worked well. We had the flexible dinner seating. We were apprehensive about this at first but soon loved it for the flexibility and meeting new people each meal. The downside was that we never got to know the waiters very well. I really liked the food, especially the fish and seafood choices and the desserts. We ate in the Southwest dining room one night. My husband really liked the steak but I was not as impressed with the food (especially not being a steak lover). The service and atmosphere were extremely nice. We didn't like the buffet food very much but ate breakfast there most of the time since we didn't get up early enough to make the dining room before our tour. The pizza and hamburger grill were good. We didn't try the ice cream bar but heard some complaints about having to pay extra for it. The alcohol prices seemed reasonable, especially since they were in dollars and not pounds. At the ports we explored Dublin and Edinburgh on our own and took ship tours at the other ports. In retrospect we shouldn't have taken three ship tours in a row as we got thoroughly tired of riding in coaches all day. I usually fell asleep as soon as I got on board. Our favorite tour was to the Giant's Causeway. Our least favorite was the wool center/sheepdog/boat ride excursion in Scotland. The wool center was just a gift shop and the dogs didn't do very much except sit and look cute. The boat ride was nice but pretty boring. All of our tour guides were very knowledgeable about the history of the area and seemed to really enjoy their jobs. The Orkney Islands stop proved to be a positive surprise of the trip. The town was lovely with nice reasonably priced shops and cafes. The people were very friendly and seemed thrilled to have our ship nearby. Edinburgh was also a wonderful city and we were blessed with good weather the day of our visit. During the evenings on the ship we went to at least one and usually two of the shows offered. I enjoyed the comedians, the Irish dancers/singers and the opera singer the most. The cruise director's talk about the history of cruise ships was a highlight of our trip and we talked about it for the rest of the trip. We visited the casino a few times but promptly lost a few dollars and left. We didn't go to any of the movies in the theater for lack of time but the offerings were all recent and sounded good. The theater was very nice with no pillars blocking views. The only downside of the cruise was that there was no connection at all between life on the ship and the ports we visited. There were no talks about the ports. The live entertainment was generically American other than one performance of Irish dancers/singers. The tour desk staff seemed to know absolutely nothing about the ports we were visiting. They had no information on local transportation or activities that would be available. All they could do was process forms and tickets. This contrasted with other cruises we had been on which featured a lot of local entertainers and educational talks about the history and attractions of the area we were visiting. My advice to future travelers would be to do as much research on your own as possible about the ports to be visited. In general the ship food and activities was pretty generic and the same from day to day. There were no theme celebrations in the dining rooms or baked Alaska on parade or midnight buffets. Also, just a warning that departure times getting off the ship the last day may be much earlier than published. We were on the last color scheduled to depart at 9 a.m. but were called at 8 a.m. We ended up waiting a long time at the bus station and several people we were eating breakfast with in the dining room had to abandon their food when their color was called an hour early. All in all I had a very fun time and enjoyed having someone else cooking, cleaning and making the bed. i really enjoyed the live entertainment, the swimming pools and the dining rooms. I hope to sail the Golden Princess again on a different itinerary, hopefully someplace warm where I can enjoy the pools and outdoor activities on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
We, unfortunately were subjected to the first cruise of this kind that the Golden Princess had ever made to the European ports of call. The entire cruise was a nightmare from start to finish. Princess Cruise Lines was totally unprepared to ... Read More
We, unfortunately were subjected to the first cruise of this kind that the Golden Princess had ever made to the European ports of call. The entire cruise was a nightmare from start to finish. Princess Cruise Lines was totally unprepared to handle this large a ship with its tremendous amount of passengers. We were at the appointed spot to pick up our shuttle to the ship right on time. The shuttle was 1 1/2 hours late. We stood out in the pouring rain waiting for them to arrive. Everyone was good natured about this and chalked it up to London's weather. But, the cruise lie ahead and we knew things would go much more smoothly once we were on the ship. Needless, to said we were all sadly mistaken. When we arrived at the ship we saw many, many buses in front of us. We sat on the bus for 2 1/2 hours before we could attempt to board the ship. We got off the bus only to find the terminal full of a mass of humanity. We stood in line or "queue" as they call it for another 2 hours. By this time everyone was getting very agitated. We all felt like lambs being lead to the slaughter. When boarding the ship they took away our passports with no explanation. Which again made everyone feel uncomfortable. At last we were on the ship. To say the ship was not beautiful would be a lie it is a lovely ship. Our cabin a mini-suite with a balcony was much nicer than we had expected. After we were settled into our suite, we proceed down to the tour desk. Only to find a huge line wait to book a tour. For some unknown reason, no one had received their tour package. This made it impossible for us to pre-book any tours that were offered. While waiting in line it became very apparent that all the tours were sold out. I asked to speak to the supervisor who eventually came out of the back office and she told me the tour center had no control over the tours. She then told me to speak to the Purser's Desk. I went to the Purser's Desk only to talk to a gentlemen that had a blank stare on his face and he told me they had know idea how many people there would be on board the ship. No apology was given just this blank stare. Fortunately, someone at the tour desk slipped my husband a piece of paper telling us a very simple way to get into Bruges, our port of call. From then on it went completely downhill. They and all other cruise companies make a great deal of money on their tours. You are told that you take their tour and they guarantee that you will return to the ship by sailing time. Take a tour on your own and you don't make it back by sailing, it is your problem. So, being in a foreign country with no passport you feel you must take their tours. For some reason only known to Princess Cruise Lines. They picked too many ports of calls and the majority of the cities you wanted to see were a 3 to 4 hour bus ride away from the ship. You were only given 3 hours in these cities. The bus ride to Paris was well over 4 hours, 4 hours in Paris, and a 5 1/2 hour bus ride back to the ship. Princess Lines did not consider timing at all. We were all exhausted not from having a good time, but from the long bus rides. The food was not like the food use too be on a Princess Cruise they have sunk to the level of their owner's Carnival Cruises. It was like a bad buffet every night. If you want to lose weight be sure and take this cruise. If you want to experience a luxury enjoyable cruise, skip this one. We met several people at the airport who were on our cruise and they all said they would never again take a Princess Cruise again. We waited the entire year to have a wonderful European vacation. Needless to say, our wonderful vacation was anything but wonderful. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
1. My husband and I were looking forward to a relaxing cruise on the Golden Princess. After boarding we were greeted by many staff members with a smile and greeting as we headed for our room. The next three mornings and evenings we were ... Read More
1. My husband and I were looking forward to a relaxing cruise on the Golden Princess. After boarding we were greeted by many staff members with a smile and greeting as we headed for our room. The next three mornings and evenings we were treated to the shrieking and screaming of the child in the cabin across the hall from us, also to mom and dad and grandparents standing in the hall on several occasions having loud conversations. The shrieks and screams were not from pain but from an overindulged child. We finally went to the purser and were told that they would have to catch the screamer in action. We went to the purser again after a couple of days and asked that something be done. The noise subsided for a few days but toward the end of the cruise it started over again. During this time we had a dinner conversation with another couple who stated that the same child was in the bar one evening after 11:00 p.m., again shrieking and screaming. I forgot to mention that I use heavy duty earplugs when traveling and still was awakened by the screaming. There were several other families on board with toddlers and at times they too were crying and fussing, probably from being tired. Please consider placing all of the families with toddlers in cabins close to each other. If I had been on a Disney ship I would have expected to hear children making lots of noise. Please give those of us traveling without children the same consideration you give to the travelers with children. I will add that the people on board with well behaved children were a joy to be around. The others were not! 2. Turn the music down in the buffet dining rooms. Most of the people on board were retired or close to retirement age. I noticed quite a few hearing aids. When someone has a hearing aid or is hard of hearing it's difficult to hear or talk over loud music. Also the type of music should be considered. 3. All of the room stewards and others who worked behind the scenes were very polite and helpful. They looked me in the eye, smiled and greeted me each time I passed one of them. Not so with the ones in uniform. Not one of them spoke or smiled when I would meet them. 4. Taking a tour on one of the tour buses was not worth the money. Our tour was delayed one hour. The man on the ship said the buses were late. The tour bus people said they were there and the ship had not docked in time. At the beginning of the tour we were gently invited not to use the onboard toilet as "whatever is put in there will be with us all day". On one of our stops we were given 5 minutes to get off the bus, look around, take pictures and get back on the bus. Quite convenient for the older ones on the bus! We were also treated to a couple and their toddler, who would have been happier someplace else so she fussed and whined a lot of the time. The bottom line is that the tour tried to do too much in too little time. A shorter itinerary would have been more enjoyable and more memorable. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
Part II - back to back Grand and Golden Princess We arrived in London from Venice, with a three day, four night "layover" between cruises. Our London stay was at: The Montague on the Gardens: This is a charming hotel made ... Read More
Part II - back to back Grand and Golden Princess We arrived in London from Venice, with a three day, four night "layover" between cruises. Our London stay was at: The Montague on the Gardens: This is a charming hotel made up of several Georgian era town houses that have been joined together. The location is really wonderful, easy walking distance to tube stations on the Picadilly and the Central lines, and quite reasonable walking distance to Euston Station which connects to several tube lines as well as the rail system. The British Museum is, quite literally, at your doorstep, and restaurants, cafes, and the theatre district are close at hand. The staff is international in make up, accommodating in temperament, and helpful. The dEcor is traditional, with fashion prints in the hallways, and hunting prints in the bar. The overall impact is cozy and comfortable. Our room was a standard queen, facing the street. Street noise was present, but not that significant, but might bother light sleepers. The major drawback was its size. It was tiny, with little storage space, and almost no room to walk around. There was a desk, with a tv on top, and a hair dryer in one of the drawers, but it wasn't possible for someone to sit at the desk, and the other person to walk behind them to the other side of the bed. You either had to crawl over the bed, or the person at the desk had to get up, push in the chair, and retreat to the space between the bed and wall. There was also a virtually useless small round table and two chairs tucked into the modicum of space between the desk, bed and wall. The bathroom was adequately sized, but featured a tub with shower and a most ineffective glass "door" affair that didn't really do much to keep water off the floors. The impact of this arrangement showed in the water damaged wooden molding around the tub and elsewhere in the bathroom. I understand that the "king" rooms and those facing the garden are both quieter and larger, and would suggest that anyone booking this hotel go for the upgrade. Our price per night, which, at 109 GBP, was quite reasonable for central London, also included a full English breakfast for two, priced at the hotel at 14.50 GBP each and we weren't in our room that much anyway, so it was fine for our brief stay. We booked directly with the hotel and our rate was one of their "early booking" specials. They frequently feature specials on their website, and the prices are generally better than those found on the travel and/or hotel discount websites. They also feature a price guarantee. Based on the location, the breakfast, the comfortable public spaces, and the helpful and courteous staff, we would recommend the Montague on the Gardens, and would likely go back there if we return to central London for a visit, but we would go for the larger room, particularly if it were for a lengthy stay. Visiting London: Three days in London simply isn't enough to even scratch the surface, but we did our level best. We saw the Tower of London, the Parliament Building, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Victoria and Albert, Harrods, Trafalgar Square, the Marble Arch, rode the tube for miles, took the buses out to Hampstead Heath for a day trip and generally walked until we were ready to drop. When it was time to catch our shuttle from Victoria Station to Southampton, we were ready for a rest and to get back to our shipboard "cocoon." As it happened, our departure day was also the anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's coronation and an annual event of some note, but as we had time specific reservations for the shuttle, we only saw the edges of the parades and festivities as our cab driver made his way through a maze of blocked off streets to get us to Victoria Station. Had we realized that there was going to be so much going on, we might have opted for a different method of getting to Southampton and stayed in town for some of the celebrations. It was easy to find out where we were to go in the Victoria Station Coach Station, and after a relatively short wait, we were boarded on very nice buses for the couple of hour drive through the countryside to Southampton, which was pleasant and uneventful and we arrived in Southampton in the early afternoon. The Golden Princess: Check in was a breeze. This was one of a relatively few times that the Platinum Check in really seemed to be operational. There were a number of people assigned to the Platinum desk and we were through in a very few minutes after arrival at the port. We had been upgraded to a mini-suite for this cruise, and it was the largest room we had been in since arriving in Europe. It felt like a palace after our tiny room at the hotel in London, and we had so much storage space we didn't know what to do with it. It was heavenly. We did wind up wishing for Phon, however, as our cabin steward was merely adequate. He had to be reminded constantly to provide hair conditioner (I think he just grabbed a handful of whatever was there, as we ended up oversupplied with body lotion and always out of conditioner or shampoo) and we had to ask several times for our robes. He also lacked the "out of the cabin" radar that Phon had, and wasn't nearly as efficient at getting the cabin spruced up whenever we were away briefly. We had, admittedly, been very spoiled, but still would only give him a "C" to Phon's 'A+." In fact, we felt that overall the Grand Princess was superior to her sister ship the Golden, in the way that the ship was run. The difference in the two Captain's Circle parties we attended was perhaps emblematic of the different flavor of the two cruises. The Grand Princess event was nearly an hour long. There was the typical receiving line with everyone in formals or dress uniforms, with a good bit of time from the Captain, the Circle Hostess, the Cruise Director and other officers and staff as you went through the line, time for dancing before the recognition and speeches and a lovely speech by the Captain. The event on the Golden was just at 30 minutes, felt rushed, did not have or encourage dancing, the Captain had come down from the bridge in his working uniform, wore gloves in the reception line, then informed us all during his very brief speech that he didn't want to catch anything from us, and was perfunctory in the extreme. The majority of the time was given over to a presentation by the future cruise person, essentially in a sales pitch. Immediately upon announcing that the most traveled passengers would be recognized at the later Captain's Circle event, we were hustled out of the lounge. It was, hands down, the worst event we've ever attended. It was also a good symbol of the differences we felt between the two ships. Everything about the Grand was first rate, everything about the Golden felt a bit slipshod. On the other hand, a bad day cruising is still a good day, especially in a mini-suite, and we did enjoy the cruise. With another 10 days of mostly ports, it was another port intensive itinerary. Our first stop was Dublin, and we had pre-purchased the Dublin Pass, together with the transportation pass. We had a full day and evening in Dublin, and had planned on doing quite a bit, but, unfortunately, Dennis had come down with a rather bad cold, and was feeling very under the weather, so we opted for a bus ride out to Malahide Castle - also available as a ship's excursion - as a way of seeing some of the countryside, and keeping the exertion level fairly minimal. We had our usual "adventure in public transit" moments of trying to find the right bus stops on the right routes, and were lucky enough to meet a charming gentleman who worked the night ship at a hospital in Dublin and who was on his way home, one stop before ours. He decided to become our unofficial tour guide, got us on the right bus, provided a running commentary on the history and scenery, what he remembered from his childhood, what his parents had told him, and just generally adopted us. We had a lovely ride out to Malahide, and thoroughly enjoyed our castle tour, but by the time we had gotten back into Dublin, Dennis was really not feeling well, so we returned to the ship. Our cruise director, Rick Joseph, had arranged for local entertainers - Gaels at Sea - to perform on board, and while Dennis napped, I caught their show, which was outstanding, and included a piper who had just returned from being on tour with Riverdance. The musicians and dancers were very talented and the two shows they did were standing room only in the Princess Theater. Our next stop was Holyhead in Wales. The town is a small ferry port, and is well located for castle viewing, with three major castles, the two most famous being Caernarvon and Snowdonia, in fairly easy reach. The ship offers a number of excursions out of Holyhead, most of which were all day affairs. We opted to just "do" Holyhead itself. Holyhead isn't yet a standard cruise port, so the townspeople were still excited about having us. There was a reception center with craftspeople, a harpist, and volunteer guides to point visitors in the right direction to see the churchyard, the Roman ruins, and other points of interest, and the town's tourist bureau provided a complimentary shuttle to and from the ship. The town itself isn't large, and the major attraction is visiting the South Stack lighthouse, which is a physically demanding walk, and one of the featured excursions from the ship. It was also possible to arrange for taxis at the port, and a number of our fellow passengers did so. There are also tour companies in the area who can be booked online, but as this is a tender port, and can be impacted by weather (the cruise before ours missed ALL of the tender ports on this itinerary due to bad weather) you might be out your deposit or payment for independent tours that are missed due to bad weather. Belfast was next on the agenda. We had debated about doing the Giant's Causeway tour, but ended up just doing the shuttle into town and taking the "Hop on Hop off" bus tour, which turned out to be a real highlight as we had a very informative and wryly humorous guide. We covered all the major sights of Belfast including the areas of "the troubles" during which our guide pointed out the various murals put up by the opposing sides as well as the wall that runs between the neighborhoods. Belfast is a very interesting place that is clearly anxious to put its tragic history behind it. Everyone we met from Belfast was very anxious that we understand that it was now safe to visit there, that there was much to see and do and that they welcomed and wanted visitors. There are lots of things in the works and in a few years Belfast could easily be a major attraction on this itinerary. One of the most promising projects is a museum at the Titantic shipyard, which is quite close to the cruise ship dock, but there is new construction and development all over the city, much of it geared to the visitor industry. The remaining ports on this itinerary were all in Scotland - Greenock for Glasgow, Kirkwall in the Orkney Island, and South Queensferry for Edinburgh. We hit Glasgow on a rainy day, which was not ideal, as by this time both of us had colds. We had signed up for the ship's "Glasgow on your own" excursion - basically a bus ride to and from Glasgow with some minimal commentary along the way. Glasgow is a major commercial center, full of shopping and with a good complement of art galleries. We again took the "Hop on Hop off" bus tour, but, disappointingly, this one didn't feature a live guide, but rather a "canned" recorded narrative. We started out on the open upper deck, but were driven inside by the rain, and discovered that some seats didn't have hookups to the recording, so we got a fairly spotty rendition of the sights and history of Glasgow, before starting off on our own to do a bit of exploring, and shopping. After a pub stop to warm up and dry out, we were ready to board our bus to return to Greenock. The ship offered a number of other than Glasgow excursions, including Inveraray Castle and Loch Lomond, tours of whiskey distilleries, the Royal Yacht Britannia, and several different countryside tours taking in various lochs. If we had this one to do over, we would most likely choose on of these, or do an "on our own" to the areas surrounding Glasgow. Between Greenock and Kirkwall was a much welcomed sea day, with a formal night and the usual festivities. Kirkwall was one of our favorite ports on this cruise. We had signed up for the afternoon excursion to Skara Brae which also took in the Ring of Brodgar. This is a tender port, and we went ashore early to explore the town of Kirkwall before picking up our tour at the dock later in the day. Kirkwall is very picturesque, with a lovely cathedral, and ruins right in the middle of town. The visitors center is small, but well stocked with maps, literature, and some displays, and across the street is a museum which provides a good overview and history of the Orkneys, including both human and natural history, which provided good grounding for our afternoon tour. Skara Brae was fascinating, providing a glimpse into the past and showing a relative level of comfort in daily life that was somehow surprising, and a good demonstration of the ingenuity of the Neolithic people who lived in this remote region. The ruins of their homes showed clear indications of shelf beds, cupboards and storage areas, hearths, niches for lights, and other areas of the village were clearly "businesses" or workspaces, separate from the dwellings. There is also a reconstructed home that allows you to see how these people lived, and really appreciate how clever they were. Dwellings were partially excavated, and earth was used as insulation, providing a snug and warm environment once the hearth fires were going. The manor house, Skaill House, on the site is included in the tour, but was not as interesting as Skara Brae, and our guide was quite flexible, indicating that those who wanted to spend more time on the site could do so and meet up with the rest of the group at the visitor's center. From Skara Brae, we then passed by the World War II home of the British Fleet at Scarpa Flow, with commentary from the guide noting various items of historic interest, including the causeways built by Italian prisoners of war, and then we proceeded to the Ring of Brodgar, arriving in the late afternoon, with very atmospheric storm clouds gathering. It is an impressive site, with many of its stones still standing and provides a strong sense of place where it is easy to imagine Druid processions and ceremonies. The Stones of Steness are nearby, but not nearly as well preserved. From Kirkwall, we went to South Queensferry for Edinburgh. Surprisingly, this is also a tender port. The Grand Class ships can't make it under the new bridge, so must anchor off, and tender in. A bit of poor planning on someone's part, it would appear. Edinburgh was another of the highlights of our trip. We opted for the "on your own" tour again, and again, took one of the 'hop on hop off' tours to get oriented. We were there on Sunday, which wasn't ideal, as many things were closed, and even the bus tours didn't start up until around 10 AM. We arrived around 9 AM and spent an hour just walking around getting ourselves oriented before the buses began operating. We spent the bulk of the rest of our time in the old city and along the Royal Mile exploring shops, alleyways and streets and taking in the sights. Edinburgh is very high on our list of places to come back to and spend some time getting to know much better. Other tours offered from South Queensferry include a tour of the Town of St. Andrews, and a tour of Stirling Castle and the "Braveheart" county, but the bulk of the excursions offered are in and immediately around Edinburgh itself. Another day at sea and we were back in Southampton, disembarking at the end of our great adventure. We had made reservations for an overnight stay at the Marriott Slough Windsor, and transfers from the Golden to Heathrow, with Hoppa Bus tickets included in our hotel tariff. It was a little challenging to find the location for the Hoppa bus (from the spot where the shuttle from the ship drops you, follow the sidewalk to the end of the building, turn left, and go around the end of the terminal, and you will see a large waiting area with lots of buses, go through this area, outside and to the right for the Hoppa Bus stand. There is a map showing the routes and hotels served by each route. Match up your hotel to the letter of the route, and keep a sharp eye out for the bus with your letter on it as they don't linger!) but it was a pleasant enough half hour or so ride from Heathrow to the Marriott, which was a lovely hotel, huge rooms, fantastic gym facility, with on site restaurants which were expensive, even by our new bad exchange rate standards. There are several other restaurants in the area with much more reasonable prices. As we had arrived quite early, we were surprised to have no problems whatever checking into our room, and we decided to take the bus to Windsor Castle. This turned out to be another happy accident, as we hadn't really planned anything for this "in-between" day and we thoroughly enjoyed wandering the town, looking at the castle, and checking out the riverboats and pubs along the Thames. After a few hours in Windsor, we returned to our hotel, hit the gym for a workout, and napped before dinner at the pub across the street. All that was left was the LONG series of flights home, which, although tiring, were no where near as eventful as the outbound ones. Part I of this review is under Grand Princess Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
Sorry it took a while but we were busy planning another cruise because our experience on the Golden Princess was the best we've ever had on a cruise ship. EMBARKATION -- Embarkation was fast and easy. But we live in England so our ... Read More
Sorry it took a while but we were busy planning another cruise because our experience on the Golden Princess was the best we've ever had on a cruise ship. EMBARKATION -- Embarkation was fast and easy. But we live in England so our travel arrangements fitted nicely. we arrived at the pier at 12.30 and were on the ship at 1pm. overall the best we have had. Then we were pleasantly greeted and accommodated to our cabin onboard. OUR ROOM -- We had a good balcony view cabin on the Aloha deck. Our room steward outstanding and one day my daughter ripped her shirt and he went searching the ship for needle and thread for us. DINING -- We had anytime dining and when we arrived at the dining room we were seated within 10 minutes of waiting. But on the 3rd night the Maitre D' asked if we wanted the same table, same time each night so we did it was a wise choice. Our waiters Noel and friend were excellent waiters. We also had room service a few times there efficiency and the food was excellent. ENTERTAINMENT -- The entertainment was the the best part of the cruise. We went to nearly all the daytime and evening activities. We got to know the cruise staff really well (so any of you out there please email us to talk). The staff were: The CD- Richard Joseph, assist CD Adam, Tim, Wil, Jo, Tyler, Ian, Frankie and Bill were a great set of entertainers and put on good parties e.g. the '50s rock n roll party, country and western party and the '70s party all very funny and great games. The staff also put on good quiz nights and game shows. Also we cant forget the champagne waterfall our daughter(13) really was fussed over by cruise staff because she went to the teens club but because all the other teens were american they couldn't understand her broad yorkshire, english accent. We went to shows in the main theatre too e.g the Kevin Hughes relationship shows were hysterical and we were all laughing out loud. Daytime we went to lots of activities e.g trivia, scavenger hunts and games. Tour Excursions -- We didn't go on many excursions because we prefer to make our own way round. We took tours in Oslo, Copenhagen (good tour but tour guides are eager on walking so not advisable for the less able). And made our own way at Rotterdam, Le Harve, Hamburg but we stopped onboard because of bad weather. Plus the soda card for the whole cruise was great value for money. Overall a brilliant cruise we would advise anyone any day to take it it wa enjoyed by all. If you have any questions or want to contact us email us at: CruiserCleggy@aol.com Read Less
Sail Date: June 2005
Review - Sea Princess. Having previously sailed on this ship, when she was formerly the Sea Princess (1999) then as the Adonia (2003) and now re-named back to its original name of Sea Princess, I was interested to see what changes had ... Read More
Review - Sea Princess. Having previously sailed on this ship, when she was formerly the Sea Princess (1999) then as the Adonia (2003) and now re-named back to its original name of Sea Princess, I was interested to see what changes had been made since I last sailed on her following her much publicised and expensive re-fit, prior to the transfer back to Princess Cruises from her former operator P & O Cruises (UK). Looking back to my review of the Adonia in 2003, I suggested that the ship was a wrong choice for P & O cruises, and now we have her back home to her original family -- interesting! To experience this, I travelled on her from 18 June 2005 until 2 July 2005 on her Norwegian Fjords and North Cape cruise, visiting Stavanger, Trondheim, Tromso, Honningsvag, Geiranger and Bergen. The weather was mixed at the beginning of the cruise, but the sun shone whilst we were at the North Cape, in the fjords and for two days, one would have thought that we were in the Caribbean, until we saw the snow on the peaks of the mountains. Check-in at Southampton was controlled but slow -- the average time for queuing for check-in was 58 minutes. It was noted that 6 of the check-in booths were closed, perhaps if these had have been staffed, the waiting time would have been reduced. On embarking the ship, there were no members of staff available to escort guests to their staterooms -- the absence of staff for this purpose needs to be urgently looked at, as the majority of guests on this cruise were quite elderly and many were seen to be wandering aimlessly around completely lost. Staterooms were clean, comfortable and compact. Compact being the appropriate word -- many guests who had travelled with other cruise lines and indeed on other Princess ships were disappointed with their size, especially those outside cabins with balconies. There are plenty of drawer stowage facilities, but limited wardrobe hanging space in the cabins. The beds are amongst the most comfortable afloat. Each cabin or stateroom has a refrigerator, hairdryer and television with a wide range of channels, telephone and en-suite shower room with toiletries supplied. If you require a bathrobe for use during the cruise, this can be obtained by asking your cabin attendant for one -- also fresh fruit is supplied daily but on request. Bottled water and minerals are available for purchase. Cabins are well lighted and ventilated, and have soft furnishings. Some guests observed that some of the bedspreads had seen better days, these being badly stained or threadbare, but were immediately changed after a word with the bedroom steward/stewardess. A number of guests were annoyed that their cabin attendants asked them, during their introductions, shortly after finding their cabins, if they would like to attend a wine tasting seminar and that the attendants would `get them the tickets for it`. Having agreed, they were somewhat surprised when they found that there was a charge to attend this seminar, and the first that they knew about this charge was when they checked their on-board account. At the outset, guests should be made aware of these charges. A word of warning, it you are considering this ship for a cruise, be careful about cabins on dolphin deck 8 aft. A number of these cabins are directly above the Vista Lounge, and when there are activities going on in this lounge involving music or the use of a microphone - every sound can be clearly heard and the cabins actually vibrate when the noise gets to a certain level. Like some, I enjoy an afternoon dose, but very seldom did I ever get an undisturbed one, nor could I get over to sleep prior to 11.30 p.m. most evenings. I spoke with other guests who had cabins in this area and they too suffered the same level of noise in each of their particular cabins. In fairness to the staff, within hours of completing an in-cabin leaflet on "Let us Know" -- I received an offer of a transfer to a different cabin. This was amazing, as a notice displayed on the Pursers Desk indicated that all cabins were full and no changes were possible. Whilst the Princess official line is that "they have never received complaints concerning these cabins" -- privately staff indicated that Princess were only too aware of the problem. This I know to be true, as in previous reviews and on the guest comment forms on previous cruises on this ship, I informed them of this problem. I spoke with guests who had cabins above the Princess Theatre, who said that they were not affected by this problem. Readers of this article may wonder why I chose this particular cabin when I was aware of the noise problems -- I didn't -- When I booked, I was listed for a cabin on a guarantee basis, which was allocated at check-in -- this occurred on each of my three times on this vessel. Now to explore all of these features of refurbishment -- what features of refurbishment? I saw very little difference -- the same carpets -- the same dEcor -- the same furnishings -- ah yes, there is the Movies Under the Stars -- ah yes they have done away with the wonderful lounge, I think it was called As Easy as a Friday on the ship when it was called The Adonia -- what a shame! -- But what else has changed -- nothing obvious! Though it must be said that the ship is maintained in a spotless condition throughout and staff were always seen cleaning and polishing. Muster Drill was next on the agenda. This drill was well executed - though I did observe that in Muster Station C -- there were not enough seats to accommodate those attending -- this would be most uncomfortable in the real case of an emergency, if guests had to gather for a lengthy period of time. Perhaps the number of muster stations needs to be reviewed. Food and Restaurant Facilities -- for our cruise we chose Traditional Dining. There are many options on board this ship. For us, at dinner, the food was superb, the service excellent and the menus were varied and exciting. It was a pleasure and indeed we all looked forward to dinner each evening. There were 28 in our group. The only comment that I would make in respect of the main restaurant dining is that in a four star restaurant, one does not expect the waiter and his assistant to have to deal with wine and bar orders -- this distracts from their primary purpose -- to ensure the efficient service and presentation of food to guests to make their dining experience unique. Proper dedicated staff need to be employed for this purpose. It was amazing how our waiter managed to cope so effectively in this regard. Formal breakfast service was slow, in some areas of the restaurant, with the average wait being 35 minutes from orders being taken until the food actually arrived. The Horizon Court is the informal dining area on board Sea Princess. This area is not user friendly. Whilst the food and presentation are of a high quality -There is a distinct lack of staff to clear tables, -- (not only in the Horizon Court, but in some of the other bar and coffee outlets throughout the ship) - the lay out of the various buffets is higgledy-piggledy! -- There are no trays and all the dishes are plastic. There are no staff available to assist elderly of infirm guests and the area is too small for the number of people on board the vessel. Again I have brought this previously to the attention of Princess Cruises but alas no action has been taken -- which is a pity. A limited selection of Fruit juices are only available for breakfast, they are weak in flavour and gave the impression of being well watered down, although they are not as I watched them being poured directly from their sealed containers into the dispensary. At the entrance to the Horizon Court, facilities are available to `disinfect or cleanse ones hands` in an effort to curb the Norfolk and other viruses -- this facility should be extended to other eateries and main restaurants throughout the ship Entertainment -- The entertainment on board this ship can only be described as excellent in all regards, from the review shows to the daytime activities, to the individual acts, to the many musicians and their varied styles of music - all were a treat to attend. Some of the cruise staff need to pay more attention to detail when hosting shows and other entertainment - a minor matter but noticeable. Incidentally, for British guests on board, of which there were many, do remember that answers for the majority of quiz shows are based mainly on American responses -- this should be indicated to contestants at the outset. On of the most annoying aspects of attending shows in the Princess theatre (the main show lounge) is that Princess will insist on the policy of serving drinks throughout performances. For waiters to gain access to the seats they have to disturb guests who are seated and enjoying the show to get to those who want the drinks -- they take the orders and when they return with the drinks -- the same disturbance occurs. This is grossly unfair not only to guests but to the performers as well and the service of drinks should be suspended during the time that the entertainment is taking place. The Princess Theatre -- This theatre causes me concern especially under Health & Safety aspects -- again I have brought these comments to the attention of Princess Cruises. Seating is such, that in some areas (seats close to each of the exterior -- ships sides) are against a wall/barrier - an obstruction which prevents free movement/access in some areas) and the only means of evacuation in the case of emergency are the centre aisles, unless you are fit and able to climb over seats. Bars and Lounges -- Drinks are reasonably priced and are of good quality. However I take exception to the aggressiveness of some of the bar staff and those -- who "suggest" that large ones or doubles are better value and also if someone orders whisky or a similar spirit -- they produce and serve the `premium` range -- thus attracting more commission for themselves -- naughty. Regretfully this aggressiveness increased as the cruise progressed - obviously bar takings had not reached their targets and the big sell was the order of the day. This was however not the approach of all bar staff, just a few. Other facilities -- Spa -- shops, photography services, future cruise sales and shore excursions all operate efficiently and effectively, offering the normal wares, goods and items associated with ships of a similar size and standard and within their specialist range. Unfortunately at Geiranger, some 238 guests, after having queued for their bus allocations on board, were then told that the tour had been oversold and that their tour was cancelled. This caused immense disappointment to many. According to the Shore Excursion Manager, this was due to a computer error, or rather, lack of communication from Princess Headquarters and the ship. He did try to get additional buses but regrettably was unable to do so at the last minute. Guests were compensated with a bottle of wine, but the feeling of these guests that this was totally inadequate as the highlight of this particular cruise was to have been going on this shore excursion as many indicated that they would be unlikely to be returning to this port again. There does indeed seem to be lack of communication between the land based headquarters and the ship, as when I boarded the ship with my group -- staff at the Pursers Office had not been advised of my group coming onboard. However in fairness, after a couple of meetings, this was soon rectified and the group were able to dine together etc. Some of our group had booked a series of spa treatments, but cancelled these after the first session as they were most annoyed at the `hard sell`or the `pressurisation by staff to purchase their products. The staff attached to the Pursers Office -- including the Captains Circle Representative -- were most professional and helpful - nothing was too much bother for them and they always went out of their way to assist, no matter what the question or request was. Well done to all concerned! SUMMARY. -- I have cruised many times with Princess and without any doubt whatsoever -- this was the best cruise ever. The service and food, especially in the Traviata Restaurant, the entertainment programme, and the approach and attitude of the majority of staff was outstanding. The foregoing comments are not and should not be taken as complaints but hopefully taken as constructive criticism in a hope that the excellence portrayed may be continued and where necessary improved on. This ship, because of its size, 77,441 gross tonnage, is manageable, comfortable and is ideal to provide an absolutely fantastic cruise experience, no matter where in the world where she sails. I look forward to sailing onboard her again -- soon. TOP 5 HIGHLIGHTS The entertainment. The food. The staff. The Princess Loyalty Programme --(Captain's Circle) the best afloat. The ports of call and the scenery. TOP 5 DISAPPOINTMENTS Cabin size and noise. Aggressiveness (by a very few members of the bar and beauty salon staff). Lack of seating at peak times in Horizon Court. The cheap plastic ticket wallets given by Princess. The tender service -- lack of organisation and information. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2005
A beautiful sight awaited us in this early morning arrival in Southampton. The Queen Mary 2 had arrived. We had just completed the first leg of our B2B cruises, the first being the British Isles. This second leg would take us to Western ... Read More
A beautiful sight awaited us in this early morning arrival in Southampton. The Queen Mary 2 had arrived. We had just completed the first leg of our B2B cruises, the first being the British Isles. This second leg would take us to Western Europe. The comments contained in this review are ours alone. Other passengers on this same cruise may have different opinions. There are many reviews on the Golden Princess so we will not go into details of the ship at this time. We were looking forward to sailing past QM2 on our way out of port however we were delayed by an hour and a half and she had set sail already. Our first port and one of biggest surprises was Zeebrugge, Belgium. We took the walking and canal boat tour of Brugges. What a wonderful city this was. Brugges is a very old city with canals, cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways and tons of history. Our tour guide was a delightful lady who loved to show off her city. The ride through the canals was beautiful. Just a note here. If you have problems walking this tour is not for you. The walk is long over uneven terrain. Now the real good part. Belgian Chocolates and fresh made Belgian Waffles with a large scoop of ice cream on top. All of this low cal of course. Do not miss touring this city. It is marvelous. After a day at sea and a beautiful sail up the 57 mile Fjord we arrived in Oslo Norway. The arrival in this picture perfect port was a sight we will never forget. Oslo is very very expensive, even more so than London. We can describe our day in Oslo in three words, "got really lost"!. We did not signup for a ship tour. It was chaos at the city sightseeing bus and they we charging $28 each for the hop on hop off. We wanted to see Vigeland, it was a beautiful day and they told us just to follow the trolley tracks and it's an easy 20 minute walk. Sounds easy right ? Wrong ! We did follow the trolley track until a point they merged with a bunch of other trolley tracks, went left, went right, went in a circle and I swear up the side of a building. Ask directions ? Not a chance ! After about and hour and a half we put two and two together and figured we were lost. We found our way back to the ship and now we laugh at our adventure in the beautiful town of Oslo. Another surprise port was Copenhagen. We loved it. The Golden Princess docks in an area of small shops very close to where the Little Mermaid sits. It is a beautiful walk along the waterfront into the city. We had a Coke, a local beer which paralyzed my legs and three of the worst open face sandwiches we have ever tasted. The cost, 70DKK. Still haven't figured that one out. Along the canal is a multitude of eating and drinking places. Copenhagen has a good shopping area with blocks and blocks of shops. We walked back to the ship and stopped for photo's at the Mermaid. I took a nap and my wife still had to visit all the waterfront shops. Another wonderful day ! The next day at sea we encountered force 9 gale force winds. Golden Princess handled the seas very well. I am sorry to say Hamburg Germany was not one of our favorite stops. This could possibly be because it was Sunday and everything was closed. We talked to people who went to Berlin and found the same situation. Sunday in Germany is spent with the family. Good for them ! We took the city tour and although our guide was good we were not impressed with anything we saw. Again this was just our opinion and other passengers may feel different. We left Hamburg at 6am the following morning. A highlight was sailing down the Elbe, it is a ship watchers paradise. Tons of river traffic and beautiful country side scenery. Next stop Rotterdam, another beautiful city. The ship docks downtown and there was a shuttle into town. Again we opted for the city tour and harbor cruise. Many passengers opted for the trip to Amsterdam. The reports we heard was that it was a beautiful city but as most tours not enough time to really enjoy it. Rotterdam was another nice surprise. We will put this wonderful city in our memory bank and think about it often. Princess saved the best for last. The port of LeHarve. From LeHarve many passengers took the long trip to Paris but I had to live a dream and we headed for Normandy and the landing beaches. It was a very long drive but worth every long mile. Enroute we stopped at a farm house converted to a saw the beaches where the Canadian and British forces landed but the highlight was Omaha Beach. When we arrived at Omaha Beach the guide said we have 10 minutes and be back on the bus. You should have heard the comments from the people. 10 minutes it was but we stood , tears in eyes and both feet in the sand of Omaha Beach. I swear you could see the landing and hear the sounds of battle. We have not felt like that since we stood on the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. The peak emotional experience was still to come. We then visited the American Cemetery on the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. We walked among the 9300 graves and could only say "God, don't ever let this happen again"! The grounds are beautiful and maintained by the United States Government. Our last stop was on a bluff where in the fortified bunkers the Germans had the 155 mm canons placed. They took a great toll on ships and men. It was a long and exhausting day but what we saw we will never forget. We arrived back at Southampton at 5am and after an easy debarkation was off on the two hour trip to Heathrow. We cleared security with ease, boarded the cattlecar section of British Air and suffered through the nearly 8 hour flight to Detroit. The memories of this adventure will last a lifetime.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2005
We spent 4 nights in London prior to boarding on the cruise. London was fabulous, with the exception of the stress of being there for the bombings. Once we arrived in the port of Southampton and saw The Golden Princess the stress left! ... Read More
We spent 4 nights in London prior to boarding on the cruise. London was fabulous, with the exception of the stress of being there for the bombings. Once we arrived in the port of Southampton and saw The Golden Princess the stress left! This was our our 2nd cruise aboard The Golden as we sailed on the Southern Caribbean on 10/24/04 and the service this time around was so much better. The one difference I did notice was that the staff this time spent a lot of time in the sports bar sitting and smoking, every night! We had cabin D229 with out kids in D230 across the hall. The minisuite was once again wonderful and I can't say enough about our cabin steward, Jaime A Lot, he was tops! Embarkation was great, much better than in San Juan and we were on the ship quickly (by noon) and to our cabins. Off to lunch we went and when we returned our luggage was already waiting for us. Our kids great enjoyed the ship and made a lot of friends. They seemed to have a lot of different activities going on and kept them entertained. One new thing was the teen security that we saw walking around the ship and I think it's a great thing. Enjoyed most of the ports but I will say that most of them were far from town and that got very tiring after a while. Plus they were usually industrial and not very pretty. The exception was Oslo and Copenhagen. Zeebrugge~ Grabbed a taxi to bring us into Brugge, which was about a 20 minute cab ride. We toured the town, took a canal boat ride, enjoyed a lunch of mussles and frites and then just walked around. The town is beautiful and we really enjoyed our day here. Oslo~Beautiful. Being right across from Akershus Castle was great, it was a lovely view. I had ordered the Oslo passes prior to leaving the US and it was great. We walked into town, about a 5 minute walk and took the ferry over to the different museums that we wanted to see. Enjoyed the viking ship museum. After touring some of these took the ferry back and walked around town. We grabbed sandwiches from a deli and sat on a bench in the park people watching. After lunch we headed towards Akershus Castle which we really enjoyed as well as the Norwegian Resistance Museum. Copenhagen~Loved it, but I'm very partial as my mom is from there! The only problem was getting onto the hop on hop bus was a nightmare. It was a great way to see the city though. Got over at the Stroget and shopped. Had lunch at the Kobenhaffen Cafe, delicious and great service. Back on the bus to Tivoli. Beautiful park though it seemed so much bigger when I was a kid! We then headed back and went to the little mermaid and then did some shopping. One note is that most of the small stores that are located across from the ship don't participate in the tax free shopping. Berlin/Hamburg~ Loved Berlin. They called a cab for us and a group from cruise critic all took the train into Berlin. We did the hop on bus here as well and it was a dream. Berlin was quiet as it was a Sunday and you really couldn't shop, but the museums and restaurants were all open and we enjoyed our day. The kids loved the bus ride and the Checkpoint Charlie museum. This is one city that I would love to come back to and explore further. Rotterdam/Amsterdam~ Took the Princess tour to Amsterdam. Too much traffic and our tour guide wasn't the best. We did enjoy seeing the Anne Frank house, glad we didn't listen to the tour guide as she tried to talk us all out of going. Went there first and we were inside the museum within 10 minutes. Great experience. We spent the rest of our time there walking and soaking up the culture. There really isn't enough time there to see too much. Le Havre~We took the train into Rouen on our own. Beautiful town! The train was quick and easy and it was a great day. We had PC dining which I just love. The food is okay, though I will say that the lobsters on formal night were cooked to perfection. We ate in the Steakhouse which was great and also enjoyed dinner in Sabatini's which was fabulous. Meet some great people from Cruise Critic and enjoyed their company tremendously. Richard, the cruise director threw us a party with open bar and appetizers and fun was had by all. He's got to be one of the best directors that we've ever encountered on any of our cruises and the Golden is very lucky to have him! Service was great in all areas with the one exception being the purser's desk. They just don't seem on the ball here and aren't very friendly. We found that the staff were happier and just seemed so much more friendly than our our 10/24/04 cruise on the Golden. We did book again so obviously Princess does something right! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2005
My wife and I are an active retired professional couple in our 60s, who have sailed on approximately fifteen cruises, the last six of which were all 14-day cruises on three different Celebrity ships from 2003 to 2005. We have always ... Read More
My wife and I are an active retired professional couple in our 60s, who have sailed on approximately fifteen cruises, the last six of which were all 14-day cruises on three different Celebrity ships from 2003 to 2005. We have always reserved balcony cabins when available, and on this cruise we had balcony Cabin A501 which was on the Aloha Deck 12 about midships just below the Lido Deck. We don't consider ourselves fussy or demanding types, and rarely ask for special treatment from the crew and simply "go with the flow" and enjoy the cruise. After six cruises on Celebrity, and as shareholders of Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Princess Cruises, we decided to book a cruise on Princess to see if this line might be to our liking. We have been interested in trying different itineraries and other ships, and when we learned of this 14-day cruise on the Golden Princess with three ports in Western Europe and three in the British Isles, coupled with a transatlantic sailing to New York, we booked it on rather short notice. We had only been on the ship a short time when we reluctantly concluded Princess was a very poor alternative to Celebrity, and this opinion was continuously confirmed throughout the cruise. We also concluded that much of this is attributed to serious cost cutting by Princess in all areas of its operation, the automatic tipping policy of Princess, and the obvious attempt to appeal to the less sophisticated cruise passenger, the "McDonalds-generation" passenger, with low expectations, little experience in finer dining and proper food preparation, and one who is happy with the cruise as long as he can heap the food on his plate in the buffet on a 24-hour basis. Our feelings were shared by other passengers with whom we spoke during the cruise. Princess seems to do few things very well, and in nearly all respects a Princess cruise is not at the level of that which we have experienced on Celebrity. Officers, staff and crew generally seem sullen, with a poor attitude toward the passengers. Crew members seem to have no understanding of service, and make passengers feel as if we are intruding on their time or causing them inconvenience. They rarely speak to passengers and are often inclined to project an attitude of uncaring or indifference. Also, passenger requests are often met with a response as to why it cannot be accomplished, rather than trying to find a way to please. A good example of this is a request for a table for two in the Personal Choice Dining room. In their literature Princess says you can have a table any way you wish including a table for two, but when this is requested, the request is almost always met with an urging to share a table with others, or being told it will be difficult to provide. One evening we asked to have an obviously dirty table cleaned and were told it was already clean. Purser's desk representatives seem to be particularly hostile to passengers. Examples abound of a poorly run cruise line cutting corners at every opportunity. Unfortunately, the parent company, Carnival Corporation, appears to have "Carnivalized" Princess Cruises, much to its detriment. The most glaring example of this is the quality of food and dining room service. Princess has initiated many shortcuts in its dining rooms. No wine steward or bar waiter exists, and this is handled by the waiters. Salad dressing, cocktail sauce and the like is not offered at the table, but rather put on salads and seafood cocktails in the galley. Refills on coffee or iced tea are rarely offered. There is no showing of a dessert tray. Courses seem to be brought to the waiter's station all at once and served in rapid succession with no pacing, often resulting in cold items and hot items both being served at room temperature. Menu choices are often unappealing and on numerous occasions we elected one of the mundane "always available" items, such as a cheeseburger at lunch and fettucini alfredo at dinner to avoid going hungry when none of the offered choices seemed appealing. Items ordered from the menu often do not fit the description on the menu. Steaks, beef and pork were of poor quality and delivered overcooked with very poor taste, and a boiled potato dripping with water was served, being pawned off as a baked potato which was ordered. One passenger told me of finding it totally impossible to cut a swordfish steak. Rolls are dry and hard and pastries unappealing and often dry as well. One serious warning - don't order the chilled "essence of seafood" soup! It is the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted and should be removed from the menu. It tasted and smelled like dead rotting fish passed through water. To add insult to injury, waiters often seem uncaring and disinterested, again appearing to result from the tipping system, poor supervision or poor morale. In the chaos at the serving stations of the Horizon Court Buffet the passenger is expected to pile their food on a large plate, reminding me of my days in an Army mess hall. I repeat, this is coming from a person who will usually eat nearly anything offered, although I expect good sanitation and proper service along with proper food preparation served at the correct temperatures. Further examples from the dining rooms and the Horizon Court Buffet: Tables and floors are often dirty and multiple tables are cleaned continuously with the same dirty rag. The serving area is always chaotic, with passengers pushing, shoving, grabbing food with their hands, throwing serving tongs into the food and a generally disorganized atmosphere. The same situation applies around the drink stations. Tables are often unavailable. Food on the buffet is often at room temperatures which we found to be true even immediately after it was placed on the buffet such as cold meats and lukewarm vegetables. We tried to avoid this area as much as possible, but it was sometimes the only alternative. Princess made it worse than it might be at lunch, by closing two of the three dining rooms with the explanation there was work going on in those areas in spite of the literature saying two would be open. This left 2,600 passengers with the only lunch alternatives being the totally inadequate buffet and one dining room, resulting in complete confusion in both areas. Ice cream is only available without charge at tea, in the dining rooms, or by standing in very long lines at the Horizon Court Buffet during tea time. On many occasions we observed the flatware as well as the serving plates used under soups and appetizers being recycled by waiters and used for multiple diners - a serious health hazard. This was reported to management and we were told it has been corrected. Roll baskets and butter are returned intact to the galley, appearing to be reused at later tables. . One reason we were anxious to sail on Princess was the opportunity to try "Anytime" or "Personal Choice" dining. After 14 days of this, we concluded the drawbacks of this far outweigh the advantages, and we look forward to returning to traditional cruise dining. Princess promotes this concept, and stresses the fact passengers can have any table arrangement they wish. This does not take place in practice, as the guardians of the Anytime Dining rooms are always reluctant to give up a table for two and push passengers to share seating at larger tables. Even when we reserved a table for two, somehow the reservation was lost and we were again asked to join others in spite of the reservation. On one occasion we were led to a purported table for two which was placed no more than three inches from another table for two, in effect a table for four with a slight gap placed between two tables. Also, rapidly seating twenty or so people at one waiter's serving station usually results in very slow and delayed service. Meals are poorly paced, with either a rapid delivery of courses which have been waiting on the serving table or long delays between courses. Another mystery; we asked for a 6:15 reservation in a dining room which opens at that time. We were told only 6:30 and 8:30 reservations were available that evening. Does this indicate an earlier party is eating in 15 minutes or is it because this is really "Princess Choice" and not "Personal Choice"? Princess does not supply towels at the pool, and passengers are expected to take beach towels placed in their cabin to the pool. Nevertheless, large area of deck chairs are reserved by passengers with these towels, a practice regularly observed also in the theatres and buffet area. I observed two glasses left on the bow deck one morning which were later broken with glass pieces left on the deck for two days. The arms of the chair in our cabin were filthy, and the cigar smoke emanating from the cabin next door often made our balcony unusable. The lectures and programs provided on the ship were severely lacking and there is little of interest offered, much of it at an additional charge. This was particularly unfortunate during six long days at sea crossing the Atlantic when there was very little in the way of entertainment during the day offered by Princess. A cruise on Princess buys you basically just that - the opportunity to sit on a ship from beginning to end, eat Perkins-type institutional food and pay extra for everything else. Many things we are accustomed to having included as part of the cruise on Celebrity is an additional charge on Princess. A simple example - hot chocolate must be ordered from the bar on Princess rather than being provided with the tea and coffee. Ice cream is never available without charge except at meals in the dining room and at tea, and is offered at a substantial charge all day on the Lido deck.. No juices are available during the day except from the bar, again at a charge. Offline as well as online computer usage is only available at 35 cents a minute. In one port Princess was offering a 15-minute shuttle service at $12.00 per person round trip while a Celebrity ship docked next to us was providing a free shuttle to the same point. Most lectures and seminars are on a charge basis. Princess not only charges extra for nearly everything but the basics, but has cut corners to reduce expense in every aspect of its cruise offering. Although Princess seems to impose rules on proper dress it is rarely enforced. Grubby T-shirts and dirty jeans often accompanied by baseball hats were very much in evidence in the public rooms and dining areas. Princess seems to have attracted the type of passenger who insists on dressing as they please without regard to the dress code, and who feel no reluctance to disregard most other rules imposed for the cruise. Although I try to enjoy the cruise without regard to the actions of other passengers, it is difficult to ignore when it is so widespread. A few other bits: the pastries are most unappealing with only two dry cookie choices being offered in the buffet. Avoid Aloha Deck 12 with the noise coming from overhead in the pool area. Pillow covers went unchanged for the entire 14 days. With all the negatives, my wife and I tried hard to find a few positives. The ports were excellent and the one Princess tour to Paris was most enjoyable. Embarkation and disembarkation was run smoothly, although once through the check-in process we were herded into a waiting room where we waited to board for about 90 minutes with no explanation. The entertainment was not on a par with Celebrity, and entertainers were recycled throughout the cruise with one comedian appearing four times. Our balcony cabin was comfortable, and we liked the closet/bathroom layout, although the noise from the Lido Deck above was disturbing during the day and early morning. The shower stall is very small and difficult to use. Cruise Director, Richard Joseph, seems to be filling in temporarily and seems much too talented for his present position. Unfortunately, his presence doesn’t seem to be reflected in the entertainment package on the Golden with the exception of his personal presentation on “Ships – Where are they now?” which was outstanding. I have intentionally not discussed the ship’s layout and features because this has been discussed in other reviews. Suffice to say, we found the ship's layout not suited to handling the passenger and crew load carried by the Golden. By far the greatest negative was the food; unappealing choices, poor preparation, low quality meats poorly cooked, food served at wrong temperatures and often by uncaring and hurried waiters not following good sanitary practices, a very unappealing combination and the principal reason why we looked forward to the end of this cruise and will never sail Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
This was an outstanding cruise. My wife, son (age 10), and I were very impressed with the Golden Princess and were very happy with this itinerary (6 stops in Northern Europe, then a transatlantic crossing to New York). The ship's ... Read More
This was an outstanding cruise. My wife, son (age 10), and I were very impressed with the Golden Princess and were very happy with this itinerary (6 stops in Northern Europe, then a transatlantic crossing to New York). The ship's appearance, food, and service were all exemplary. Here is some advice for those considering this trip. Embarkation: This was absolutely painless. We got to Southampton around 11am, and we on the ship and wandering around by 12:30. I have never taken a flight out of Dulles Airport (I live in Northern VA) that was as easy as getting on this ship. Room: I thank various Cruise Critic posters who recommended the Emerald Deck mini-suites. These have covered balconies, which give both privacy and shielding from rain and wind (which you'll need). These are also the cheapest mini-suites, so I view them as the best deal on the ship. Accessories: Again, Cruise Critic posters recommended a power strip, an alarm clock, two-way radios, seasickness pills, and seasickness wrist bands, all of which proved very useful. We had several days of 12-foot seas and 50-knot winds, and we needed the seasickness aids. The radios (we used Cobra PR3500DX's) kept us in touch with our 10-year old and were also useful ashore. Excursions: I'll only comment on those we took, rather than reporting second-hand information. Zeebrugge: my son and I arranged a local bike tour separate from Princess. After getting the first Princess shuttle to Blankenburge, taking the (3 euro roundtrip!) train to Bruges, and trotting to the middle of town, we hung around for 45 minutes waiting for the Quasimundo tour guy, who never showed up. My wife took the Princess walking and canal tour, and was very happy with it. My son and I did our own walking tour, and went back to the ship. Bruges is a great town and is really easy to get to on your own - I just wish we'd been able to do the bike tour. You will have to take the Princess shuttle, though; the ship docks at a pier so remote you'd think it was used to onload leaky nuclear reactors. Rotterdam: I highly recommend getting up early so you can watch the ship sail down the Maas River into the middle of the city. The transit is spectacular. We did Rotterdam ourselves, which is really easy; you get off the ship, walk across the Erasmus (White) bridge, and you're right in town. If you are a jogger, don't miss the opportunity to run along the river up to the nearby park; if you are a cyclist, there's a dedicated paved cycling path running from the city almost all the way back to the ocean (a cyclist followed the ship all the way out when it departed). Le Havre: many posters don't seem to like Le Havre, but I chose to walk the city early in the morning. If you're in shape, try the "Circuit des Escaliers," a set of stairs that lead east to the foothills above the port. If you make it (and it's no joke), you'll enjoy some great views of the Golden in port. Rouen: We took the Princess tour to Rouen, which was attractive because it could be done in half a day from Le Havre (others, such as Normandy and Paris, are 2-4 hours away). The tour guide's bone-jarring, fractured English was offset by her knowledge and enthusiasm, and Rouen itself is a beautiful city. Even my son was impressed. Dublin: We took the Princess tour to Powerscourt Waterfall and Powerscourt Castle. The guide was outstanding, but the tour description failed to mention the Slazenger family managed to burn the interior of the castle in the mid-70's. So, it's now a shell containing a few uninteresting shops, but with beautiful grounds and gardens. For the money, I think I would have done Dublin on my own. Belfast: A fellow passenger made arrangements for a tour of the Antrim Coast and Giant's Causeway with an outfit called Minicoach UK. This worked very well, and was about a third of the cost of the near-identical Princess tour. I highly recommend this outfit, which can accommodate 16 to 50 people. Giant's Causeway was very impressive and was well worth the long (2 1/2 hour) drive. Greenock: We took the Princess tour of Loch Lomond, Luss, and Inverary Castle. The guide on this tour was a Scottish woman with an encyclopedic knowledge of the area, and she was superb. The tour featured spectacular scenery and a great ferry ride across the Firth of Clyde, and was worth the money. Dining: We used Personal Choice dining, which worked well for us due to our changing schedules. We never waited more than a few minutes, and we could share a table with another group if we requested it (for those who want to meet new people). We only had one bad meal in the dining rooms (due to a confused waiter), a generally felt it wasn't worth it to pay extra for Sabatini's or the Desert Rose. Many people apparently felt the same; I never saw either of these extra-charge restaurants full on any night. The Horizon Court is fine, but the way; some posters complain about it, but it's a 24-hour buffet and can only be good to a certain level. On our cruise, the food was certainly adequate. Entertainment: The shows we saw were surprisingly good, and were aimed at a wide audience. I didn't have a problem taking my son to the comedy shows, which included one juggle who did some incredible things while working on a stage rocking in 18-foot seas. Kid's programs: Cruise Critic doesn't seem to contain much on these, so I was a bit worried. At the initial meeting, my son seemed very turned off (probably because some smaller kid was throwing a fit) and refused to go for a few days because he thought it would be some sort of afloat day-care hell. However, he met a fellow 11-year old who was going, and after that, we hardly every saw him. It's not the program so much as the fact that the Grand-class ships have interesting spaces available just for kids; once they get there, they form their own mob and have a great time. Princess merchandising: Princess is aggressive about selling things, but I didn't find them to be obtrusive. It's easy to avoid the sales, but they tended to be mobbed on our cruise, which was clearing out end-of-season British Isles merchandise. One note: the soda card is now around $4 a day, so think hard about whether you'll drink that much soda. Climate and conditions: Many passengers seemed astounded that the British Isles would be so cool - I wonder what they thought "60 degrees and drizzle" meant. You'll need warm clothes for this trip - that also goes for Zeebrugge, Rotterdam, and Le Havre. Also, you need to expect rough seas. My wife and son both got sick transiting from Le Havre to Dublin, as we had 12-15 foot seas and high winds. Even a stabilized ship can only cope with so much. The first three sea days going across the Atlantic were similar, but they were used to the motion by then. But, this is where the large ships have the advantage. There is so much space and so much to do that you'll never feel crowded, and there are always things to explore in bad weather. We did have three good sea days, so we had the chance for swimming, lounging, etc. Other activities: Be sure to take the bridge tour and galley tour if they are offered (and they were on this cruise). Also, if Princess offers a lecture on trends in cruises and cruise ships, be sure to attend it. Richard Joseph, the cruise director for this cruise, gave an outstanding presentation that I'm glad I attended. Disembarkation: This was the only inefficient operation, but it was caused by several idiot passengers who, for some reason, refused to show up on time to clear customs on the ship. Since no one could leave before everyone was processed, we had to eat about an hour delay getting off. Finally, I would like to say that cruises enjoy a reputation as being havens for cranky, unpleasant senior citizens. While most of the passengers were quite a bit older than us, we found the overwhelming majority to be admirable, dignified people who respected their fellow passengers and the crew, and wanted to have a good time. The occasional clod (like the couple who showed up at the Horizon Court buffet in bathrobes) was present, but really didn't affect our experience. All in all, I leave the conclusion to my son, who assured me the cruise was "the greatest trip ever." Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
Golden Princess British Isles, August 10-20 2005 Wherein you will learn about *Sticker shock in London*The meat that could not be cut*A Welsh joke*Poor information*A registered complaint*Smooth seas*Surprising Belfast*Mysterious ... Read More
Golden Princess British Isles, August 10-20 2005 Wherein you will learn about *Sticker shock in London*The meat that could not be cut*A Welsh joke*Poor information*A registered complaint*Smooth seas*Surprising Belfast*Mysterious Orkney*and much much more About us: We are a couple in our very early 40's. Writing that is tough, by the way. No way are we Middle-Aged! This was our 9th cruise on Princess, and our second visit to Golden Princess. Our previous cruise on Golden Princess ranked as the best cruise we had ever been on, even surpassing our experience on Royal Princess. We have also sailed Sea, Grand, and Caribbean Princess. We have two future cruises booked with Princess. Why we chose this cruise: This cruise visited several ports in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, and gave us an opportunity to visit London and southern England prior to the cruise. My wife likes history that includes royalty, castles, and medieval life; I was interested in pubs, and the golf program that was going to be offered on board. Regrettably, the operator organizing the golf outings backed out of the deal. This did not result in any disappointment; in fact, it allowed me to appreciate more of the history and probably saved a lot of money in the process. Pre-Cruise: We flew to London via American Airlines, coach class. The experience wasn't nearly as bad as I feared it might be, though it seems coach has gotten a little cozier since the last time I flew overseas. Heathrow turned out to be a real zoo, and it took a long time to get through the entry process. One hint is to get ahead of as many people with oddly-colored passports as possible, since you all go through the same line and people with red and green passports seem to take much longer than people with blue passports. It took over an hour to get through and collect our bags. Fortunately, the car service driver we had hired was patiently waiting for us once we got through the formalities to take us to our hotel. You can avoid this hassle by flying in upgraded seats and getting access to FasTrack, which gets you in and out of Heathrow more quickly. London: Lodging in London is expensive. Dining in London is expensive. Everything else is London is expensive. Be prepared for sticker shock. We used the Tube to get around which turned out to be very handy. In an ironic twist, the Underground passes we pre-ordered arrived in the mail the same day that terrorists chose to attack several trains. Security was in evidence at the stations and on the trains. London's subway system is surprisingly easy to navigate and has a very helpful website that can assist in selecting the best trains and stations to put you close to major attractions in the city. To save money, we lived on "pub grub" while in London. Sit-down restaurants of average quality will cost at least twice what you might expect to pay in the US. I made a major blunder by not asking for a refund form for the 17.5% Value Added Tax (VAT) that was applied to the cost of our hotel room. Be sure to ask for a form, which you must hand in upon departure from the UK, any time you make a large purchase. I am not sure that hotels are included in the refund. If they are, I contributed unnecessarily to the UK's tax man. When in doubt, ask if you can get a refund form. Transfer to Southampton: We hired a driver from Woodford Chauffeurs to pick us up at our Hyde Park hotel. Much has already been posted about Woodford Chauffeurs, and I will echo the statements made by many that their service is professional, friendly, and without peer. Our driver, Robert, was precisely on time and managed to load all our luggage into the Mercedes. We had purchased smaller suitcases than what we normally use for travel in the US, and they were still a bit of a problem to manage. One bag had to go in the front passenger seat. We had use of the car for the entire day, so we visited Windsor Castle, ate lunch at a county pub where we had probably the best meal we would have the entire trip with the exception of the Ultimate Balcony Breakfast described below, visited the Naval Museum at Portsmouth, and still had time to freshen up at our hotel in Southampton before going out for dinner with the owners of Woodford Chauffeurs and another couple we had met previously on Golden Princess. It was a lovely evening with good company, good food, and good wine, followed by cocktails at the DeVere Grand hotel. Prior to checking out of the hotel the following morning, we had some fun going to a nearby shopping center and stocking up on some supplies for our cabin. I also had discovered Sudoku, a type of puzzle that is extremely popular in the UK and is printed in the daily papers. With a book of Sudoku puzzles, some shortbread, and a few cans of beer, we were ready to head to the ship. Embarkation: Almost the entire complement of Woodford Chauffeurs' drivers and vehicles had been provided gratis to help get to the ship. The terminal at Southampton is the most efficient cruise facility I have ever seen. All we did was pull up, turn our bags over to the shoreside workers, and wait in a fast-moving line for just a few minutes before we were carded, photographed, and on board. Our bags were delivered to our cabin within ten minutes of our arrival. We were unpacked and ready to head topside for a snack before our welcome champagne arrived. I made no attempt to hide the fact that I had some beer with me, and no one even hinted that there was a problem bringing it on board. Sailaway: We had a very large Cruise Critic roll call group for this cruise. We met in Skywalker's for cocktails prior to departing Southampton. Usually this lounge is not open when leaving out of FLL, for example, but in this case the Outrigger Bar was closed. The weather turned out to be warm and sunny as we cast off our ropes and headed into the Solent on our way to the English Channel, so many of us procured re-fills and headed downstairs to enjoy the lovely weather and views. We passed the dock where Titanic departed Southampton. Ultimate Balcony Breakfast: Our first day was at sea. We chose to enjoy the Ultimate Balcony Breakfast this day, which was an extremely thoughtful, completely unexpected, and impossible to repay properly gift from a friend back home. The delivery time was arranged ahead of time by a call from Guest Services. At exactly the moment scheduled, a waiter arrived with what I thought were breakfasts for several cabins. Wrong-O! We asked the waiter set everything up inside because it was too chilly to sit outside. He brought in two large plates of crab quiche and cracked crab, then returned with smoked salmon, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, and a large tray of pastries. We tried to call anyone we knew to see if they could provide assistance. It is really enough food for at least 4 people. Everything was fresh, hot if it was supposed to be hot, and utterly delicious. This was to be the highlight of our dining experience during the entire time we were on board. Ports of Call Dublin, Republic of Ireland: We had a very long port call in Dublin, arriving early in the morning with scheduled departure around midnight. Docking in Dublin involved some complicated maneuvering on the part of the ship's captain with the assistance of a tugboat to help guide the ship's stern. The entrance to the dock is narrow. The dock itself is located in a container port and ferry loading area. It would be difficult it not impossible to walk to the city of Dublin itself. For a morning wake-up, we toured the St. James Gate Brewery, home of Guinness. It is the only brand brewed at St. James Gate. They have an elaborate visitors' center that is six stories tall, topped off by a hospitality room that has floor to ceiling glass and gives you the impression you are floating above the city. The pints of Guinness on offer only serve to heighten that experience. After the brewery tour, we explored some of the sites in the city on our own before boarding the shuttle back to the ship. The late departure made it possible for those who wished to book an evening dinner show that featured Irish dancing, singing, music, and comedy. We decided before we left home to book this tour so that we could accompany friends that we hadn't seen in a very long time. There were about 300 people from the ship that joined us. It didn't take long to realize that we had all made a terrible mistake. The venue was a hotel ballroom, packed to the rafters with all sorts of holiday bus tours, not just people from the ship. The room itself would probably be restricted to no more than 500 people by any judicious fire marshall, but was packed with a conservative estimate of twice that number. It was very hot inside, the food was awful (example - the beef could be cut only with difficulty), the servers were rude and would pointedly ignore people who asked for something (our friend asked to have our water pitcher refilled, and when full pitchers were eventually brought out, we did NOT get one). The Princess group was seated in the very back of the room, so only those of above-average height could see anything. By the end of the show, which lasted more than 2 hours, a large portion of the Princess tour group was in the hotel lobby or had gone outside to try and cool off. Even my wife who is ALWAYS cold was sweating profusely. Well, that's not nice, I was sweating, she was perspiring. The show itself was great, what I could see of it. The majority of people who were on this excursion headed to Horizon Court upon returning to the ship for some nourishment. Apparently, we were not alone in our assessment of the food served to us that evening. I later submitted a written complaint about this tour, and after a rather snotty acknowledgement from the excursions desk staffer, was eventually contacted with an apologetic letter and was credited back half of what we spent that evening. It was the first time I have ever had reason to make a formal complaint during a cruise, and the first time I have received a rude response from any crew member. In the end, it was resolved out to my satisfaction. Dublin is a crowded and bustling city. If I were to advise anyone visiting in the future, I would suggest a tour of the countryside in the morning, and use any time in the afternoon to visit the Temple Bar area of Dublin for a refreshing pint of Guinness or two. Guinness just tastes better in Dublin. Holyhead, Wales: This is a tender port, and one where the ship anchors quite a long way from shore. I was a bit surprised that tendering was permitted the morning we called at Holyhead. The wind and rain were both quite strong, and wave heights were high enough to make the trip in the tender quite rough. I presume that had the forecast not called for improved weather later in the day, we might have skipped this stop. Most, if not all the excursions to sites in northern Wales require about an hour of travel to cross the Anglesey peninsula. This makes for an early start and potentially a long day. Many of the tours were of the sightseeing type that involved plenty of seat time looking out a motor coach window. The countryside is spectacular, particularly Snowdonia. We learned the importance of proper rain gear that day, since it turned out our tour of Caernarfon Castle was mostly exposed to the elements. We eventually left the escorted tour of the grounds, and found a tiny tea shop where we could warm up and dry a little. The rains stopped about the time the driving portion of the tour began. Lucky us! Ordinarily we do not book these types of tours, but the availability of private tour operators in Wales is limited leaving us with few options. In retrospect, I wished we had gone to Conwy instead for a castle visit. It was just too miserable a day to be outside at Caernarfon, which is mostly in ruins. All tours in Wales must be required by law to stop at Llanfairpwllgwyngogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which is Welsh for "Big -Ass Gift Shop And Tour Bus Parking Lot, Restrooms In The Rear". The locals will try to tell you the name has something to do with a tree and a creek and a chapel, among other things, but don't believe them. This is an example of Welsh humor. Belfast, Northern Ireland. Once again, the ship docked at a commercial seaport. Belfast is emerging from The Troubles, of which there are still signs aplenty and the occasional flare-up of sectarian violence. There is no tourist cruise terminal, so you take what you can get. We met John Collins, a local resident, through Cruise Critic and arranged with him to meet at the ship for a private tour of Belfast. We were in port on a Sunday, so traffic was light and we were able to visit most of the city including murals and memorials in several Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, downtown and City Hall, Belfast Castle, the old dock sites where Titanic was built, take a river tour with Lagan Boats, and enjoy a Sunday Carvery feast at a friendly pub. The day was fully seized. We were able to honor the veterans of the Burma Campaign who were memorializing the 60th anniversary of the end of hostilities in the Pacific in 1945, and had a brief tour of the interior of City Hall complete with photos with the Lord Mayor of Belfast and Lady Mayoress. John was a friendly and knowledgeable guide who seemed to know EVERYONE in the city. Belfast was an unexpected treat that helped put our vacation back on an enjoyable footing after the disappointments in Dublin and soaking in Wales. Belfast Sidebar: Emotions still run high between Unionists and Nationalists in spite of the peace process. Like gangs in the US, each have their own neighborhoods with their own customs. I had put on a red shirt and blue pants that day, which unwittingly made me look like a Unionist supporter, whose colors are red and blue. I was a little uncomfortable in Nationalist neighborhoods, whose colors are the Irish green and gold. Fortunately there were few people about and no one said anything, and we certainly were in no danger. One does not want to cause offense, so neutral dress is probably advised. Greenock, Scotland: We were welcomed to Greenock by pipers playing a selection of Scottish tunes, just the right thing to stir the blood on a damp, chilly morning. Others might have differing opinions. Some porridge and a wee dram would have gone nicely too, to counteract the weather that had suddenly become traditionally Scottish. I love the pipes and can't get enough of them. We took advantage of the Greenock Tourist Boards free tours in the morning and visited Newark Castle. It is a small castle that is in excellent condition. You can explore most of the castle without much difficulty as long as you can get around easily. It probably is not a good site for those with disabilities of any kind, and most certainly not for those with wheelchairs. The local guides were all very nice. In one of the few moments where I was disappointed with my fellow travelers, most studiously ignored the donation box following the tour. All the local guides are volunteers. Our guide dropped us near a shopping center so we could go in search of better rain gear in case the weather remained poor for the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh in the evening. We found some cheap full-length rain coats, then had lunch in town at the James Watt pub, to pay homage to one of the greats of mechanical engineering. Later, we toured the local museum which had an interesting if somewhat mis-matched collection of shipbuilding, Egyptian, and natural history exhibits. The same evening, we boarded buses to drive across Scotland to Edinburgh for the Military Tattoo. This is an annual event held at Edinburgh Castle, and sells out well in advance. Some 900 people from Golden Princess made the trip. Some didn't, after receiving a letter from the Tour Desk stating that there would be no restroom facilities on the buses or stops on the way to and from Edinburgh, and extremely limited facilities at the Tattoo itself. Some cancelled their trip, only to find out later that the buses did have restrooms that could be used in emergency, and that a rest stop was made on the way. I remain unsure about the reason for the dire nature of the letter and the reality we experienced. Someone at the tour desk has egg on their face over this fiasco. The Tattoo was marvelous, worth the effort to get there. This is a great tour for people in wheelchairs, because they get to bypass the several thousand people lined up for the security checkpoint on the Royal Mile and are dropped off at the entrance. Somehow our guides kept us together throughout the entire event. Our group from Golden Princess was introduced prior to show, while the smaller group that was attending from Queen Elizabeth II did not get even a tiny mention. Neener neener, Cunarders! We returned to the ship around 1 AM, and had a very late supper in Horizon Court. It turned out that I had missed French Onion Soup and Escargot night in the dining room, much to my horror and much to my wife's relief. She has nightmares every time she has to watch me eating snails. I ALWAYS order seconds. Heh heh. Not this night. After 4 long and tiring days in port, a sea day was a welcome change. We sailed through surprisingly calm seas to Kirkwall in Orkney. During the day I enjoyed the Maitre d's wine tasting and had a chance to visit with Rui Pereira, Maitre D'Hotel for Golden Princess. Rui is an extremely approachable individual who clearly knows his wine. I also attended Richard Joseph's "Where Are They Now?" lecture on cruise ships and liners from days gone by. His knowledge of cruising history is extensive. It is worth going just to learn the history of Princess Cruise Lines and the fates of many of the great ships from the glory days of cruise and ocean liner travel. It makes one wonder if all the changes in recent years have really been for the better. The answer is both yes and no, I suspect. Kirkwall, Orkney: I was first off the ship at Orkney, and spent some time on the tender with the local pilot who gave me a brief education of all his duties. One thing I was surprised to find was that he inspected the complete passenger manifest. I made it to shore, only to find that my guide was NOT at the spot I thought we had agreed upon. Of course, it was raining. Frantically I used my rented UK-configured cell phone to call the guide. After a few confusing moments trying to figure out where each other were standing, we figured out that we were about 10 feet from one another and looked rather silly speaking on cell phones when all that was really needed was a slightly raised voice to be heard. The rest of the tour group made it to shore, and off we went with Wildabout Orkney Tours to visit the Neolithic and Norse historic sites for which Orkney is famous. Again, the reality of the tour exceeded any expectations. We were able to visit sites that pre-date the Pyramids in Egypt by a thousand years, yet look like they were abandoned only yesterday. Orkney must be seen to be fully appreciated, and I suspect one could spend many days there without becoming tired or seeing the same thing twice. After the tour, a few of us stopped at a local pub for a pint. Like most small bars everywhere, conversation ceased when we entered, but the local people soon welcomed us and thanked us for visiting their little establishment. Edinburgh, Scotland: Haven't we been here already? Golden Princess anchored within sight of the Forth Rail Bridge, a marvel of 19th-century engineering. I had arranged a private guide through the Scottish Tour Guide Association, who require that all their Blue Badge guides be accredited through their program before being permitted to conduct tours. As much as we wanted to re-visit Edinburgh, which is a beautiful city, we decided that we would just have to return by land to do the city justice, and went north to visit St. Andrews. We visited the Old Course, bought the requisite St. Andrews Links souvenirs to show off at my local golf club, toured St. Andrews Castle and Cathedral, visited the College, and then it was time for lunch. There is a lot to see in St. Andrews. I had to rein in our energetic guide. After several days of touring, and the continuing rain, we and the couple with us were just tired out and ready to relax in the snug of a welcoming pub. We enjoyed another great pub lunch washed down with a selection of local beers, and decided to head back to South Queensferry via the slow road through the coastal villages of East Neuk. Before we knew it, because we were all fast asleep, we were back at the tender dock and heading back to the ship for our final day of cruising before disembarking. Observations About the Ship and Service On Board We boarded Golden Princess with high expectations, given that our previous experience on the ship had been as close to a perfect cruise as one could get. It was unreasonable to expect a repeat performance, and that being the case, we were not surprised to run into a few problems. Our cabin steward was obviously very new, and seemed reluctant to speak with us. We figured out after a couple days that he was uncomfortable speaking English. He did a good job taking care of the cabin. After a few days, he relaxed a little and became more comfortable interacting with us. Some cabins on board had already received the new, upgraded bedding. Not us. Everything, from mattresses to pillows, needs to be discarded and replaced. Hopefully this has been done. Another thing I learned was that some of the AB minisuites located above the ship's tenders have the drive mechanisms for the launching gear directly underneath. There is a lot of noise when the booms that suspend the boats are being pushed out and retracted, and while the boats are being lowered or raised. It startled us the first time. Fortunately we were already awake. I'm not sure how we might have reacted had we still been asleep while the tenders were being readied. We normally do not attend many shows. I was chagrined to discover that performers from the same group we went to see in Dublin came on board and put on a great show while we suffered through their in-house version. We did see a couple of performers, Bob Tuck and Philippa Hayne, both of whom we thought were incredible. The topic of food quality onboard Golden Princess has been the subject of some recent energetic threads. I have to agree with those who said that the overall quality of food and service was not up to the level we normally take for granted on Princess. There were a few shining moments. We had breakfast on successive mornings at the same table in the dining room, with the same waiter, Rado from Poland. He remembered everything we liked on the second visit, and we didn't have to ask for anything. Outstanding service. I filled in a comment card the second day, and he said he would turn it in for us. After reading my comments, he gave it back and told me to turn it in myself. He said no one would believe the card if he turned it in. He was that good. Our lunchtime visits to the dining room were also quite pleasing. In the evening, it was a different story. We had 2nd seating, and felt bad because we planned to miss at least 3 evenings (one for Dublin, one for the Tattoo, and one to go to Stirling with our friends). The dining room was incredibly noisy, and our waiter seemed very rushed. We rarely saw the assistant; she seemed to be continuously running back and forth to the galley. Our team had a 10, 8, and 6-top to deal with. It was too much for them. The other two tables appeared to be ordering many extra dishes. The assistant was having to carry the equivalent load for twice as many tables. Most of the meals were good, but nothing really stood out as being excellent. Perhaps we have just gotten too used to the menu. I spoke to the Maitre d' (Rui) about my impressions, and he was apologetic. He then procured a bottle of wine for me. It was VERY good. I looked later to see what the price might be, but it did not appear on either the regular of Maitre d's wine lists. Private stock? Rui also brought out the nice Reidel glasses, opened, and served the wine for us. Service and food quality seemed to improve somewhat after that, but poor Patrizia was still running back and forth to the galley with heavy loads of food orders. We were forced to eat at Horizon Court twice during the cruise. I thought it was okay the night they were surprised by a large number of people from the Dublin dinner show. The meal that was ready for us after the Tattoo was, and get ready for this, little better than a school cafeteria. At 1:30 AM, I was too hungry and tired to complain. I suspect that the galley staff were unhappy about having to be up so late, and it showed. We ended up eating twice at Desert Rose, a.k.a. Sterling. The service and food quality were so good the first time we had to go back. It was even better the second time. We had requested the same waitress we had on our first visit. Margarett requested a special order from that evening's main dining room menu (chilled strawberry soup) and it was delivered without problem. I was highly impressed with Desert Rose/Sterling. The chocolate pecan pie is still To Die For. I discovered a new trick with room service. We ordered some tea and croissants to be delivered one morning where we had an early start for a tour. I didn't try to order anything extra. We had plenty of leftovers from the UBB. Although the first time on the card for delivery is 7 AM, I wrote in 6:30 because we expected to be off the ship shortly after 7. Our order was delivered at the time I requested, and as an added nice touch, the room service person called our cabin from the elevator lobby to alert us that he was on the way. No fumbling for robes or hiding out in the bathroom were required. It was a very thoughtful touch. The casino started out with its usual very tight reputation. Several people complained that the machines were so tight that there was no point in even trying to play. Someone must have gotten the message, and I had a couple of large winners on the poker machines, in addition to doing well at the table games. The dealers were quite friendly. There was almost no smoke in the casino, even when it was crowded. Either we were on a non-smoking cruise, or something has been improved. Personally, I think very few people were smoking and most of those who did went outside. We had great sailing conditions throughout the cruise. The Irish Sea and English Channel both have reputations for being quite rough. Not this time. We felt a little motion on the last day of the cruise, otherwise, we might as well have been sailing on a mill pond. Most everyone we met on board was pleasant, polite, and appropriately dressed for the evening. I had only one instance of excessively rude behavior, and that occurred while disembarking. All the bags were lined up by group, making it very easy to find your luggage. Carts are provided at no charge. A gentleman behind me insisted upon using his cart to ram the back of my ankles, I guess to get me to move forward in spite of the fact that there were people stopped in front of me. I asked him to stop, and he persisted. I finally turned around and made it clear where I intended to shove that cart if he hit me with it again. I don't think he understood precisely what I said, but got the message. And they say Americans can be rude... All the comments listed in this review, good and bad, were included in some way on my cruise evaluation form. I don't think I have ever been as critical about the service on board a Princess cruise, and that includes Caribbean Princess where my comments were pointed and extensive. Of course, credit was given where it was due. Somehow, life on board just didn't seem the same as we are used to. I am not sure if it was the fault of the itinerary with a couple long nights in port that probably messed up the crews' schedules, or if there were other forces at work. The crew members seemed friendly enough, yet there wasn't the sense that everyone was hitting all their marks properly. Fortunately, the port visits made up for any deficiencies on board. Almost every day was memorable, some are going to be hard to beat. Every port we visited was worthy of a longer visit on land. Next summer, this same itinerary will have Falmouth added as an additional port on the first day, which was a sea day for us. Therefore, it will be an even busier cruise than we experienced. I heartily recommend this itinerary, but would caution anyone considering it to pace themselves. We were worn out by the time we hit our last port call. I think we got our value out of this cruise due to having so many great days in the various ports; the on-board experience maybe less so. Finally, I would like to thank Globaliser for all her outstanding assistance and advice on these message boards. Her contributions helped us have a great time in London and during the cruise. Also, thanks very much to Beth (Calikak) and many other CC members who came home from the July version of the British Isles cruise with so much good information. My thanks also, to those who have read all this and remain awake. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
My wife and I (60/62) booked this British Isles cruise in April 2005 and learned a lesson, book as soon as you can with a deposit, other wise the price or offers change. Cruise lines are now like airlines, capacity controlled values. We ... Read More
My wife and I (60/62) booked this British Isles cruise in April 2005 and learned a lesson, book as soon as you can with a deposit, other wise the price or offers change. Cruise lines are now like airlines, capacity controlled values. We have been to Alaska with Celebrity (Infinity) and Mexico with Princess (Sea Princess ) in 2001 now we are finally in 2005 on a cruise we have wanted to do for a long time. We live on Vancouver Island, Victoria in Canada, so 10+ hours later via Air Canada and 8 hours ahead time zone, we arrived in London for three nights and Southampton for one night prior to the cruise. It is a great way to go and be relaxed. Stayed at London Hilton Euston and Novotel Southampton, great hotels for about 65 GBP (pounds) a night, about $125 CDN. For August, good rates as we prepaid back in April. Also stayed at Novotel Heathrow for 1 night on way back, it is isolated on airport row if you want to walk around. Arranged for Imperial Cars Southampton to drive us from London to Southampton, to the pier next day and return to London. Great service and value for not dealing with taxis, tubes and buses. Arrived 12:45 at pier and with express check-in onboard within 15 minutes, gave a few pounds to the luggage porter, bags onboard about 1 hour later. Bypassed the photo hounds while boarding except for security picture to match your cabin card. The ship had about 2,800 passengers with 700 Brits, 1,700 US and rest of us around the world. Food choices were great on the buffet and Horizon was well run. It does take awhile to find food choices on different islands but not long. Plenty of seating though tables for 2 or 4 are limited. We chose 2nd seating fixed with a table of 8 which soon became 6, very good company. Ports were: Southampton & sea day, sea day, Dublin, HolyHead Wales (Tender), Belfast, Grennock (Glascow), sea day, Orkey Islands Kirkwall (Tender), Queensbury, Edinburgh (Tender), sea day. It of course rained a bit once we got to Wales and Northern Scotland but if you have a sweater, light jacket and umbrella (brolly), not an issue. Lots of fun, countryside was wonderful and beautiful. We took basic tours in most of the ports and walked around in Greenock and Kirkwall. Currency is GBP everywhere except Euros in Dublin and the ship now has machines that convert your monies for you, great feature. Entertainment was great with local talent brought in in some ports, bagpipes greeted us in Greenock , a band in Belfast and a local youth music group in Wales. The Welsh in Holyhead were great greeters and made us feel welcome. Staff on ship were friendly and our cabin staff including dining staff were fantastic. It is a large Hotel on water , if you accept that then its hard to fault the services. We will come back to the UK, especially Wales and Orkey and Southern England. Get out into the country, Only blip was food costs in London , for us its 2-1, what you pay locally becomes same but in GBP, outside of London its less expensive. We considered this cruise as a wonderful way to sample, like a buffet, the British Isles. Course I do admit to being born in UK but had not been back since 1968, year I was married. It was wonderful.  Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
What a spectacular ship - so easy to sail from Southampton after driving down from Cheshire. After checking in there was a 45 min wait to board and then there was photographs! The entry onto the Atrium was magnificent, as if we were ... Read More
What a spectacular ship - so easy to sail from Southampton after driving down from Cheshire. After checking in there was a 45 min wait to board and then there was photographs! The entry onto the Atrium was magnificent, as if we were entering a very grand hotel. Our cabin was cosy with a pull down bunk for our 11 year old son - very comfortable beds.(At least I'm not scared of heights! Son) We explored the ship before booking son into Kid's Club. Here is our son's very own special review of it: From the moment you enter the kid's club you feel at home. The huge plasma TV screen, the rows of PS2s lining the walls, the pool table, the air hockey table, the table tennis table... I was in the 8-12 year old group - the 'Pirateers'. There was also other age groups: The 3-8 Pelicans and the teenage Pirates. There are great staff at the kids clubs. They welcome you in with the others and make sure you are having a good time! The kid's club offers a babysitting service if the kids don't want to go to the great sights of Cannes and Rome. The activities are the best - ice cream treats, poker nights, movie time, free play, tournaments, kids dinner, building a domino run to playing Pictionary, even a special tour of the bridge! The kids club is the best and if you don't have kids - get some. They won't want to miss out on this. He did not want to leave the ship and wants to book the same trip next year. His enjoyment meant that us adults had a fantastic time. The food was excellent - although there was sometimes quite a wait for a table in the anytime dining restaurant, we thought that some people were coming to this one when they had missed the timed dining in the other restaurant. A really good buy was the infinite soda package - the number of Cokes our son can drink in 14 days! There are 2 show lounges/theatres but they are not always put to best use - I would have liked to have seen more entertainment in these rather than films. The Spa and fitness area are super and there are some adult only pools/jacuzzis. The trip included stops at Vigo, Lisbon, Barcelona, Cannes, Rome, Naples, Corsica and Gibraltar. We did 3 organised trips - which were good but seemed to take too long - we got to see much more when we did it ourselves. If we return to Rome we will definitely use the train from Civitavecceia to Rome and then taxis to get around the sights, the 2 hour wait for the Vatican was too much in the August sun and then we wasted another 2 hours having a meal in a out of centre hotel on the tour. The formal nights were very special - cocktails and wonderful food including Lobster, Turbot and partridge. The cream tea is worth going to - we made it on the last day because everyone had said how good it was but it was difficult to keep eating. The Pizza restaurant is a nice change for something light at lunchtime- especially the Caesar Salad. We were a little late getting back to Southampton because someone was ill and had to be taken off the ship at Lisbon. The wait for departure of the ship was long - over 2 hours, and the breakfast was early. In future we will say that we have a connection to meet and hopefully we will get off early. We had a great time and will certainly travel with Princess again. The Americans on the trip kept saying that the other Princess Ships were better - we thought this one will take some beating. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
I was lucky enough to cruise on the Sea's sister ship, the Dawn Princess in 1999 to the Caribbean. It was my first cruise and an experience that had me wanting more, much more! , and so 7 cruises later I have just walked down the ... Read More
I was lucky enough to cruise on the Sea's sister ship, the Dawn Princess in 1999 to the Caribbean. It was my first cruise and an experience that had me wanting more, much more! , and so 7 cruises later I have just walked down the gangplank to exit another Princess ship after a good holiday. Unfortunately though, there is a but, and that but is the reason that after 8 cruises now, I feel compelled to write a review for the first time. I don't intend to write about the ship itself, because the Sea and her 3 sister ships have been around for quite a few years now,and there is much already well documented, but rather the experience, because I belive that is the most important consideration together with cost that determines which cruise line/ ship the great British/ American public spend their hard earned money in the future. The cruise business has grown very fast, and it has had considerable success in appealing to a much larger market, but like so many things, in doing so,it has had to create an illusion of affordability to fill it's ships, whilst doing everything it can to generate revenue without people noticing whilst they are on board. Fine you may say, does it matter whether I pay more up front or more on the ship, provided it amounts to the same, well yes I think it does because it dilutes the cruise experience. Here are a few examples of what I mean. At dinner one night our waiter invited us to a wine tasting in the restaurant. Very nice we thought and all the table agreed that we would go, and then he told us that we would be charged $25.00 each. What felt like real hospitality was, unfortunately nothing of the sort. Once again at the end of dinner in the main formal restaurant, our head waiter came to our table with a bottle of liqueur, and suggested we try some, and then told us it was $2.95 each. Room service is charged for, but you only find out at the end of the cruise. Tips of $10.00 per person, including children are automatically debited from your account each day. We spoke to someone with 3 children who where unaware of this and were worried about the bill for $700.00 dollars they faced at the end of the cruise. This is in addition to the 15% you pay on all drinks. Even if the ship docks beyond walking distance to town, and they often do in the med, there is no transport provided by Princess. You have to pay to use a local operator. All of this does not contribute in my opinion to the feeling of being a valued guest whose needs are considered and provided for without consideration for the opportunity to generate more income. However, as I said I enjoyed the cruise very much, the combination of a beautiful ship and a great itinerary is hard to beat as a holiday choice, but the magic is not there anymore. Princess use the phrase " escape completely" in their marketing, and it is a good phrase that describes what we all want to do on holiday, but I don't belive that Princesses relentless pursuit of the bottom line, (and they aren't even subtle) really allows their passengers to do it. I have been so critical, because I know that cruising and the Princess experience can be so much more than it now is, which I feel disappointed about and left wondering where I go now to " escape completely " and feel the magic once more. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
Just came back from a fantastic trip on the Sea Princess. A few weeks before departure they delivered a beautiful travel brouchure. It showed all the ports of call, the different excursions, prices and some information for doing your own ... Read More
Just came back from a fantastic trip on the Sea Princess. A few weeks before departure they delivered a beautiful travel brouchure. It showed all the ports of call, the different excursions, prices and some information for doing your own thing! Embarkation at Southhampton was fine, easy to find and very helpful porters who whisked away our luggage. The ticket process went smoothly and very quickly,only 20 minutes, but we did arrive at 12.30. The entrance to the ship was through the Atrium, a stunning three stories of shining glass, gold and marble. There is an optional 10% daily tipping charge, which can be removed by request at the Pursers desk, we did this on arrival with no problems or dirty looks. We choose to tip IF the service is good! The cabin on Baja deck was fine, with TV, fridge, Hairdryer, no need to take travel adaptors as normal English plugs could be used.Plenty of storage, Queen bed, or twins available. On Dolphin the third person had to have a pull down bunk. Ok, but a little difficult if mobility a problem. Cabin stewards were unobtrusive but friendly. Fresh fruit daily in you cabin free of charge if requested, also the loan of bathrobe. Room service available free of charge 24 hours! (Only charged for alcohol)Two washing machines, two dryers and three irons/boards available free on every deck! This can get busy but well....Also twice in our time they had a special offer, all you can get in a laundry bag for $15.00 returned washed, dried ironed and put away!!! Fantastic We had the 8.30 pm fixed time seating in the Traviata Restaurant. There is an early sitting 6.15pm or the choice of any time dining in the Rigoletto Restaurant,or the 24 hour Horizon buffet, or the Pizzeria.There is also a Steakhouse Restaurant for an extra charge of $15. We never felt the need to try this as steak was always available in the Traviata. The food was fantastic. Five courses, with three choices in each, plus a vegetarian option and lowfat/cholesterol menu always available. Lobster thermidor, beef wellington, oysters, chateau briand etc, all cooked and presented beautifully. The only down side was the time in the restaurant. Everything was cooked fresh, so it obviously took a while to be served. We sat at 8.30 and rarely left the restaurant before 10.15. Only a problem if you wanted to see the 10.30 shows! Breakfast was waited in the restaurant or self service in the Horizon Buffet. Either were varied and good quality. Lunch again could be waited or buffet style or from the pizzeria or hamburger/hotdog from the Riveria Grill.Afternoon tea was served in the Travita to the accompaniment of a string quartet or pianist, or self service from the Horizon Buffet. A very wide selection of freshly cooked food or fresh fruit always available. Tea and coffee was available from any of the bars, night and day at no extra charge, and always available as self service from the Lido deck at the horizon bar or the Riveria Grill. Bar staff did not seem pushy to us but always at hand. Also on offer for $49.00 all you can drink of soda( Coke, Sprite, Soda water)! Noise from the shows not noticed, we were on Dolphin and Baja deck. However, cabin B226 seemed to have a very noisy air conditioning unit! Any problems reported were attended to promptly. The shows were good, some were repeated at different times to overcome the dinner arrangements. The shows were varied, comedians, magician, singers, cellist, string quartet, dancers, pianist so that every taste was catered for. There were two show lounges, a disco, and many bars playing live music everynight, and a casino. Always somewhere to go until the early hours.Movies under the Stars was really fantastic three films most days, during the day provided with headphones so not disturbing anyone, at night optional blanket no need for headphones. (TIP;don't lose the headphones or charged $10.00!)Also a cinema showing a different film in the Princess theatre The entertainment team worked hard. There were competitions, lectures,galley tour and cookery demonstration, art auctions,gymnasium and activities that incurred a charge e.g scholarship @ sea, wine tasting. The childrens club was very good.The gym was well equipped, and had a programme of classes, some of which incurred a nominal charge. There were two crew in the gym to give advice and check safety. There were many children on board from 2 -17 and the young ones were hardly seen as they were in their own areas doing activites. There was an excellent teen programme that went on til 2.00am!!! A Youth security team was employed who were effective in making sure adult only areas were adhered too! The pools were lovely, two of the pools, two whirlpools, sauna and steam room were adults only, and not overlooked, very private! Note that as the ship is American based the drinks/casino policy in the brochure says over 21's but as we were in the Med it changed to over 18's, very important when you have a 19, and 18 year old in the party!!! Any celebrations were celebrated by singing waiters and a cake in the restaurant!The ports of call were good, except for Vigo. Not very much to see or do there. We had a whole day in Vigo but only half a day in Lisbon!! We did not go on the ship excursions as we thought them rather pricey but others seem to enjoy them and thought them reasonable value, especially if you were a little wary or had mobility problems. All the ports except Civitevechia, Gibraltor and Ajjacio, had open topped tour buses available not far from the port which had headsets for information at a fraction of the cost of tours from the ship. For Rome we were going to go on the train,(timetable available easily from the internet, only 8 euros return) station only 20 minutes from the port right into the centre of the city where either the underground or the open topped buses run frequently. As it happens the free shuttle bus operated by the ship out of the port area offered a caoch for only 20 Euros return to St Peters, so we opted for that instead. The trip to Rome and an open topped tour bus cost a total of 33 Euros each!! Much cheaper. For Gibraltor we opted for the mini bus taxi easily available as you get off the ship, it went to all the major sites. The guide made the trip, he was very knowlegeable, and knew the apes! We went on the train to Pompeii, only 3.60 euros return from the main station in Naples, although it was a good brisk half hour walk to the station, a taxi would not have cost much. Very easy to do.We never made it to the port of Propriano due to the swell and as it was a tender port the Captain decided to go to nearby Ajjacio. Much better for us, no waves, and the locals were celebrating Napoleon Bonaparte's birthday, so some were dresed as soldiers,there was free wine and markets in the main street. A good decision by the Captain!!! At Cannes we decided to go to Monaco, very easy on the picturesque coastal train. Once there take a noddy train around Monaco or a short walk to the Palace/Casino. Again very easy to do. Disembarkation was the only problem, and this was no ones fault!. A passenger had to be taken from the ship after a heart attack and so our arrival in Southhampton was delayed for two hours. The could have been a problem if we had a coach/plane to catch and it meant some confusion when leaving the ship as the early arrivals were driving into the dropping off area as we were trying to retrieve cars, but as I say this was no ones fault. The holiday was great, there were nine in our party with ages from 16 to 61. We all said it was our best cruise yet for many varied reasons and would recommend to anyone. Thank you crew of Sea Princess for our lovely memories. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2005
This year's cruise on the Sea Princess was our first time with Princess Cruises - our previous cruises have been with Airtours on the MS Sundream (3 cruises) and once on Thompsons Island Breeze. Sadly the Sundream, which holds many ... Read More
This year's cruise on the Sea Princess was our first time with Princess Cruises - our previous cruises have been with Airtours on the MS Sundream (3 cruises) and once on Thompsons Island Breeze. Sadly the Sundream, which holds many happy memories for us, has now been taken out of service. We booked the Sea Princess through Cruise Control 12 months in advance to get the advantage of the early booking discount plus we were allocated our cabin. We left Norwich UK on the recommended coach service, Eavesway Travel, which takes you to the gangway of the ship in Southampton - a long but uneventful journey. Embarkation was very quick and we were soon exploring our room and new surroundings; we were pleasantly surprised at the size of our cabin which was an inside stateroom midships on a lower deck. It wasn't long before a knock on the door introduced us to our cabin steward, Pedro, who for the whole of the holiday was extremely capable and courteous at his job. Our taste buds tingling we headed for the Travitoria Restaurant for the early sitting. After being shown to our table waited with anticipation for a sighting of our fellow diners - we were not to be disappointed as we were seated with two of the nicest ladies you could wish to meet, Joyce and Vida, and our other fellow diners Leslie and Brian who with their Yorkshire humour led to many laughs and enjoyable meals. I must mention George and Cindy, our waiters who for the duration both gave top class service. Moving on to entertainment we found that some days were lacking and others full to overflowing which made it difficult to schedule - Bingo tickets at 10 dollars for 1 book were very expensive. There were no port talks on board except what was relayed through the cabin tv and these were aimed at the onboard excursions. The twice weekly lectures could have been more inspiring - we did however enjoy the daily quiz in the Wheelhouse Bar and Alan and Alana's quiz in the evening. We only went on two of the ships excursions as they are expensive and we know that most times you can do as much on your own. Lots of places the ship visits have opentop sightseeing buses - usually close to where the ship docks and at reasonable prices - we did the ones in Barcelona, Ajjacio and Lisbon. We were disappointed on sea days to find that there were not enough sun beds to go around - passengers were having to resort to sitting on a towel on the deck and at times arguments would break out between passengers hogging them. Overall we enjoyed the holiday but next year are going on the QE2. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2005
I sailed B2B (back-to-back) on the Sea Princess and this review covers the second cruise sailing from Southampton to New York, via Cobh, Dublin, Thorshaven, Reykjavik, Qaqortoq, and St. Johns, Newfoundland. I covered the ship on the 1st ... Read More
I sailed B2B (back-to-back) on the Sea Princess and this review covers the second cruise sailing from Southampton to New York, via Cobh, Dublin, Thorshaven, Reykjavik, Qaqortoq, and St. Johns, Newfoundland. I covered the ship on the 1st review, the 2nd cruise food, service, everything was fine, I didn't see any change, seemed consistent. Doing a B2B was a breeze, Princess gave me a letter explaining everything, my new cruise card for the next cruise, I went to the entry area to validate it and I was good to go. The ports this cruise were the draw for me as I always wanted to see Iceland and Greenland, and we lucked out with the weather for Greenland. Iceland was rainy but we managed to see everything. Greenland turned out to be a perfect sunny day, luck was with us. Cobh is the port for Cork and many did take the Blarney Castle tour. I was glad I made the choice not to after I saw the picture of my table mate kissing the stone, upside down as they hold you! There was a band playing in the park right near the pier in Cobh, a German band playing Irish folk tunes, Glenn Miller hits and show tunes. The day was gorgeous and it was nice sitting out listening to music. I also hiked up to the cathedral at the top of the hill. I enjoyed being in Cobh and not touring. In Dublin, I went ashore with two ladies from my table and did the hop on/hop off bus all around Dublin, shopped on Grafton street, stopped for snack, walked over to St. Patrick's Cathedral, and just had a great day as the weather was wonderful! I enjoy cities and find the hop on/hop off bus/trolley type touring works best. I did do a tour in Thorshaven (Faroe Islands). It was an enjoyable ride through the countryside, no trees, to Kvivik, a small village with Viking history and primarily a fishing village. There were all these little buildings, looked like garages but they had slits for the wind to blow through, boat storage. Many of the houses had steel roofs but a lot were still using sod for insulation. We stopped at a church that was all pine inside, wood is at a premium and pine is less expensive than other woods. When we drove up, the guide used a key that was hanging on a hook by the door. He sang a verse of a hymn for us so we could hear how the native language would sound. Very interesting tour. Iceland probably had the worst weather of my cruise but we definitely made the best of it! Tours in Iceland are very expensive and do not include everything. If you swim in the lagoon, you don't get the falls and geyser. If you go to the geyser and falls ($150.) you don't get the Blue Lagoon. Seven of us were in touch on the boards before the cruise and agreed to rent a van. Gene volunteered to make the arrangements. In spite of the fact we had to tender in Iceland (not usually the case), it worked out very well. Side note, to fill half a tank, $ 78.00 US and we complain about prices! We went to Blue Lagoon, first in line, opens at 10:00 a.m. We stayed in the lagoon almost an hour, and it was mobbed when we left, very crowded as buses had arrived. I think it was either 22.00 or 25.00, well worth it, I would do it again in a heart beat, so fun. I've read reviews where they say it is a major tourist trap but I didn't care! Soaking in hot water, blue color you can't describe, absolutely the best! There are pots of goop along the sides that we were scrubbing ourselves with, what a hoot! Dragging ourselves away from the lagoon, we were off in search of the Golden Circle, falls and the geyser! It was foggy at times, raining but we did good, saw it all. When we started out, I was worried about the fog and visibility but it cleared and was just overcast with rain. We saw the falls and the geyser, well worth the visit. The terrain when we were first driving was very volcanic and looked like we were on another planet, moon or something, as we got closer to the falls, there were farms, animals, fields so it wasn't all volcanic rock. Because we wanted to do the lagoon, falls and geyser, we did not see much of Reykjavik other than driving through on our way to tour. We cruised Prince Christian Sund and it was wonderful, I stayed outside for almost the whole time, close to 5 hrs., spectacular. I've been to Alaska but I really enjoyed the sheer ruggedness!. There was an ice pilot to assist passage and naturalist onboard to explain things as we went, 60 miles long. Hard to explain or describe but I was so glad the weather cooperated and we were able to cruise the Sund. The next day we were at Qagortoq and that was nice. No organized tours but interesting to walk around the town and try to visualize what an isolated life it must be in the winter. There was a tourist office that opened for us and there were items for sale. They were doing a booming business. St. John's, Newfoundland was our last stop before New York. I did a tour, a coastal hike and that it was! They bus you up to signal hill (think Marconi and the wireless) and walk you back to the ship. Now they tell you it's a downhill walk, not quite true! It was wonderful but I wonder how many sign up finding it a little too strenuous! It wasn't a mile downhill, more like 2.5, up and down, along a cliff hanging on to a chain, not for the faint of heart either. I'd do it again in a minute! St. John's is great, worth a little more time. A weather front was moving in so our stay in St. John's was cut short. This was a great crossing, I really enjoyed it. I've looked at this itinerary for years and finally did it. I've done 2 transatlantic, England to Miami and Miami to England, with all the sea days. I like this one because it had ports and sea days, 6 ports, 6 sea days and cruising Prince Christian Sund, perfect! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2005
I sailed B2B (back-to-back) on the Sea Princess and will do separate reviews to make for easier reading! The first was 7 days, Spain, Portugal, France and Guernsey. Due to cost of flying to England, home from New York, I did my air ... Read More
I sailed B2B (back-to-back) on the Sea Princess and will do separate reviews to make for easier reading! The first was 7 days, Spain, Portugal, France and Guernsey. Due to cost of flying to England, home from New York, I did my air through Princess. I usually do my own, but the cost of sailing single, length of cruise (21 days), I let Princess handle it. Everything went smooth, left O'Hare on time, arrived at Heathrow, did immigration, picked up my bags, walked through green lane for customs and there was a girl from Princess. She explained there were others nearby and we'd walk to the bus together. Very efficient and organized. Bus ride to Southampton was interesting in that the expressway was jammed so the bus drive took us through the countryside, giving us a little rundown on Windsor along the way, an added treat plus we missed the traffic tie up! The terminal at Southampton was already packed at 12:30, long lines but only 2 people in the Platinum line, a plus for me. Off the bus and onboard in 10 minutes flat, such a deal! Found out later for this cruise, there were 1,700 new cruisers! Captain Circle was small, they had one at 7:30 and in one of the lounges, just like the good old days! I really liked the Sea Princess a lot! Great layout, I think. One drawback but not major and not an issue in warm climates. For cold weather cruises, a retractable roof over the pool up top would be nice and would ease some of the crowding in the interior areas. There were times finding a place to sit and read was a chore, people were in every possible available spot. I have to mentioned that I liked the MUTS, enjoyed sitting out with a blanket watching a movie or a concert! Tom Jones one night and Tina Turner another, great! I had an inside cabin on Plaza deck and thought the location was super! Around the corner from the Purser's desk, Explorer's bar, easy on and off the ship in ports, no need to wait for an elevator, I loved it. It was noisy at times but necessary noise when the ship is docking or tendering. I had a cabin more square than rectangular, one less closet but bigger shower in the bathroom, which is a plus. Getting into the theater for shows was an issue at times, didn't quite understand the logistics or why shows were so packed with no space available. The shows I saw were good, I really enjoyed Piano Man. I didn't really care, shows aren't a priority but both cruises this topic came up at dinner. Speaking of which, I enjoyed my meals, choices. I love lamb, veal, pork, fish so I was happy and I did eat beef twice, which is an exception for me but did not have chicken. I don't do chicken out as I eat more than enough at home. The lobster was excellent as was the rack of lamb (had that twice)! I really felt that Princess has improved the presentation on the plate since my 2002 Golden cruise. I don't care about the way it looks but that was also a topic of discussion during dinner. If it tastes good, the right temperature, not rubbery, tough or like mush, I am happy. Cutesy tied up bundles of carrots aren't necessary but people seemed pleased by the way things looked! Desserts were good but not spectacular. I think it has to do with the type of ingredients and quality of what they buy. I could be wrong but there is a major difference in real vanilla and generic, taste wise and dollar wise, also with various types of chocolate. I had the Love Boat Dream one time and it was not what I remembered. Other deserts were ok but some on the bland side. We visited Vigo, LaRochelle, Lisbon and St. Peter Port on this cruise. I enjoyed all the ports, did tours at 3, and hop on/hop off bus in Lisbon. Lisbon is one of those places you could spend several days and find plenty to do. I just took the ship shuttle in, saw a trolley, purchased a ticket for 13 Euros and I was good for almost 2 hrs. It was rainy but by the time I was done, nice enough to walk to a square for a snack and a glass of wine. I ran into two ladies from the bus ride down to the ship so I joined them for lunch. Vigo is an industrial looking town but on the bus ride to LaBayonne, I saw nice shopping areas, a very big arena, beautiful beach, boats in a marina, a different side of Vigo. The half day tour was worth it to see some countryside, to see more of Vigo than just the industrial port area. I toured in LaRochelle for the same reason just to get out in the countryside and see a little bit of France. I went to the Green Marsh area, which was very interesting. These old towns have a series of canals and this is why the area is called "Green Venice". The tour also included a stop for a tasting of local specialties, cheeses, wines, etc. It was good. When I was done, I took the shuttle back into town and LaRochelle is interesting, too. I walked around looking at some churches, the old fortress, taking some pictures, checking out the street vendors, having an ice cream, the usual things I do! Guernsey was great, I did a tour and was glad for the overview and history of the island, which was a major German stronghold during WW11. We also stopped at the Little Chapel made out of glass chips and Dresden porcelain, very interesting. Guernsey is very nice, very expensive in terms of real estate and not just anyone can buy there (if they had the money)! Only drawback on Guernsey was the return tender, the absolute worst I've seen out of all my cruises, everyone was complaining, it was very ugly. The Aurora was in port also and the pier set up did not allow for more than one tender from each ship. When all the tour buses got back and dropped us off, it was the longest line I'd ever seen! No exaggeration, hundreds and hundreds of people, 6 abreast and from both ships! Tempers were really flaring, I saw a few yelling matches and all I could think of was, tonight we fill out comment cards! Typical of me, I said something about those of us early dining versus late seating (I was joking) no one thought I was funny but then my dry sense of humor doesn't always go over well! I had a great cruise and stay tuned for the second installment, Transatlantic via Iceland/Greenland. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2005
This was our first cruise with Princess having previously cruised with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. It was also our Wedding anniversary whilst on board. We travelled with Eavesway coaches, provided free by out travel agent. Excellent ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Princess having previously cruised with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. It was also our Wedding anniversary whilst on board. We travelled with Eavesway coaches, provided free by out travel agent. Excellent quick service. After loading our luggage the next time we saw it was in our stateroom. We booked a guarantee GG stateroom, outside obstructed view. Our view was completely blocked by a tenderboat, and with effort could just about see a glimpse of daylight. This made the stateroom pretty dark almost all the time, and gloomy even with the lights on. An inside would be a better option and save money, or pay the extra and get a proper outside. Cabin was a little on the small side, however sufficient storage space except in the bathroom. Princess welcomed us with Roses, quality bottle of Champagne, a voucher for a framed portrait and strawberries coated in chocolate - really nicely done. On the day itself, balloons appeared outside our door and we received a cake and a song in the restaurant. Cases arrived quickly. We booked for traditional dining and late sitting - 8.30. The food and service was excellent throughout in the Traviata. I like the fixed dining option to get to know a group of friends and to have the same wait staff. we also had an introduction to the chefs and staff and a Baked Alaska parade which doesn't happen in the anytime dining. The staff were kept very busy and served both food and wine. They seemed rushed but it didn't affect the quality of the service. We used the buffet only once. The food was very good, but the area was crowded, and children helping themselves often left the spoons and the areas untidy. It was difficult to find a table at busy times. Breakfast and lunch in the dining room were very civilised with a good choice. We also attended afternoon tea one day in the dining room, white gloved waiters served wonderful warm scones with jam and cream, and sandwiches and cakes - also excellent tea! (important for UK travellers.) Deck areas were clean, but some of the cushions were marked. Lots of deckchairs available for everyone. My favourite was the 3 level seating area at the stern. sheltered and quiet with lovely views of the sea, although bar service was limited here. Sauna and steam room were spotless and hot! Main pool area dominated by the giant screen - it also seemed eerily quiet to me with everyone using their headphones etc. Didn't see much entertainment, music etc as we have on other ships. The cinema seemed to me like watching a movie on an airplane, it's on, I listen, but can't concentrate on it because of other distractions. The shows - 3 in 7 days in the theatre were excellent and high quality. Other entertainment in the Vista lounge was JJ singing - good, comedian OK, and a magician who was said to be good, but we missed because of the tendering problems. Alan and Alana dancing and entertainment quizzes etc. proved very popular every night - full house. The champagne waterfall was fantastic. Well organised and the very best party I have attended at sea - great fun! Tender operation at Guernsey was totally chaotic - stood in line for 1hr 40 minutes, no information, people not dealt with in order, vulnerable and elderly just abandoned, staff ineffective and uninterested - black mark Princess. We went on organised excursions, all excellent, good value. We missed some things like being able to see our account on TV. A minority of the staff are a little pushy with drinks. The ship didn't have the polish we expected, however it did grow on us as the cruise went on. Confusing layout on the ship - more signs would help. All in all a very good cruise and very good value for money. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
Embarkation was very easy. Although our advised check in wasn’t until 3pm we arrived at 11.30am without a problem. The queue was long but with so many staff working at the check in desks we were at front and collecting our cruise cards ... Read More
Embarkation was very easy. Although our advised check in wasn’t until 3pm we arrived at 11.30am without a problem. The queue was long but with so many staff working at the check in desks we were at front and collecting our cruise cards within 15 minutes. To my surprise we didn’t even have to wait in the lounge we walked straight onto the ship!Cabins were ready so we dropped off our hand luggage and headed to the Da Vinci restaurant on deck 6 for a three course lunch with waiter service. We hate the buffet on embarkation day so the fact that Princess have a main dining room open straightaway is a real treat. We purchased a coffee card (which can be shared as it has a limited number of punches for tea and coffee, plus unlimited filter coffee) and two UKP drinks packages (which gives unlimited hot chocolate, milkshakes, mocktails, frozen drinks, juices and sodas). After lunch we headed back to our cabin and most of our luggage had already been delivered. Our cabin was an outside cabin on deck 5 which was a superb location as it was only five metres away from the International café and Piazza.Our steward provided us with extra hangers and as the wardrobe had no doors it was surprising how many clothes we were able to hang up. Above the hanging space there was a shelf where the life jackets were located but there was still ample space for storage. In addition, there were two bedside tables with a storage space and two drawers, the vanity table had two shelves in a cupboard on the right and by the wardrobe there were shelves on the side wall from floor to ceiling which was also the location of the combination safe. The fridge was located to the left of the vanity unit and was large enough for the ice bucket, a box of wine and a bottle of fizz. There were two US sockets and we brought a four bar extension lead for all our electrical equipment. The children slept in bunks above our beds which were lowered at night when the beds were turned down and then put away in the morning when the room was made up. The bathroom was tiny. The shower had a shower curtain and there was not a lot of space so dropping the soap ended up being quite tricky! Large towels, hand towels, flannels and pool towels were provided. There were also bottles of shampoo, conditioner and lotion provided plus many bars of soap. The bathroom had three little shelves on the left so there was room for all our toiletries despite the small size.After unpacking we collected treasure hunt cards and had fun exploring the ship and getting stamps at each named location. This was an excellent way of getting to know the ship and we had great fun. We also filled in the spa raffle cards and after our muster drill we headed up on deck for the sail away party. The live band were really good and to encourage people to dance they gave out raffle tickets for every song for people who were dancing which was a great idea. Then they drew cards from the treasure hunt. The prizes were very varied from dinner for two at Sabatini’s (specialty Italian restaurant) to a glass of Martini. Next was the sail away raffle and having danced every dance we had loads of tickets. I won a bottle of fizz and our son won a Princess drinks bottle. We then went off to the Spa raffle and I won $150 Spa voucher!The Crown is a beautiful ship and we had a fabulous time from the moment that we stepped on board. The Art Gallery just outside our cabin was quite extensive and had a good variety of art which would appeal to most tastes. The International Café was open 24 hours a day and served a variety of complementary pastries, salads, sandwiches and cakes depending on the time of the day. It also sold ice cream for $1.50 for three scoops on a glass plate. This was also the location for specialty teas and coffees. On the opposite side of the Piazza was Vines the wine and sushi bar. We did a Champagne tasting on the last night at Vines which was really enjoyable even though they did serve a Californian fizz as one of the Champagnes and our host was relying on notes rather than her own knowledge. The Piazza was the location for a variety of entertainment including the Champagne waterfall on the first formal night, the balloon drop on the second formal night, a string quartet, singers and a body balancing act. Deck 5 was also the location for the Internet café and future cruise sales. The future cruise sale rep was not available for the majority of our cruise but there was a drop box for future deposits and on board credit.The Passenger Services desk on deck 6 was always well manned. There were also two self serve machines for print outs of your on board account. In addition there were machines for foreign exchange currency. The shore excursions department was next to Passenger Services. There was a drop box for excursions (just outside the Casino) for passengers who wanted to book or cancel shore excursions when the desk was closed. Deck 6 (and 7) is the location of the Princess Theatre which had three shows a night so unlike some cruise ships we’ve been on we were always able to get a seat. The entertainment was generally good. The singers and dancers were excellent and the comedy impressionist Gary T Thompson was hilarious on his first show but the comedian on the first night was terrible and the second show by the Gary didn’t live up to the first.Deck 7 was the Promenade deck and a good deck to walk from aft to forward indoors as not all decks are accessible from one end of the ship to the other. Similarly deck 15, the Lido deck, was handy when heading from the Spa forward on deck 16 to the kids’ club aft on deck 16.The pools on deck 15 were heated and the children were surprised just how warm they were. There were also two additional adult only pools. Forward at the Spa next to the Sanctuary and aft at the back of Café Caribe. There was a large movie screen above one of the pools which showed films daily.There were self-service Laundromats available on decks 5, 8-14 which although not needed on our 7 day cruise would have been a extremely valuable on a longer cruise and Princess is the only American cruise line that we have found this service.The food on the Crown was outstanding. We loved lunch in the main dining room and were disappointed that it was not open on port days. As anytime diners we had the choice of eating in either the Michelangelo Restaurant or Da Vinci restaurant so if there was a queue at one we just went to the other. As we were cruising in Europe the busiest time was 7-30 to 8-30 with early diners able to walk in without a queue no problem. They did have a pager system so if you wanted a table for 2 and not share but there wasn’t a table available you could take a pager and enjoy a drink in the Piazza while waiting. The Botticelli restaurant (aft deck 6) was fixed dining only. Children are able to order from the main menu or the children's menu or a combination of the two. They are also able to get complementary chocolate milk and fruit juice with the evening meal. Our children's favourite breakfast was smoked salmon and bagel, lunch was pizza and favourite dinner was medallions of beef. My highlights included egg Benedict (served on request even when not on the menu), fettucini Alfredo, lobster, Beef Wellington and all the wonderful fish dishes. If you are like me and find that your two favourite main courses appear on the same evening have the lobster as a fish course and then the beef as the main!Our dining highlight was Chef’s Table which I can’t recommend enough. We were treated like VIPs for the entire evening, given the guided tour in the working galley on deck 6 with the Maitre D before savouring amazing canapés with Champagne each one made by the executive chef himself. We were then led down to Michelangelo restaurant for a gastronomic extravaganza all accompanied by fine wines, candle light (yes real candles) and great company. The main course was flambéed in the restaurant before our eyes which was really spectacular. The evening ended with a rose and group photo for the ladies and a Princess recipe book for the gents.There were two specialty restaurants open in the evening, the Crown Grill for steaks and lobster and Sabatini’s for Italian cuisine. Although we didn’t eat at either we met so many people who raved about the Crown Grill.All food we found on deck 15 was complementary including hamburgers, hotdogs and fries at the Trident Grill , the Pizzeria made fresh pizzas in visible ovens which were huge so a slice of pizza barely fitted on the plate. Both eateries were by the pool and extremely popular with swimmers and sunbathers on deck. This was also the location for the complementary ice cream bar served in either a cone or a tub from 11am to 11pm.Inside, Horizon Court buffet served a very limited lunch which did not meet our expectations of Royal Caribbean or Celebrity. This was probably why the International Café was so popular on deck 5 as the salads and pastries always looked so tempting. Café Caribe at the back of Horizon Court was a bit of a non event with only continental breakfast served there from 5am-10am.The staff on Princess were extremely conscientious and friendly. The waitstaff were always attentive but never rushed us, the drinks staff were alert to a nearly empty glasses which meant we never had to go without a drink at dinner while we waited for another. The daytime staff were equally superb at their jobs. We played Win, Lose or Draw (that’s Pictionary to you and me), did a couple of quizzes, played and won champagne hoopla, played the golf chipping challenge, watched a film in the theatre, took part in flashmob and attended the Champagne art auction. We were lucky that there was always going on we were spoilt for choice and never made it to the mini golf course, Casino, the bingo, the aerobics studio or gym.Our children both went to Shockwaves, the kids’ club for 8-12 year olds. They were able to sign themselves in and out at sea, but needed us to sign them in and out when in port. They both had a great time and came home with t-shirts, hand made jewellery and a decorated picture frame. Our daughter especially loved making things while our son enjoyed the playing games and the competitions. Unlike most cruise lines the children were not given a muster bracelet. Equally we were not given child life jackets from our steward despite asking. When we mentioned it to one of the officers she was absolutely horrified and we got the impression that our steward wouldn’t make the same mistake again.We had intended to take the Princess excursion to Bordeaux but our son wasn’t feeling well that morning. I went to the Shore Excursion desk to find out whether we would be able to get any money back and they were fantastic and told us that it was understandable that people get ill especially as it was very rough that night and gave us a full refund without penalty on return of our tickets. I was so impressed as this was superb customer service by Princess.Disembarkation was easy and hassle free. We put our suitcases out the night before and walked off with our hand luggage easily finding our suitcases in the baggage collection hall. A couple of days prior to disembarkation we were asked what time we would like to get off and got our requested time. All passengers are given coloured and numbered labels for cases to indicate disembarkation time and then the luggage in stored in coloured and numbered zones so need to panic at the thought of 3000 passengers trying to find their suitcases at the same time !Our ports of call were La Coruna, Bilbao (free shuttle provided), Le Verdon (free shuttle to Soulac sur Mer or excursions to Bordeaux) and Guernsey which was a tender port. All ports were very easy to do DIY and walk around. The tides were causing issues with the gangways and at times one of the gangways was closed for repositioning. Wheelchair users were warned that they may not be able to disembark at Guernsey but we saw several getting back on the tenders with wheel chair assistants at the ready.We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and walked off the ship desperate to book another one. Princess is certainly a quality cruise company and their staff made every effort to ensure that we all had an amazing time. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
Golden Princess, British Isles July 11, 2006 About us: 26th cruise, 4th with Princess 53/58 year old married couple, seasoned travellers, not especially picky. Pre-cruise. Tried to book our hotel through Princess and was told repeatedly ... Read More
Golden Princess, British Isles July 11, 2006 About us: 26th cruise, 4th with Princess 53/58 year old married couple, seasoned travellers, not especially picky. Pre-cruise. Tried to book our hotel through Princess and was told repeatedly "call back six months out". So, I called at 6 1/2 months out - "too early", called the next week -same line, called the next week, "sold out, you should have called earlier". We did however find a decent rate (as London goes) at the Airport Hilton and decided to stay there since we really did not want to "do" London again - just rest. The shuttle left from the airport the next day so it was a good choice. Shuttle: Got down to the greeting area about 8:30 and was on the first bus out by 9:30 or so. Two hour drive to the pier. No problems. NOTE: If you are flying in early and will meet the shuttle back at the airport: you cannot meet the shuttle at baggage claim as your voucher says, you meet at the "passenger greeting" area outside customs. No telling how long I would have wandered around baggage claim if I had not run into a Crystal Cruise employee at breakfast and asked her for the exact location. Embarkation: Arrived at the pier about noon, which should have been about boarding time but the ship had been an hour late arriving due to fog so we did not board til 1:00. Check-in itself took all of 3 minutes then we were off to the waiting area. Large room, plenty of seating although only a water cooler was available. Not a biggy but it struck me odd since some of the other lines have food service staff there with tea, coffee and cookies. Cabin: We had an inside cabin on deck 10. Typical inside cabin. Contents were a refrigerator, hair dryer, safe, TV. There was plenty of closet space and loads of hangers. Soap and shampoo are of the old fashioned variety and not the wall mounted liquids. Ship: We had been on the Grand in April so orientation did not take long. The ship was in very good repair and had a pleasing decor. No neon like Carnival and not quite as stark as NCL. There is an enclosed pool area, with retractable canopy, which was nice for the cooler days and evenings. This is a family pool as is the main pool midship. There is an adult only pool at the rear of the ship and outside of the spa. Those two areas were not highly used and made great get aways. Skywalkers Lounge is at the top of the "shopping cart handle" and seemed to be the most underutilized place onboard. The disco did not open until 10 p.m. and it was occasionally used for private group parties but other than that you can grab a drink and head up there to have the whole place to yourself for sailaway. Dining: I'm not going to say alot about the food because it is such a subjective matter. I found it fine. Not gourmet, but none of the ships with thousands of passengers can offer fabulous food so I was not disappointed. There are two dining rooms for any time dining (our preference) and one for traditional. I was told there was a waiting list for traditional dining but I think that is typical. Service was friendly and efficient. Wine service is by the waiter, not a wine steward. We typically dined between 6:00 and 7:00 and chose to share a table with others so we never waited at all. We ate one night at the steak house and food and service were superb. The buffet was actually a little better than usual, I thought. There were two omelet stations each morning which fortunately were not in the middle of the serving line. My only beef with the buffet is that Princess offers only coffee and tea. Lemonade would be a nice addition. And yes, the coffee is wretched, horrid, yuk. We only used room service for morning coffee. It comes from the dining room rather than buffet and is marginally better . You will have a door hanger menu you can put out each evening and ours was always delivered promptly. Room service tipping should be done when delivered. Ice cream is served at the buffet each afternoon for free, but if you want it otherwise it's $3.95 at the ice cream shop. Don't know why this bugs me but it does. I was told there is a pre-paid punch card program for the shop that was buy 10 get 1 free, but that didn't seem like much of a deal to me. Grill: They had hamburgers, vegetarian hamburgers, hot dogs, Bratwurst, knockwurst and chicken breasts available. There were always fries and occasionally onion rings. My husband was thrilled that they had hot sauerkraut for his hot dogs and if they'd have only had chile he'd have been in heaven. And the hot dogs were the nice big fat ones not those anorexic little skinny things. Pizza was pretty good and they usually had three varieties. The grill and pizzeria are only open until 7:00 which was a bit disappointing for days when our excursions didn't get in until 6:30 and we just wanted a simple little dose of junk food. Entertainment: We did not make any of the regular shows as we prefer to dance and gamble. The one we did make in Dublin was a local dance troupe and band. The early show was a group of young people doing Irish folk dance and they were cute. The band was good and the show enjoyable. I believe the late show was a more professional group of dancers but I can't speak to that personally. There were two very good dance bands. One played in the Explorer's Lounge and the other just down the way at the Wheelhouse Bar. The atrium each evening was filled with music from either the string quartet or pianist. Very nice. Later the piano man showed up at the martini bar and he had quite a following. It was a bit loud for me, but if you sat on the floor below it was enjoyable. Oh, I should clarify that this bar borders the atrium, it's not really loud enough to hear on an adjoining deck! Casino: Good variety of slots penny through $5. layout seemed about typical and I came out about $50 down which wasn't bad for the amount of time I spent there. Usual table games. Hubby plays blackjack and pretty well paid for the cruise, so certainly can't complain there. Friendly and efficient staff. Unfortunately the slots still pay out in coins and haven't gone to the paper tickets yet. The casino was closed for Dublin as we did not depart there until after midnight. Bar service: There was the usual drink of the day although I must say, Princess seems to push their fruitful drinks less than any other line. Being a simple woman, I just drink simple things. Prices for a single dears and soda was $3.85, signoff martinis were about the same. I know some have complained about the high price of drinks on cruises but I didn't see it on the Golden, unless of course you were drinking doubles, premium brands or forkfuls. Room set ups were available but we didn't avail ourselves of them this time so don't know what the prices were. There was not a wine program such as NCL s buy 5 get a sixth free program. Soda cards were available at about $4/day. Guinness is available onboard but only canned, not draught. Spa: Didn't partake of services but the usual array are to be had at what seem to be ever escalating prices. There is a steam room and sauna for both males and females (separate, in case that isn't clear) but they are not inside, they are poolside. So much for wearing just a towel in the sauna. The spa showers are the same size as those in the room which was disappointing because that's my husband's trick - showering in the spa where they have normal size showers. Oh well - suck in that gut and get in the shower! Odds and Ends: Changing money can be done by two machines on decks 5 and 6. One will convert various currencies to British pounds, the other to Eros, or vice versa. There was a $3.50 service fee which isn't bad if you're doing a lot, so do all your money at once. You can always change it back. You will need pounds in every port except Dublin where you will need Eros. Everywhere we went took plastic so we only used cash for incidental items. Laundromats: What a disaster. I don't usually do laundry onboard but I did need to do one little load. Between decks 8, 9 and 10 there were 8 irons. 2 worked and 1 had a bad hot spot. The money changers and soap dispensers had lower pay out odds than the slot machines and the dryers are not very warm. Took two cycles (30 minutes each) to get 1 small load of whites to the damp stage. Every woman who came into the laundry picked up the phone to call and complain but to no avail. They did send one poor little guy up to face the angry horde and all he did was fiddle with things and left them no better than when he arrived. Moral: do not count on having an iron to use. Plan on bringing either a steamer, de-wrinkle spray or both. Better yet, do what I did, call from the laundry and ask the purser's desk to send up a round of drinks. Captain's party: pretty well done in the atrium. They had the usual assortment of beverages plus beer and in case you don't know, you can always ask them for a special drink and they will get it for your. I don't think the captain showed for the early party which made no difference to me. Captain's Circle party: Was in the Vista Lounge and had the typical band, and drinks. See above comments. The captain was busy taking us out of port so could not be there but did address us by the PA system. They said this set a record for the Golden - 1,600 repeaters on board and three couples doing a triple back to back. Wow. Fellow cruisers: Primarily white Americans middle aged and slightly older. Less than 20 wheelchairs and 3 of those were children. There were maybe 100 children under 18 on board. All of them were well behaved. This is not an itinerary for those with disabilities due to lack of handicap accessibility in castles, palaces and many of the coaches. Most of these people were seasoned cruisers and were more interested in the ports than partying. By 10:30 most evenings the place was pretty quiet. But of course, the excursions were pretty tiring and many began early. Tendering: we tendered at 3 ports (or was it 4?) and each time it was done with the ship's life boats. Each day they used 3 boats which did not seem adequate for early morn and late afternoon. regarding: Terrible. Although they used two gangways to disembark folks in the morning for excursions they only used 1 for regarding each afternoon. In Inverness there was a line of 450-500 people at one time waiting to board. Took over an hour for some folks since they likewise were only running 1 scanner.. not happy campers. They didn't seem to learn from this experience as the cruise went on either. Photos: Very few, which is fine with me but unlike many cruise lines you had to search out the photographers if you wanted photos. They did however clog up numerous stairways on formal nights which I found aggravating. At least they weren't in your face every time you had a mouthful of cheesecake. Who needs the evidence - I have my thighs! Meetings on board: There was a combined meeting of Friends of Dr. Bob and Bill Mw. each day. Not every day but frequently was a gilt Rainbow meeting as well. There was a Masonic meeting one day and a service club meeting. My hubby's favorite is always the Veteran's meeting and this time there were two gentlemen who were POWs from the Bata death march. They told amazing tales and everyone there was deeply touched. Internet service is 35 cents per minute. There are about 18 computers in the cafe and 3 more in the library. Frequently one third would be out of order. Golf: First night out we had dinner with a rabid golfer. He told us all the golf tours had been cancelled and two weeks prior to sailing he had scrambled to arrange his own games. There was a group of 8 who seemed to play almost daily as I'd see them lugging their clubs past the bar. So, if you are taking this cruise to golf your way through Scotland and legendary courses you may want to double check with Princess as there were some mighty disappointed people on this cruise. Religious Services: Friday evening services were held for those of Jewish faith. A Roman Catholic group was onboard and their priest held Mass several times and all were invited. I do not know what provisions, if any, would have been made for Mass otherwise and I do not recall seeing any notice about protestant services. Excursions: Let me do the ports we did on our own first. Edinburgh - we hopped a cab (18 pounds per cab which seated 5) to the castle. Our delightful cabby dropped us near the ticket office. Tickets to the castle were about $20 each and they take Visa and master. We toured the castle, walked down the main drag to the palace. Several cruisers who were exiting the palace said it wasn't worth the admission price and since we were tired we grabbed a cab back to the ship. Lots of interesting places to eat and drink along the Miracle Mile (although it is a bit longer than a mile) and very, very easy to do on your own. The castle is well worth seeing and you could easily spend the entire day there. Belfast - a free shuttle is available at the pier and drops you downtown at the tourist information center. There we bought tickets (with plastic) for the hop on/off bus. You can buy your tickets from the driver at any stop but then you must pay cash. We had a lively guide who talked extensively about the troubles and while the tour was interesting, let's just say, nobody was pulling the call cord to hop off until we were nearly done and arrived at the botanical garden of Queen's College. I was astounded by the Peace Wall and how divided, literally, the city still is.. The gardens are beautiful and it was a nice respite to wander about them. Back onboard to the beginning and a sampling of a few pubs, where we met one of our favorite bartenders from the ship having a Guinness on tap! Tickets for the bus were $18 I think. diverged - Highland Castles and Loch Ness. This is a very long trip. Covers 1 castle with beautiful gardens, lunch (which took AAA too long) and tours of castle ruins on the banks of Loch Ness. Lots of walking, steep incline at the ruins, Very tight squeezes on the road to the ruins which was an excursion in of itself. Glasgow - The Scottish Experience, Landscapes, Lochs & Sheepdogs. Another very long trip.. Hour and a half or more trip to Loch Katrina where we boarded a steam powered boat to cruise the loch - very pretty. The boat was 45 minutes late so we stood on the dock waiting without a working vending machine or bathroom to be had. Cruise was about 45 minutes and we were back on the bus off to lunch. Didn't take quite as long as the day before but still too long by my standards. I think the cruise lines would be better off sending nice box lunches rather than doing formal sit down affairs that drag on forever. anyway . . . off to the Wool Center for a demonstration of sheep dogs. This was hugely disappointing. We have always had Shetland Sheepdogs and while this was nice it was not what I expected. Most of it was in an auditorium and the only herding that we saw was a very brief demo outside where the border collie herded six Chinese ducks into a pen. Local law will not allow them to transport sheep for the exhibit like in the past, because of the epidemic of hoof and mouth disease several years ago. There was nice shopping I suppose, but I'm not a shopper so we wandered about eating ice cream. hothead - carnation Castle. This was my husband's favorite castle. This is a warrior's castle. No girly tapestries on the wall, no sissified petit point chairs, just dungeons and tunnels and turrets and well - you get the point.. Nice tour, but once again, you spend a lot of time getting there. Dublin - malachite Castle and Irish Pub. malachite was a very nice castle, although one fully furnished and made liveable. Then we were on to a pub for an Irish Coffee. You could actually order something else if you wanted. This was a neat place and there were fabulous flowers all over the little village. We had a good time but again. . . . long way there and back. Do you see a pattern emerging here? So, that's it. We had a jolly good time and would do it again. Oh - if you have an outside cabin be prepared for sunsets at 10:00 p.m. and sunrises at 5:00 a.m. Read Less
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