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60 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2017
Am a past Princess passenger with 3 decades of wonderful experiences with the line, until recently. I have found a sad downturn in the products service levels over the past 5 years or so, which includes, staffing, catering and general ... Read More
Am a past Princess passenger with 3 decades of wonderful experiences with the line, until recently. I have found a sad downturn in the products service levels over the past 5 years or so, which includes, staffing, catering and general value for money, which I believe has unfortunately taken Princess from a 4 star offering to a 3 star basic cruising experience. The Princess cruise line of old no longer exists but in name only - or so I believed. I decided to take this 18 day segment of the Pacific Princess's world cruise rather than the general round trip cruises offered for a change of scenery. I was pleasantly surprised. Though the ship is small compared to the regular tonnage the line offers, she was a boutique offering with an old world atmosphere. The cruise was only 18 days - being part of the 101 day world cruise offering. Many of the small touches which Princess was known for and are now lost forever on all its larger ships, this ship manages to retain the values of Princess brand prior to Carnival's take over. On board, the catering was expansive and well presented and I found more meal and menu options on this tiny ship than that on the larger ships. The old fashioned menu items, like escargot, variety of soufflés, proper surf and turf with lobster, along with the evening dinner menus showing more options than that on the other ships in the fleet a refreshing change. The ship also able to retain alternative dining options like Sterling Steakhouse and Sabatini's given her smaller size. Whether this improved catering was in line with the World Cruise experience, I cannot confirm, but was good to see it was provided. Sunday brunch in the main restaurant was another nice touch where it is transformed into a hall of culinary delights with food stations, chef carver's, and international flavours dotted around the restaurant in a semi buffet presentation, another great feature and a pleasure to enjoy. In the evening she offers the traditional 2 settings in her main dining room which may not be everyone's choice, but the system worked well with options to make table or sitting changes if required simple and efficient. the buffet also transforms into an evening al arcarte bistro for a 4th alternative dining choice. The cabins, though the ship is originally from a different cruise line, are very comfortable and functional with a beautiful wooden panelled and old world feel which Princess has kept. Even the smallest and economical cabins have a sofa and other small touches only now provided in the larger and more expensive cabins on Princess's larger ships. The best thing - no queues anywhere at any time, and only having a max of 600 passengers also assists with this. No need for a black card to see the front desk, you will be the only one in the queue at anytime. The same goes for the buffet, the pool, the lectures, the shows etc. The cruise was a pleasure, and a delightful change to the mega ships in the fleet. Her size of 30,000 tons may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you are tired of the inch of gold sales along with the hyper marketing and art auctions of the bigger ships challenging your senses everyday, then this one will be a definite surprise and refreshing experience. She also has a beautiful old world full promenade deck with space and multiple lounges for those who enjoy this feature of a cruise ship which is now sadly becoming something no longer supported in future ship designs. Another feature this ship has is her size allows her to dock nice and close to her ports of call, not like her larger cousins who sometimes need to dock 1 or 2 hrs drive from the centre of town. I would not hesitate in cruising on her again and bypassing the other ships in the fleet. If however your cruise focus is on having pool side pizza bars, waterslides, outdoor movie screens, and queue for everything while fighting to find a vacant deck chair, then this ship may not be for you. She does not cater for children so family cruising would not be for her either, but if you are looking for a quiet old world style of cruise she may be the vessel within Princess's fleet for you. Read Less
29 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2015
Embarkation: Embarkation was painless. We arrived at Station Pier Port Melbourne on 24th May 2015, and dragged our suitcases to the upper level where 300 or so passengers were boarding the Sea Princess in Melbourne for a 102 day World ... Read More
Embarkation: Embarkation was painless. We arrived at Station Pier Port Melbourne on 24th May 2015, and dragged our suitcases to the upper level where 300 or so passengers were boarding the Sea Princess in Melbourne for a 102 day World cruise. There were no directions at to where to leave our suitcases, so we had to manipulate them up an escalator to the embarkation area, where they were quickly whisked away from us and taken onboard. Only had to wait a short time before the documentation was processed and Cruise Cards issued. Review of the Sea Princess: In writing this critique, it has to be noted that this cruise was full, with around 2000 passengers and over 1000 crew. The ship itself is getting older, and experiencing spasmodic maintenance problems that caused engine issues, and numerous episodes of leaking pipes which flooded staterooms, hallways, and the Princess Theatre. Staff were always quick to work on reported problems, & despite the age of the ship & all its fittings, everything looked clean, polished & well cared for. Dining: Despite having a pre boarding guarantee of “early seating” allocation for dining in the Traviata Dining Room, on embarkation that had somehow changed to late seating. When we questioned the “Maitre D” about the change, we were told that our guaranteed seating was only a “guaranteed request”. Following an elongated discussion, we were finally changed to our requested early seating by the 2nd day. It seems pointless in filling out the Cruise Personaliser on the Princess website, when Princess themselves have no interest in reading what we request. The information we provide appears to get stuck in Princess’s Head Office, and not passed on to the ships we travel on. The meals in the dining room remain spectacular, however a noted change was that the menu was repeated on a 10 – 14 day rotation with monotonous regularity. For long cruises like the 104 Day World Cruise, this became rather boring after a few weeks. For the first two weeks, there were only six people on our table, with another 2 joining in Freemantle. Our table of 8 became the best of friends, and apart from a few sick days, everyone fronted up each evening to enjoy the wonderful company and delicious food. Our waiters on table 184 were Mario and Alfie, who, between them, tendered to our every culinary need. Mario was a bit temperamental, depending on his mood, but Alfie being the junior waiter excelled at his job. Drink prices were expensive but wine left over was always named, recorked and available for the next evening meal. I renamed the Horizon Court buffet “The horror-zone” for obvious reasons, for it was terrible lining up for food, arguing with combative passengers, and searching for a vacant seat. The manners of many people left a lot to be desired, and you would think some people had never been fed before, the way they carried on around the buffet food. The Sterling Steakhouse was a joke, situated in a partitioned off area of the Horizon Buffet each evening. While it was busy most nights, and the food reportedly great, it could not be seen as a special dining environment. The Ice-cream Parlor outside on deck 12 under the movie screen was usually quite busy, however the quality of the soft serve ice-cream varied considerably, from very creamy to well watered down. All diners were looked after for Special occasions with a cake and a throng of caroling waiters and bar staff, which just made that special occasion even more memorable. Lounges & Restrooms: We always found the restrooms clean, tidy and well stocked. An interesting & well accepted change was that the toilets had disposable paper seat covers. Both the Vista Lounge and the Princess Theatre seat approx. 500 passengers each. With the decline in the number of evening entertainment options, seating for both ends of the ship could only seat 1000 passengers. For a ship holding 2000 passengers, a person would have to get to the main entertainment area (either Vista of Princess Theatre) at least an hour before the event started in order to get a seat. This created a lot of angst and friction among passengers, especially finding the entertainment areas completely filled 45 minutes before the start of each show. Several times over the course of the 104 days there was a leak from the ceiling of the Princess Theatre, and several seats had to be partitioned off as they were soaked. This intermittent leaking continued on for most of the cruise, despite numerous attempts by staff to try and fix the problem. The Wheelhouse Bar was used many days for trivia sessions, and trying to fit upwards of 400 passengers into an area that could only house 200 at best, was nothing short of nauseating. To get a seat, most people had to arrive for trivia almost an hour early, and this caused fights amongst passengers who tried to reserve seats for other members of their trivia team. Whilst reserving seats is a known “No-No” what else could people do. Many disagreements ensued because of this. Princess continually advocates that passengers must not save seats in the public lounges and theatres, however, despite this, seat saving continues at an alarming rate. On very popular entertainment nights, a passenger would take their life into their own hands if they needed to visit the rest room before a show started, because their seat then became fair game for whoever was waiting. The Laundry: The public Laundry was a nightmare, with only 2 machines and dryers on 3 of the passenger decks. Queuing was long and tedious, and those passengers who put washing in the machines and went away for hours continually aggravated fellow passengers waiting for vacant machines. Woe and behold anyone who touched anyone else’s laundry, and only remove someone else’s laundry at your own peril. The laundry proved to be a very entertaining area, with many altercations occurring daily. We found it easier to hand wash in the cabin, and hang it on coat hangers around the room to dry. Always take a small hanging peg line to hang in the shower, and this is great to hang smalls on, which dry pretty much within a day or do in the air-conditioned atmosphere. Staterooms: Surviving 102 nights in an inside stateroom was not a problem, given that this was our 4th time cruising for this length of time, but organization is a must. Having a place for everything, and keeping everything in its place, is a definite necessity. On this cruise we were assigned Stateroom B224, towards the front of the ship on Baha deck level 10. Our Stateroom steward was “Homer” until Dubai, then “June” from Dubai onwards. Both Stewards looked after us well. On embarkation and meeting our steward for the first time, we set out requests for dressing gowns; an ice bucket every night; extra coat hangers, and an extra chair as the stateroom only has one. This cruise we purchased a foam mattress overlay that we packed and took with us, as the mattresses on the ship are either rock hard, or very worn and dip in the middle. We also take our own pillows for much the same reason, and we were very glad we did, because the pillows in our stateroom were sadly lacking in substance. The room was always left clean and tidy, towels always changed each morning, and beach towels were replaced whenever they were used, sometimes several times during the day. Shampoo, soap, skin lotion & body wash (excellent for hand washing clothes) were replaced daily. Laundry bags for sending dirty clothes to go to the ships laundry service were sadly lacking, many times we were having to chase the room steward to get new bags. It’s not rocket science for a room steward to replace a laundry bag when they take a full one away. Entertainment: Having cruised for 104 nights with Princess previously, we had a reasonable idea what to expect as far as entertainment was concerned. In comparing the last 4 cruises we have done of 104 days, it is easy to see that cutbacks on entertainment for this cruise were very noticeable. As a comparison....... 2009 there were 104 different evening events and 14 Production Show 2012 there were 71 different evening events and 15 Production Shows, 2013 there were 62 different evening events and 10 Production Shows. 2015 there were 57 evening events and 13 production shows The Production Shows for this cruise were changed, probably because most of the passengers were repeat World Cruisers, and had seen all the Production Shows Princess had to offer. For this cruise Princess, in their wisdom, decided to employ an outside company to produce the singers and dancers. While the quality was extremely high, and the entertainment good, all of the shows lacked all the glitz and glamour that Princess advertise for their cruises. There were no sets, & costumes were bland. However, the Sea Princess Orchestra always provided a sensational music backing for the production show team. Many nights on this last cruise we found there was nothing to do other than watch a movie, which I do not consider watching movies that are years old and repeated several times, as major forms of evening entertainment. The selection of movies available was antiquated, and despite many complaints, this problem did not change for the entire cruise. Several old & new movies were played on the in-house televisions, and under the stars, however, some of these were repeated with monotonous regularity. Overall, the Production Shows were good, but many of the comedians were aged, as were their jokes and stories. At various ports around the globe, artists got on and off, always ensuring a fresh supply of good and no-so-good entertainers. Pre & post dinner dancing was always available, & passenger theme parties were scheduled at sparse intervals. Morning & afternoon trivia sessions were a must for the brainiacs, who always played for sheep stations. We always tried to catch up on the Port lectures, especially for all the new ports we had not been to before, as there was always some interesting bits of info to take away. The port lecturer “Hutch” was sensational in his port presentations, always a wealth of information, and very approachable when questioned outside of lecture time. Other ways to keep occupied included scholarship @ sea lectures; library; church services; dancing lessons; sports tournaments; bingo; card playing; game shows; exercise classes; movies; choir practice; culinary demonstrations; & ice carving demo’s. Princess offered Service club meetings, which was relevant to us being Lions; but we did not avail ourselves of the Dr Bob & Bill W meetings, nor did we join in as GLBT groups, but it was entertaining to note that they cater for these groups as well. Gymnasium: We did manage to find the gymnasium several times, although not as much as we should have. The equipment was state of the art, and reasonably well utilized, but having someone available to help you to use the computerized equipment was not always available. The only scales on the ship was located inside the gym, and these came in handy to check out just how much weight we were putting on weekly. They probably explained why our clothes were shrinking at a great rate of knots, but on this score, I blamed the washing water for shrinking them!!! Shore Excursions: We researched all the shore excursions before boarding, so picked the eyes out of what was available, and made sure we selected all the important places of interest to us. While it has to be noted that all of the ships excursions were expensive, there was the guarantee of knowing that if an excursion got back late, the ship would not leave us behind, as did happen to several passengers who did their own thing and returned late. All of the good excursions booked out early, so if there is something special that you really want to see or do, then booking early is a must. On this cruise we booked about 50% of our tours with the Cruise Critic group. This is a great way to meet other cruisers, cuts down the cost of excursions, and in most cases, you get to see more places of interest on the tours because the groups are smaller than the big Princess ones. One thing that needs to be pointed out, is that Princess are not happy if tour soliciting occurs whilst onboard, so if you plan on doing Cruise Critic Tours (which I definitely recommend), make sure you have these arranged and paid for before you get onboard. Also note that if you are on a private tour, and you get back late, that Princess will not guarantee they will wait for you. The tender service remains a nightmare, however, I don’t know how else you could move 2500 people on and off a ship any other way. Queuing for tender tickets, then queuing again when your number was called, tended to take the excitement off getting off the ship at each port. If you fore went queuing for tender tickets, then you had to wait until everyone else was off before you could try and find the exit, and this definitely would cut down your time on shore. Possibly Princess need to use more tender boats when this arrangement has to be implemented, because the current arrangement is annoyingly frustrating. Queue jumping was a frequent occurrence, and many an argument was had while waiting in line. Service: Embarkation and disembarkation was handled extremely well. The Pursers Desk, Future Cruise Staff and Captains Circle staff handled most of our needs very efficiently. The Boutiques on board sell a large variety of merchandise, however, items that sold out very quick on our cruise were cough medicine and throat lozenges. Probably due to the air-conditioning, every time we cruise we get the dreaded sore throat and cough, which seems to do the rounds of the ship. A good suggestion would be to go prepared, and ensure you have an adequate supply of an appropriate cough syrup, and throat lozenges. Toiletry items such as soap, shampoo, conditioner & body lotion are supplied in every stateroom, and balconies and suite staterooms have access to other useful toiletry items. Tipping: For all Princess Ships based in Australia, tipping is included in the price of your cruise. We always choose to provide additional tipping to our Stateroom stewards and dining room waiters, depending on the quality of service provided. All drinks purchased from the bars have 15% tipping already added to the bill. It is always a bone of contention to tip or not to tip, but if I get exemplary service, it will be rewarded. The Cruise Staff: For this cruise of 102 nights we had 3 Cruise Directors: Dan Falconer, Peter Tredgett & Mat Thompson. Dan never quite had his finger on the pulse; Peter was patronizing; & Matt at least seemed to enjoy his job. Matt's wife Kim (who acted as Matt's deputy for part of the cruise) was always pleasant and helpful, and took over the Zumba classes whenever she could. The Assistant Cruise staff this cruise seemed to be the most disjointed group I have ever sailed with. They consisted of Sarah, Maddi, Kelly, Jill, Richy Rick, Sascha, Tina & Danielle. Most of them were disinterested in what they were doing, and many times they just huddled together, & avoided talking to passengers IN CONCLUSION: There will always be a few minor hiccups on long cruises, however, despite the few problems outlined earlier, we had a fantastic 102 nights, visiting many parts of the World we had only ever dreamed about seeing. With research and previous planning, we had the most enjoyable cruise ever, and have marked a lot of places off our bucket list. We were wined, dined and entertained in style, and will definitely sail with Princess Cruises again. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2013
The Princess people at San Francisco airport were on the ball and once I pulled the bags off the merry go round they were there to put them on a cart. We were a party of four so we had 4 suitcases and two rollators. My dad and his lady ... Read More
The Princess people at San Francisco airport were on the ball and once I pulled the bags off the merry go round they were there to put them on a cart. We were a party of four so we had 4 suitcases and two rollators. My dad and his lady friend were with us or maybe it was the other way around. My dad is 90 and walks slower than a turtle. Can't see out of his left eye due to a stroke and is stone deaf but wears hearing aids anyway. His friend was 84 but looked and acted like she was 104. So our job was to herd them from location to location. We all gathered at the airport to wait for the bus. All we did was walk out there and got on. Off we went to the port. The trip to the port took 15 minutes but once we got to that area it took 45 minutes to get to the terminal. It was a Friday and traffic was heavy plus it was around lunch time so there were a lot of cars and people. Once we got there we simply got off the bus and the luggage was taken care of. Reminder to future cruisers who take the princess bus transfers, TIP YOUR BUS DRIVER. I went inside and found a princess representative that took care of passengers with disabilities. They got wheelchairs for the old guys and guided us to a counter for check in that was just for disabled parties. The entire check in process was the most organized painless operation we have ever had. From getting off the bus and checking in we were in our cabins in about 20 minutes. Kudos to all of the princess staff for making this process painless. It also helps to tip the guys who push the wheelchairs around. They like tips. We herded the two turtles to the Horizon court for the noon feeding. We came from Virginia so my dads stomach clock for food was telling him that it was after 4 pm. No problem getting a table and the feeding commenced. For the next 15 days we used the horizon court about half the time for breakfast and lunch and the staff was unbelievable and very efficient clearing tables and making sure we had drinks and refills. If you prefer something other than orange juice as a morning beverage you can request others like apple and cranberry and they will bring it. We then had to go to the dreaded muster drill and even though my dads cabin was three cabins from our he had to go to a different muster station than they did. Big problem. We took them to their station and found chairs for them and explained to the muster staff about their disabilities. We then went to our location in the princess theater. I truly hate these damn drills and thought they were being phased out until the Concordia disaster occurred. I understand the reason for this drill but I can still hate it. Later during the cruise I witnessed a party of four having a private drill in one of the lounges with a crew member explaining everything because they had boarded late and missed the first one. Great that they made sure everyone was informed. We sailed away and going under the Golden Gate bridge was fantastic. A lot of picture opportunities. Then it was time for dinner. We did the 5:30 seating because my dad has a schedule for his stomach. His watch said 5:30 so let the eating commence. We then walked around to look at the ship and become familiar with every place. The ship is old but I thought maintained very well. Things are going to break down, rugs are going to show some wear and OMG there will be rust. It's a big mechanical object that sails in salt water and the mechanical systems put up with 2000 plus people every week. It's the nature of the animal that toilets will stop up and rooms might be warmer than you would like them to be. And yes there are some people who (gasp) find rust. The elevators were hot and some didn't seem to work as well as others but you know what folks I was on a 15 night cruise to Hawaii with my wife and these mechanical deficiencies that other cruisers complained about were no big deal. Put things in perspective. You're on a cruise that millions of people would die to be on. You're not at work because you're on a 15 night cruise to Hawaii. Stop complaining and have some fun. We did. The food was good to very good. My wife enjoyed the influence of native Hawaiian flavors to the new menu. The seafood was excellently prepared. Especially the scallops. She often ordered the vegetarian entree as a side dish to the usual side accompaniments that come with your meal. They were interesting and had great variety so vegetarians should not be disappointed. The only items that were not good was a soup made with goat cheese, apples and a "crusty grape" garnish. It sounded good in concept but was like drinking salad dressing and the grape was truly awful to bite into. It would have been good as a sauce on a steak or as a dressing. The gnocchi were heavy and doughy. But there was a garlic pesto pasta one night that was really great. The 5th floor cafe had some great desserts. Some better than what was on the dinner menu. One day they had pavlova with fresh strawberries which I wish I could have smuggled home. So stop by there to see there offerings. The Panini sandwiches there, however, had very little filling and not worth trying. The entire princess staff was helpful and wonderful. We enjoyed interacting with the cruise directors staff when we played trivia or made leis with fresh flowers. We were told we weren't going to be able to take the fresh flower leis off of the ship so we threw them away and then saw many people walking right off of the ship wearing them. Would have liked to wear this souvenir a little longer. They were made with beautiful orchids. Try and get a ticket for this activity. One day they did ribbon leis which looked interesting and the next time they used fresh flowers. It would have been nice to learn a little more about the history of leis during this activity but I was still happy with the result. They were all nice and seemed to really want us and other people to have fun and enjoy yourself. We got to snorkel in Maui and eat the best nachos with island bbq pork we ever had at Dukes bar at Waikiki beach. They were really good nachos. When our order came there were about 8 other couples sitting around the bar and once they saw and smelled what we had they all ordered some nachos. The only negative comment I have is about going to Ensenada Mexico to satisfy the Jones act. Don't get off if you can help it. It's a dirty little town and the street vendors will hassle you to death. The worst part is the mothers laying or sitting on the sidewalk begging for money and their children are also begging. It's sad. There is a small area right next to the ship were you can buy stuff. I felt like I needed a shower after walking around that hole in the wall. I guess if Tijuana had a deep sea port princess would probably go there. Just a word to the wise, don't get off at Ensenada. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
We joined the Diamond on a wet day after a comfortable bus trip from Anchorage to Whittier. Embarkation services were excellent with time from bus drop off to cabin being 25 minutes. We are Platinum Princess members, but the service was ... Read More
We joined the Diamond on a wet day after a comfortable bus trip from Anchorage to Whittier. Embarkation services were excellent with time from bus drop off to cabin being 25 minutes. We are Platinum Princess members, but the service was excellent. We checked in at 2.10PM , probably after the initial rush. Cabin 422 ( a suite) was spotless on arrival and we were greeted by our Steward and offered Champagne. It is a large lounge area with a separate large bedroom with King bed, separate bathroom and robe area. We booked the Sterling Steakhouse for the first evening dinner, to overcome what can be difficult dining arrangements as people turn up on the first night. A good decision with a good meal , superb steak , excellent service. We dined most evenings in the Santa Fe dining room and as on previous cruises on the Diamond, experienced excellent service and good quality meals. Entertainment was excellent and production shows very good , although we do notice that the production shows are now of 28-35 minutes duration. Cruise director and his team do a very good job with activities. We ran into 3 days of very heavy weather across the Aleutian islands areas with 2 massive storms, the ship and staff coped well with having all decks and outside activities closed for 3 days. We never really felt crowded, apart from the first show in the theatre. Also the Education lectures were terrific. As experienced cruisers, we have enjoyed several cruises on the Diamond. Yes it is a large ship , but everything works to our satisfaction. This was a repositioning cruise and a means of us travelling from USA to China before flying home from Shanghai to Melbourne , australia. We enjoyed the cruise, met some lovely people, were fed well and entertained. We were very well served. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2013
Embarkation: We arrived at Sydney Airport on the morning of 20th May 2013, and were met by a very efficient Princess Representative who escorted us to a passenger waiting area, before being taken to the bus and transported to the new ... Read More
Embarkation: We arrived at Sydney Airport on the morning of 20th May 2013, and were met by a very efficient Princess Representative who escorted us to a passenger waiting area, before being taken to the bus and transported to the new White Bay Cruise Terminal. Immediately upon arriving, we were able to complete our pre embarkation paperwork, hand over our credit card details, were given our Cruise Card, a numbered embarkation card, and joined the thousands of other passengers, families and friends in the waiting area. In less than an hour our embarkation number was called, and we were herded through the Customs & scanning area. With all that behind us, we followed the trail of eager passengers past the ships embarkation photographers and finally arrived at the gangway. For the 3rd time in our lives, it was so exciting just walking up the gangway on to the Sea Princess as the start of our next adventure was just about to unfold. Review of the Sea Princess: In writing this critique, it has to be noted that this cruise was full, with around 2000 passengers and over 1000 crew. The ship itself is getting older, and experiencing spasmodic maintenance problems that caused engine issues, and numerous episodes of leaking pipes which flooded staterooms, hallways, and the Princess Theatre. Staff were always quick to work on reported problems, & despite the age of the ship & all its fittings, everything looked clean, polished & well cared for. Dining: Dining was nothing short of spectacular, to say the least. On our 1st evening, we were placed on a table for 4 in the Traviata dining Room, but only the 2 of us turned up, and we spent the first week having very romantic dinners on our own. Following this, we asked the Maitre D if we could be moved to a larger table, and this was executed with precision to table 108 Traviata 1st sitting. Here we met up with 6 other delightful passengers who over the course of the 104 days, made our cruise very memorable. Four of our new dining companions were Americans, and the other 2 were fellow Aussies. The mix was phenomenal, and Maitre D Neville should be commended for his work in orchestrating these seating arrangements. Our new waiters were ''" ''"Benjamin” and ''"Nandi”, who looked after our culinary experience every night to absolute perfection. If you want to see most of the nightly entertainment, then 1st seating dining is a must. The food selection in the dining room was mind boggling, always arrived beautifully presented, in a timely fashion, and always hot. Drink prices were expensive, but wine left over was always named, recorked and available for the next evening meal. The variation of food over the 104 days would have been a mammoth planning exercise, but we never missed a night of restaurant dining in the whole time on board. We did notice on this cruise that the ''"World Cruise Souvenir Menu’s” were very few and far between. In fact, I only collected 3 souvenir menu’s, one of which was an evening meal at the end of the cruise, and the other 2 applied to brunch meals. I renamed the Horizon Court buffet ''"The horror-zone” for obvious reasons, for it was terrible lining up for food, arguing with combative passengers, and searching for a vacant seat. The manners of many people left a lot to be desired, and you would think some people had never been fed before, the way they carried on around the buffet food. The Sterling Steakhouse was a joke, situated in a partitioned off area of the Horizon Buffet each evening. While it was busy most nights, and the food reportedly great, it could not be seen as a special dining environment. The Ice-cream Parlor outside on deck 12 under the movie screen was usually quite busy, but it’s a shame one of the staff positioned there left a bit to be desired. You would think the ice-cream was coming out of his allowance, the way he carried on about metering it out. All diners were looked after for Special occasions with a cake and a throng of caroling waiters and bar staff, which just made that special occasion even more memorable. Lounges & Restrooms: We always found the restrooms clean, tidy and well stocked. The Vista lounge area exhibited a strange seating arrangement with bench lounge seats interspersed with single tables and revolving chairs. Apart from taking up a huge amount of excess room, these tables and chairs were horrendous obstacles, and difficult for the elderly or mobility compromised passengers to move around, especially after they had been dislodged by previous users. Given the difficulty accommodating large numbers of passengers in the lounge areas, seating could have been much better worked out. The Princess Theatre is as good as any other theatre, chairs comfortable, but the idea of drink waiters trying to serve drinks to passengers in the middle of a full row is stupid, and needs immediate reviewing. Surely passengers can survive the 45 minutes for a show to go without a drink, but then Princess would not make as much money on drink sales, I suppose. Several times over the course of the 104 days there was a leak from the ceiling of the Princess Theatre, and several seats had to be portioned off as they were soaked. This intermittent leaking continued on for most of the cruise, despite numerous attempts by staff to try and fix the problem. The Wheelhouse Bar was used many days for trivia sessions, and trying to fit upwards of 400 passengers into an area that could only house 200 at best, was nothing short of nauseating. To get a seat, most people had to arrive for trivia almost an hour early, and this caused fights amongst passengers who tried to reserve seats for other members of their trivia team. Whilst reserving seats is a known ''"No-No” what else could people do. Many disagreements ensued because of this. The Laundry: The public Laundry was a nightmare, with only 2 machines and dryers on 3 of the passenger decks. Queuing was long and tedious, and those passengers who put washing in the machines and went away for hours continually aggravated fellow passengers waiting for vacant machines. Woe and behold anyone who touched anyone else’s laundry, and only remove someone else’s laundry at your own peril. The laundry proved to be a very entertaining area, with many altercations occurring daily. We found it easier to hand wash as much as possible in the cabin, and hang it on coat hangers around the room to dry. Always take a small hanging peg line to hang in the shower, and this is great to hang smalls on, which dry pretty much within a day or do in the air-conditioned atmosphere. It has to be noted that a passenger came up with a very innovative method of securing a washer and dryer, and while I would not personally do it, (or advocate that anyone else should do it either) I did chuckle at the effrontery of the action. Apparently, this person came on board with previously printed and laminated ''"OUT OF ORDER” signs; and when a machine was needed, these signs were posted on machines. Just goes to show the lengths people will go to in order to achieve their aims. As a postscript, I do believe this person was appropriately dealt with by Princess staff. Staterooms: Surviving 104 nights in an inside stateroom was not a problem, given that this was our 3rd time cruising for this length of time, but organization is a must. Having a place for everything, and keeping everything in its place, is a definite necessity. On this cruise we were assigned Stateroom B326, reasonably central on Baha deck level 10. Our Stateroom steward was ''"Froilan” who looked after us to perfection for the first 4 legs of the cruise. On embarkation and meeting him for the first time, we set out requests for a foam mattress overlay; dressing gowns; an ice bucket every night; extra coat hangers, and an extra chair as the stateroom only has one. After Froilan left in Los Angeles we were allocated ''"Melville” for the last leg of our cruise, but unfortunately he was not as efficient as Froilan. Research prior to our cruise assisted us to make the decision to give the stateroom steward 50% of our tip up front, with the proviso that if he looked after us well, there would be same amount at the end of the cruise. This was one of the best decisions we were to make, because we were looked after extremely well. The room was always left clean and tidy, towels always changed each morning, and beach towels were replaced whenever they were used, sometimes several times during the day. Shampoo, soap, skin lotion & body wash (excellent for hand washing clothes) were replaced daily. Entertainment: Having cruised for 104 nights with Princess previously, we had a reasonable idea what to expect as far as entertainment was concerned. In comparing the last 3 cruises we have done of 104 days, it is easy to see that cutbacks on entertainment for this cruise were very noticeable. 2009 there were 104 different evening events and 14 Production Show 2012 there were 71 different evening events and 15 Production Shows, but in 2013 there were only 62 different evening events and only 10 Production Shows. Many nights on this last cruise we found there was nothing to do other than watch a movie, which I do not consider watching movies that are years old and repeated several times, as major forms of evening entertainment. The selection of movies available was antiquated, and despite many complaints, this problem did not change for the entire cruise. Several old & new movies were played on the in-house televisions, and under the stars, however, some of these were repeated with monotonous regularity. Overall, the Production Shows were very good, but many of the comedians were aged, as were their jokes and stories. At various ports around the globe, artists got on and off, always ensuring a fresh supply of good and no-so-good entertainers. Pre & post dinner dancing was always available, & passenger theme parties were scheduled at sparse intervals. Morning & afternoon trivia sessions were a must for the brainiacs, who always played for sheep stations. We always tried to catch up on the Port lectures, especially for all the new ports we had not been to before, as there was always some interesting bits of info to take away. Other ways to keep occupied included scholarship @ sea lectures; library; church services; dancing lessons; sports tournaments; bingo; card playing; game shows; exercise classes; movies; choir practice; culinary demonstrations; & ice carving demo’s. Princess offered Service club meetings, which was relevant to us being Lions; but we did not avail ourselves of the Dr Bob & Bill W meetings, nor did we join in as GLBT groups, but it was entertaining to note that they cater for these groups as well. Princess continually advocates that passengers must not save seats in the public lounges and theatres, however, despite this, seat saving continues at an alarming rate. On very popular entertainment nights, a passenger would take their life into their own hands if they needed to visit the rest room before a show started, because their seat then became fair game for whoever was waiting. Gymnasium: We did manage to find the gymnasium several times, although not as much as we should have. The equipment was state of the art, and reasonably well utilized, but having someone available to help you to use the computerized equipment was not always available. The only scales on the ship was located just outside the gym, and these came in handy to check out just how much weight we were putting on weekly. They probably explained why our clothes were shrinking at a great rate of knots, but on this score, I blamed the washing water for shrinking them!!! Shore Excursions: We researched all the shore excursions before boarding, so picked the eyes out of what was available, and made sure we selected all the important places of interest to us. While it has to be noted that all of the ships excursions were expensive, there was the guarantee of knowing that if an excursion got back late, the ship would not leave us behind, as did happen to several passengers who did their own thing and returned late. All of the good excursions booked out early, so if there is something special that you really want to see or do, then booking early is a must. On this cruise we booked about 50% of our tours with the Cruise Critic group. This is a great way to meet other cruisers, cuts down the cost of excursions, and in most cases, you get to see more places of interest on the tours because the groups are smaller than the big Princess ones. One thing that needs to be pointed out, is that Princess are not happy if tour soliciting occurs whilst onboard, so if you plan on doing Cruise Critic Tours (which I definitely recommend), make sure you have these arranged and paid for before you get onboard. Also note that if you are on a private tour, and you get back late, that Princess will not guarantee they will wait for you. Photo Taking: Unfortunately, on this cruise, I think I developed a syndrome aptly called IPAD RAGE, because almost every 2nd elderly passenger had an IPAD which they used as a camera. Understandably, because they are easy to use, can take multiple pictures quickly, and can be filed or deleted at a later time. However, most of these IPAD’s take up a large amount of viewing space when placed up against the window of a bus whilst on tour; or worse still, if someone sitting in front of you tries to take a picture while you are in the theatre trying to see between 2 heads. Most of these IPAD’s are attached to a cover, which is left hanging underneath, thereby taking up double the viewing area. This annoying practice needs to be governed somehow & offending passengers need to be aware of how this practice affects other people around them, and be more considerate. Gone are the days of the small hand held camera’s, it now seems that IPAD’s are taking over with the ageing population. Service: Embarkation and disembarkation was handled extremely well. The Pursers Desk, Future Cruise Staff and Captains Circle staff handled most of our needs very efficiently. We were very fortunate to have the same stateroom steward for the first 84 nights, and this worked very well in our favor. Even though we partially tipped in advance, our cabin steward was extremely attentive, clean and thorough, & consequently got a nice tip when he left Our evening dining waiter and bar staff were also very good, although we chose not to tip in advance here, leaving it to the last night on board to slip each of our staff an envelope. The Cruise Staff: The Cruise Director Tim Donovan appeared to have an attitude problem, and was not very approachable, and didn’t appear to endear himself to many passengers. The Cruise Staff consisted of Matt, Kim, Brandon Mark, Martin and Mikey. Matt was the assistant Cruise Director, and took over as Cruise Director when Tim left. Matt appeared to enjoy his job, and always spoke. Martin was then promoted to Deputy Cruise Director, but this appointment left more than a lot to be desired!! Kim was the Zumba instructor, and her classes every sea day were packed to overflowing. Other than Zumba and the occasional evening passenger show, you never saw her. Brandon was by far the most approachable, always had a smile, and seemed to care that he was there for the passengers. Mikey was patronizing, with a large attitude problem, and needs to acquire more PR skills. D.J. Mark was out of his depth on this cruise of elderly passengers. He gave the opinion that he didn’t want to be there, and for the most part, shouldn’t have been there. Martin was a complete waste of space, both as a member of the cruise director staff, and as Acting Deputy Cruise Director. Despite the differing issues with the Cruise Staff, they did manage to survive keep us entertained for the 104 days. Tender service: The tender service remains a nightmare, however, I don’t know how else you could move 2500 people on and off a ship any other way. Queuing for tender tickets, then queuing again when your number was called, tended to take the excitement off getting off the ship at each port. If you fore went queuing for tender tickets, then you had to wait until everyone else was off before you could try and find the exit, and this definitely would cut down your time on shore. Possibly Princess need to use more tender boats when this arrangement has to be implemented, because the current arrangement is annoyingly frustrating. Queue jumping was a frequent occurrence, and many an argument was had while waiting in line. Visa Acquisition: For this cruise, the only Visa’s we had to get before boarding were for India and the United States. For whatever reason known only to them, the acquisition of the Indian Visa was a nightmare. From completing the forms online, then submitting them with your passport and required fee, then waiting for it all to be completed, created many nightmares for numerous passengers. The inequality of some passengers not getting the Indian visa at all, left a lot of the passengers who did get the visa angry at Princess for the differing stories & falsehoods we had been told. This is an area that needs to be immediately investigated and rectified by Princess. Several other countries required visa’s. but these were organized onboard by Princess and charged to our cruise a/cs. Such a pity the Indian Visa could not have been done the same way. IN CONCLUSION: Apart from a few minor hiccups, we had a fantastic 104 nights, visiting many parts of the World we had only ever dreamed about seeing. With research and previous planning, we had the most enjoyable cruise ever, and have marked a lot of places off our bucket list. We were wined, dined and entertained in style, and will definitely sail with Princess Cruises again.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2013
If you are staying on Bajah deck be careful of your cabin choice - 2 storms 2 floods in the cabin. Cabin became smelly and hallways were allergy enducing/terrible. The the cabin staff were wonderful trying to dry everything but the smell ... Read More
If you are staying on Bajah deck be careful of your cabin choice - 2 storms 2 floods in the cabin. Cabin became smelly and hallways were allergy enducing/terrible. The the cabin staff were wonderful trying to dry everything but the smell remained as did the fans constantly in your ear. If you have a special diet it takes some working out-if you are like me you just want to be treated like all other passangers, not miss out on anything and not be mad a show of. Well if you want that you have to take the time and explain it to the staff as you will not get it without doing so. The ship itself is getting a little tired but we still managed to enjoy the activities onboard. It was really nice getting to know all of the cruise staff and once there was a change in cruise director half way through thing improved out of sight. A change of chef half way through the cruise and the food improved 100% even the scons were not like hockey pucks. The special lunches were excellent and we even got to meet the chef on a number of occasions. The movies onboard were disgusting and I suggest you take your own on a hard drive and watch on your computer if you can. Live entertainment for the most part was good and some were extra good but too many comedians, most very poor.Espresso Coffee on board cost $30 for a card and is pretty good value but there was only one bar on board that made decent coffee. I really think they need new machines or they need to clean them more often. The staff are supposed to be Baristas but they are not. The Indian Visa was a big issue and not only were we very annoyed by the amount of money for the visa but the total inconvenience of how you get the visa. As it was a port we had no desire to visit Princess needs to look at arrangements for people to stay on board if you dont have a visa. We in fact were told wether we stayed on board or not we had to have the visa or we would not be allowed to board the ship in Sydney. That was a total lie as many people had no visa they boarded the ship and weree allowed to stay onboard in India. Princess would not accept any responsibility for the messup an annoyingly had to be pushed into following up on the problem - nothing was ever resolved despite a partition from passangers onboard. Princess advertised a speedy embarkation for priority passangers/another problem as we waited in line for a very long time. The also so say priority disembarkation we just not so for us we waited 3/4 hour for our luggage to come off the ship after us. People who came off the ship after us go their luggage before us and left whilst we were still waiting. Really just not very good at all. One thing to be aware of is the lack of seating in public areas, my suggestion is to get there very early for any of the big shows or functions or you will stand. Also if it is a Captains Cocktail party stand near where the waiters come out or you may not eat or drink. Princess and customs need to share ideas it took 4 hrs to get through customs in New Your leaving us only a few hours to see the place, it was really bad and we were standing the whole time.   Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2013
An interesting cruise for less than US$100 per night for 34 nights (obstructed view cabin). Ft. Lauderdale-Panama Canal-Limon (Puerto Rico)-Guajaquil (Ecuador) - Lima (Peru) - Easter Island (Chile) - Pitcairn (British) - Papeete (Tahiti) - ... Read More
An interesting cruise for less than US$100 per night for 34 nights (obstructed view cabin). Ft. Lauderdale-Panama Canal-Limon (Puerto Rico)-Guajaquil (Ecuador) - Lima (Peru) - Easter Island (Chile) - Pitcairn (British) - Papeete (Tahiti) - Auckland (N.Z.) - Burnie (Tasmania) - Sydney (Australia). Taxi from Fort Lauderdale airport to ship is US$20. The only problem is the free shuttle dumps you at a different terminal to yours. A clean ship built for 700 pax. max. and because of the low number of passengers on board a friendly atmosphere develops and one gets to know the different nationalities and passengers meet on the same tables in the restaurants and get to know one another. The itinerary mentions equator and dateline crossings, which hides the fact of many days at sea and which are not really destinations but at least the King Neptune party breaks up the days at sea. Pitcairn was not a destination but was truthfully advertised as a cruise past and islanders came on board to sell honey, souvenirs and stamps and one could meet relatives of the mutineer Fletcher Christian. But what nearly led to mutiny amongst the passengers was the disaster of not getting off the ship at the mysterious Easter Islands. This led to far too many days at sea between Lima and Papeete (Tahiti). One must assume many bookings on this Pacific Princess world cruise were due to the magic that Easter Island evokes. But it is a fact that only one in four ships can berth due to swell (Source: National Geographic) and had that fact been made available in the Princess literature, then passengers would have been more understanding of the possibility of disappointment. A suggestion would be to nominate an alternative, like Bora Bora to break the many sea days. Those of us craning our necks to see the Moais (stone statues) of Easter Island at the railings on deck 9 also missed the commentary from the bridge, which apparently pointed out the locations and names of the various platforms (Ahus). As compensation the ship steamed around the island. There must have been communication problems with the outside speakers close to the railings. And to add salt to the wounds we all missed out on the Tapati Rapa Nui festival, which lasts for 14 days on the island at the beginning of February when we were there. If one does not mind non-working air-conditioning and older busses, then independent travel can make the excursion costs drop by half compared to what Princess charges and shuttle busses from Princess from the ship sometimes drop passengers off nowhere near tourist bureaus, where further excursions can be booked. The entertainment on Pacific Princess was commendable, the library well-stocked, the staff courteous and helpful, cooking and dancing classes, trivia challenges, films, lectures by experts, like the talk about the Concorde by a retired Concorde pilot Captain Les Evans filled the sea days. Every interest is catered for and Christian and Jewish mass is conducted. The food was simply overwhelming in its variety, especially during Sunday brunch at sea. Prepared by internationally well-known chefs the food included all known sea foods plus escargot, pheasant, etc. and international themes ensured every nationality did not have to miss out on their favourite foods. The patisserie section with its specialities like Sacher Torte and Linzer Torte was just too tempting. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2013
There is so much to say about a cruise of this length, being on the same ship, the positives like the itinerary, the food, the entertainment or the negatives - the wait in line at the embarkation process, missing some ports, excursions, ... Read More
There is so much to say about a cruise of this length, being on the same ship, the positives like the itinerary, the food, the entertainment or the negatives - the wait in line at the embarkation process, missing some ports, excursions, many delays and the integrity of some parts of the ship -- so a rather long review! My Grand Adventure begins: Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale embarkation was a mess, unlike any other we have experienced. The Captain was apologetic and tended to blame everyone but the ship. The port authorities relegated this ship to one of the least desirable piers and the delay was so bad, everybody was complaining for days after sailing. No shade, no creature comforts like water or towels until guests had been standing for 2 hours in the sun. Cabin: C103 forward, Starboard side one from the bow: This cruise was booked out some 2 years before sailing and this cabin was one of the last choices at the time for all three sectors. I couldn't find too much information about this cabin anywhere even on Cruise Critic. So I will give a thorough description for future reference. Size: Normal interior size no bonus space. Layout: Same as all other balcony cabins, lacks decent wardrobe space for extended cruising, cupboard space half that of other ships we have been on. Brought my own plastic hangers to double up. Good sized mini fridge with soda and water to buy. Cramped writing desk, as both chairs were located in that area. Balcony: Larger than Baja or Aloha, room to move around with footrests, reclining seats and one of the best features on this deck. Overlooks the mini suites below but C103 had no neighbours above only crew quarters - more on that later. The usual rubber matting has been removed on all balconies leaving the water to slosh around when wet. The bridge is above, indirectly adjacent cutting out some sunlight and direct forward views but otherwise OK. The wind whistled and blew more this far forward on some days. Bathroom: A bit more space in the shower than other ships to alleviate the risk of falling out through the shower curtain to pick something up! Bought my own cheap plastic baskets to use underneath the vanity. This space is difficult to use, as the bottom shelf is too far back to reach down in comfort - a bad design fault. Had a few loud gurgling noises in the shower drain but it wasn't everyday. LCD TV: this is much better viewing than the old box type. It took quite a few days to get Scan on the screen to see where we were etc. A few random days of dodgy satellite reception both in calm or rough conditions which also affected BBC, FOX etc Internet: Depending on your onboard status and if you can afford it, there is useable Internet in the cabin with your own device. Routers are along the corridor but even that was useless and appalling on some days throughout the 49 days. People were sitting in the corridor just to see if logging on was better. There were lots of Elite and Platinum passengers and with each having a truck load of free time, some days were congested for Satellite use. Too bad if you had value added or had a prepaid plan -- very agonising! Noise: Gripe one - Most annoying neighbours ever-on one side -- thumping around, slamming drawers all throughout the voyage. Should have politely asked them to be more considerate but didn't have the courage! Gripe two -- Didn't find out until three quarters through the voyage that even though no passengers above, there are crew quarters. Spoke to Pursers desk, they couldn't find the solution. Went up one deck to see for ourselves and yes, two crew cabins, and one directly over us. Early morning, midnight thumping and dropping things suddenly got a lot better once we told the Purser's Desk about our sleuthing work. Gripe three: C103 is one cabin from the bow and we knew that we would get some noise or rolling motion in swells. What we hadn't expected was the shudders heard and felt starting at the feet up through the legs during a cross swell - a huge bang each time. Positives: quiet corridor area except for the whistling noise from the adjacent crew door (plus some paint smells). In the fire drill we were sent down that way to the Theatre. The laundry is about 12 cabins away, stairs half dozen or so and easier then making the long trek from the middle of the ship. The Grand only has stairs at either end of the ship -- no middle stairs only elevators. Loved the extra space on the balcony. Conclusion: If you are desperate for an Itinerary and this cabin is the only one left -- go for it. If you have a choice and want a bit of levity, more stability or a quieter cabin -- pick something else. True, you can't choose your neighbours but a cabin you can -- for us, never again on this ship. Shows, Entertainment, Food: Food: Apart from one meal in Da Vinci (nothing special) we dined entirely at Horizon Court and the incredible International Cafe. We did not tire of the self-serve effort and to be honest; the food was the best quality with so many choices of hot and cold items. One of the good features of this ship is the ability to have a Panini, soup, sweet dessert or decent espresso 24/7 or a good little continental breakfast in the morning at the Cafe! The only problem was, it's so popular there is not enough table and chairs! Entertainment/Shows: Did not go to one show with the Showtime dancers etc. Saw a violinist, and a Brazilian troupe in the theatre and the rest we watched in the Atrium and the bars. Thought the Tango duo were great (on the ship until last) and a Tango Quartet (best entertainment for us) and one or two excellent piano players. Bingo was run well, the Casino should have more non- smoking days (seemed to have them on Formal nights only. Topside deck parties seemed to be about the crew dancing all over the pool area rather than getting the passengers involved. Nearing the colder areas, it was not possible to have many open deck activities anyway. Itinerary, Ports, Tours, Ship, Crew, Delays: Itinerary: One word -- fabulous - except for the last leg in the final week of the cruise. Not enough ports, too many sea days. Tours: With the exception of one tour being below standard due to a late arrival in Port (reimbursed - small percentage) and another major tour dropped because of possible airport delays, we found the tours to be of a high standard - Coquimbo and Lima stood out the most for us. Be sure to book early online once available, you can cancel most with no charge and you can save some angst and wait time at the tour desk. There was a never-ending line and waitlist for 99% of tours on offer. Ports: Two huge disappointments - not unusual - missed the Falklands (Malvinas) due to tender conditions as well as Nicaragua. Otherwise the selected ports were great. Even got into Buenos Aires and Ushuaia without too many hassles due politics (that we heard about). Exception - once our tour to Quito was cancelled for airport reasons, Manta was a 14 hr wasted day with little to do. We were there to wait for passengers on tours to Machu Picchu or the Galapagos. Ship: It's an older ship, refurbished in the Atrium area, not in the cabins except LCD TV, the ship design is for some, a bit of pain with no stairs in the middle, the integrity of the pool area was awful at times. Many leaks from somewhere meant sloshing through soaked carpets inside Aloha deck on Starboard and many other leaks around the interior corridors. The smell was what you would expect wet carpet to be even though there were fans blowing it dry. Many times we had to walk gingerly across the pool deck to get to Horizon Court. No wonder the Grand was used for a cruise of this length! Crew: For the most part all crew were polite, courteous and helpful in some tougher situations. Had a change of cabin steward during the cruise and the difference was significant. Purser's desk exceptional but it's the Showtime dancers & singers, casino and some concession staff that were the most inconsiderate. On trips ashore that needed a shuttle off the pier, these folk ignored some passengers with infirmities and did not give up their seat. They were also first off the shuttle with little regard and treated their employment as their own personal vacation. Call me old fashioned but courtesy and kindness is valid anywhere. The most well mannered staff along with the hospitality guys were the 'below decks crew' that are never seen from day to day. Delays: Late out of many ports for one reason or another with some like Fort Lauderdale and Buenos Aires quite significantly delayed. All care, no responsibility by the Bridge but some did affect the quality time in the next port. Finally: Thanks for staying the course with this review. It was a long cruise with a lot to comment on. Hope it helps in some way next time you cruise the Grand. There are some negatives but overall this was an exceptional cruise both in length and itinerary. Happy Cruising! Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2012
Review -- 2012 World Cruise -- Sun Princess -- 16th May 2012 -- 29th August 2012 -- 104 nights This review represents our experience before, during and after our cruise. It does not reflect the views of others who were on the cruise ... Read More
Review -- 2012 World Cruise -- Sun Princess -- 16th May 2012 -- 29th August 2012 -- 104 nights This review represents our experience before, during and after our cruise. It does not reflect the views of others who were on the cruise with us. I have tried to be as objective as possible, although there were things I was so excited about that I may have been over generous with in my assessment. Similarly there may have been things that really irked me, where I may have been overly harsh in my assessment. Hey that's what reviews are about huh. The purpose of the review is not to sway the thoughts of others, but to give us an accurate assessment of the cruise, based upon our experience, to enable us to reflect upon, as we look back on the holiday at a later date. Our over-riding ethos on this journey was that we would not allow anyone or anything to spoil our holiday. We were on the dream holiday of a lifetime, and so it would be, from the day we left until the day we got back. There were some days, and some people who would challenge this ethos on occasion, but it did hold true, and we are so pleased that our positive frame of mind enabled us to extract the maximum enjoyment from this holiday. Pre-Cruise Agent We booked through an online agent based in Queensland. We found them to be efficient, courteous and professional in every way. At the time of booking they had second cheapest price on offer, after we sought quotes from over 20 agents around Australia. We elected not to go with the agent that had quoted the lowest price as we had used them before, and we had found them wanting in both service and professionalism. We were more than happy and we would book with them again, with confidence. The Booking We will never-ever-ever-ever pre-book a cruise again. We booked a low inside cabin 14 months ahead of the cruise. The list price for the cabin was $21k, but nobody ever pays that. Once final payments were completed in February 2012, we watched the price of the inside cabin drop from $19k to $14k to $11k to $9k over the period of about 8 weeks. Now we all understand Marketing101, and how supply and demand works and how the price of a product will be reduced if you want to clear your unwanted stock -- in this case empty cabins, and good luck to the folk who got a 104 night World Cruise for $8.7K, they were rewarded for their last minute purchase with a very cheap cabin. What really stung many people, and irrevocably damaged the relationship that Princess Cruises had with many past loyal passengers was that they rubbed salt into a very open wound by giving upgrades to the people who only paid half price. So the very clear message that we got from Princess Cruises was (a) If you book ahead you will pay a premium, (b) we will save our free upgrades for the late bookers, and therefore (c) we do not value your loyalty like we say we do, it is effectively lip service. This subject was really hot around the ship for the first 3 or 4 weeks, it dominated conversations, and Princess did a lot of damage by their actions. Cruise Critic members had by and large accepted and got over it before we boarded, as there was quite some discussion on the boards about it before we left, but it re-ignited on board once it was discovered that cabin upgrades were denied to full price Captain Circle payers and given to the half price payers. So from this day forward we will not book a cruise until final payments are in, and the last minute prices are on offer, it may mean that there will be an occasional cruise booked out, but now that we have done the 'holy grail' of cruises, it does not seem so important . Princess have made a rod for their own back, and I will be comfortable to play by the rules they have put in place:) Communications We spent quite a bit of time debating what our approach would be with communications, both, back to back home, and with each other when we were separated. So what worked and what didn't? Blog: Obviously the blog updates on a daily basis kept interested family and friends in the loop about where we were and how things were going. I did wonder if I would have the commitment to do the blog for the whole cruise, but once I got started, it actually became an enjoyable exercise each day. I had not intended to do daily updates, but they seemed to just roll that way at the start, and I kept them going, although there were some that were a day or two late in publishing for various reasons. I put a link to the blog on both Donna's and my Facebook page each update, so keeping family and friends updated was achieved successfully. Internet & Email: Due to the Internet being reliant upon the ship's satellite, connection can be very problematic, so we used our Facebook for keeping up with what was happening at home. Real time contact was able to be achieved using Skype to Skype calls, but that was reliant upon folks at home being online, which did not happen a lot due to time differences. As well as using the Bigpond email, I setup a Gmail account, which was a good back up as there were times when Bigpond was Bigdud. We were able to send and receive emails throughout most of the trip, but only text as videos and photos were just too time consuming, and ship Internet minutes are very expensive (although we did have a good free allocations) Telephone: We elected not to get a travel-sim or similar, as we had seen crook reviews (which were confirmed by the experiences of friends on this cruise). We elected to have a few different approaches. (a) We would buy a local phone-card in port that can be used in a public phone in port. We did this only once, in Singapore, because it became awkward to find either the card, or the public phones to take them, or be able to understand how to use them. (b) We took a couple of Nokias with us so that we could buy a local SIM in port and use that to call home - never happened, usually because we were unable to convey to the shopkeepers, in their language, what it was that we actually wanted to buy (c) Use our iPhones using International roaming. Did not work for the few weeks because incompetent Telstra did not do what they had said they did (Thanks again Katherine for fixing for us). Once working, it worked best, although bloody expensive. (d) We should have tried Skype to Mobile calls earlier on in the holiday, as it worked really well, and was relatively cheap, but reliant on an Internet connection. Currency Again what to do with currency, decisions, decisions, decisions... cash or travellers cheques or credit card or travel card, and if so, which one??? We were guided in the main by the experiences of previous world cruisers, who were kind enough to share what their approaches were, and what worked and did not work for them. We went cash. Simple, easy, always available and flexible in the main. So prior to leaving we exchanged AUD$1,000 into US Dollars. Another AUD$1,000 into Euro. AUD$250 into British Pounds, and AUD$250 into Singapore Dollars. We also took AUD$2,500 cash with us. So at the start of the cruise we had $5,000 in the cabin safe. Now I am aware of stories about cabin safes not always being so safe, but you go with what your comfortable with. The logic of the cash approach was that in the main we usually only take ashore the equivalent of about $100. That is usually enough to buy snacks, drink, transportation and small souvenirs in the one day we have in a port. We would use the credit card for larger value purchases. The US Dollar is widely accepted, and the Euro cash would cover all the European ports. There were quite a few ports where only the local currency was accepted in taxi, or shop, or stall, and as we knew which ones they were in advance we would just convert $100 into what ever the local currency was as soon as we got off the ship. Cash offered the flexibility and convenience that is important when you only have one day in a port, as it was all about maximising our time ashore. There were only 2 out of the 39 ports where we needed local currency, and there was not a currency exchange on tap as we got off the ship, so we just used the ATM, which does have pricey exchange and transactions fees, but it was only a couple of times, so small fry in the scheme of things. If we were to do a similar trip again, we would use 28 degree MasterCard, no fees, no currency conversion charges etc etc. On board friends did tell us about this card before we left, and we saw the value of it afterwards. On Board Cabin We had E328 on Emerald Deck 6. We usually book an inside cabin up top on deck 11 or 12, and have always enjoyed them. On our last cruise we decided we wanted to try a lower deck cabin. Probably not a good idea to be trying something new for a 104 night cruise huh :) We were absolutely delighted with our cabin, it fitted with our on board lifestyle perfectly. We usually only go top deck for a swim and spa once a day, most of our on board life is lower where the theatres, lounges, bars are, as this is where all the activities and our main dining is. When we looked at the deck plan and saw that our cabin was under the Wheelhouse Bar, and directly under the band, we thought oh-oh, but it was not a worry. We occasionally heard the soft muffled tones of the band when we went to bed early, but it certainly did not inconvenience us at all. Because the cabin was located low on deck 6, the movement of the ship was not an issue for us. As there are only a small number of cabins on Emerald deck, it was only very rare did we not have use of the laundry whenever we wanted it. It is a quiet deck, with very little foot traffic, again as there are so few cabins. So the low inside cabin worked a treat for us. Staff The staff on board are in the main, friendly, professional and very helpful. Our cabin steward, Marvie, was just the best. We had him for most of the whole journey, from Singapore onwards, and he looked after us so well. The dinner waiters that we had from Sydney to New York, Eduardo and Edgar were fantastic, so attentive, and never once during that whole time was there any issue with our meals. Their replacements from New York onwards got off to a shaky start, with dinner orders mucked up for the first few nights, but they settled down and did a serviceable job. The Captain for the whole cruise was Andrew Froude. He is a good captain, kept passengers informed each day on location and progress, with clear announcements with a touch of humour. Above all, he was professional, and we always felt that there was a safe pair of hands managing the ship. When things were happening that passengers needed to know, he made timely announcements and informed everyone the whats , whys and whens. From port cancellations to helicopter medical evacuations it was the Captains voice that you heard, and I am sure most passengers appreciated that. We had two Cruise Directors over the journey. Tim Donovan was Cruise Director for most of the first half of the cruise. He was a nice enough chap, but I found it hard to 'connect' with him, his communication style was a little too self absorbed for me. He had to leave the ship due to an injury, and was replaced by his Deputy, Dave Webster. Initially Dave was like a 'mini Tim', and it did not seem to suit him, but over the next few weeks he was much more relaxed, became more engaging, connected with the passengers. The Cruise Directors staff, who ran most of the activities around the ship were all friendly and engaging, some more than others, but they were all nice folk who did a good job. Jen (whole cruise) and Paul (first half) were two that really stood out in terms of their engagement with passengers, and were very popular. The Pursers Desk staff were friendly, bar an odd exception, and were able to service our few needs. We are low maintenance passengers, so we don't need to go to the Pursers Desk very often. The Captains Circle Host, Bernadette is in the wrong job, she is better suited to a job that does not have contact with customers. She is unwelcoming, rude and aloof. The Tour office staff were friendly and pleasant, however many folk took issue with miss-information, or lack of information, that conspired to get you to use Princess transportation at inflated prices. A classic example was the Barcelona shuttle. We were told that it was a 20 min drive into town. So as we waited in the queue for buses that had not arrived at the terminal yet, we were told by friends walking past that it was an easy 20 min walk into town, and sure enough it was. When we got back to the terminal at the end of the day there was no end of cranky people venting their spleen. As regular blog readers would know, I had cause to visit the Medical Centre a number of times. I always found them to be courteous, and professional. It is comforting to know that when your are out in the middle of vast oceans, that there is a quality medical attention at your fingertips. Yes it is expensive, and some folk go crook about the cost, but it is not government sponsored or subsidised health care, and it is not surprising that it is expensive. The travel insurance motto holds true -- if you cant afford travel insurance, you cant afford to travel. The travel insurance claim ($1800) was processed and paid very promptly (we used RACV). The professionalism shown by the Sun Princess crew, combined with the skill of the US Coast Guard in the medical evacuation of two passengers was first rate, and worthy of special mention. Food One thing that constantly amazes me is how cruise ships are able to produce mass meals and maintain quality. So it was again on this cruise, the meals in the main are just fine. I am not a food critic, but all I want is for meals that are fresh, tasty and hot, and in the main, that is what I got. I much prefer dining in the Regency Dining Room, not just for service, but the ambience, and there is some modicum of portion control :) I dont find the Horizon Court dining to my personal liking as it is a noisy place, people are pushy, rude and display rather unhygienic food handling practices. I also dont like hot food out of a bain-marie, never have, on land or sea, as it is just not hot enough for me. Having said that when we wanted something quick, or wanted to catch up with folk, that is where we went. The pizzas are still as good as ever, the pasties up on Terrace Grill are to die for, and we would be guilty of the odd visit to the Ice Cream kiosk :) Entertainment Mmmm, now I come to probably the only item that consistently disappointed over the journey. I dont know if Princess have adopted a new approach to their entertainers criteria, but they had quite a few on this cruise that you would not feed. There were some great individual entertainers, who were very very good, but they were in the minority. There was many a night when there was no entertainment at all on in the Princess Theatre, sometimes they would run a movie as a filler. I am sure many of the entertainers did not find out the demographics of the audience prior to their shows as they just missed the mark completely. We had teenage toilet block humour, American gags using American characters on a predominately Australian/New Zealander audience fall flat. Jugglers and other one trick ponies that padded out a 45 minute show with inane profanities. We had three comedians who were quite good, interestingly they were the only ones who did not resort to swearing and cursing in their jokes. What is it with some of these comedians, is there some unwritten rule that you must say f**k at least three times in your show?? The Sun Princess band were quite good, and they 'saved' quite a few shows where the individual performers were clearly has beens, or never would bes. I have often raved to my non-cruising friends about how good the production shows on cruise ships are. Well not this cruise I'm afraid, We had two troupes for our productions shows. The first troupe from Sydney to New York were so disappointing. Their shows were amateurish productions performed by singers and dancers who were just going through the motions. Not having sets on stage did not help them put together a single show that was top rate. All hopes were on the new troupe that joined in New York. The standard of the shows had a marked improvement, and we actually had stage sets used. The singers and dancers did have more energy and professionalism than the first troupe, although still not up to the usual Princess standard, they were fine I thought. The house band , Derringer, were very good. They were on board for the whole cruise, and maintained a consistently good performance all the way round. They were used on deck for the sailaways, and at night for dancing in the Wheelhouse Bar. Here was an example of a band that looked the demographics of the passengers, and played music that appealed to the majority. They really engaged with the passenger group very well, and were enjoyed by everyone I think. David Crathorne held court on the piano in the Atrium each evening, and had a good following throughout the whole cruise, so that is an endorsement in itself. He also co-ordinated the passenger choir , which was really really good. There were various instrumentalists playing the pre dinner music in the Atrium, and they were all very good. There was a pretty good stable of movies being played on deck, in theatres, or looped on the TV, and there were some very good documentaries played , that were topical to the particular region that we were sailing in at the time. The Movies Under the Stars is a great innovation, and a marvellous piece of technology. However, it should used for exactly that...under the stars. During the day they play nice relaxing videos, with soft relaxing music, that fits in nicely with the ambience of the pool deck, with folks relaxing in the sun, reading swimming etc. Then for some reason , mid afternoon, they completely wreck the ambience by playing movies, or concerts at full blast. It is as if there is someone in charge who has been trained by Bastards Incorporated who has determined that passengers relaxing on pool deck, drinking from the bar and generally doing all the things that the pool deck is designed for, is a bad thing. So we will blast those bastard passengers outa there, send them back to their cabins, stop them spending their money at our bar. To rub salt in, they play often kids/cartoon movies..now guess how many kids are doing the World Cruise? There were no shortage of activities, arranged, and adhoc across the ship. Trivia always had a big following, with the Vista Lounge very full for the morning session, and there was also an afternoon session for the diehards who competed in a sector competition. Bingo had a full house on the final jackpot session of each sector, but it was almost empty on the lead up days. I think the great challenge of a 104 day cruise is to have enough variety of activities and I think Princess do have a lot set up, but we humans are always looking for something new and fresh, and that is always going to be a tough ask over such a long cruise. Ship I like the Sun Princess. It is a mid sized ship, so the passenger numbers are around 1900, which makes for a busy ship, but I never had a problem finding a quiet spot to myself when I wanted it. I think it is a well maintained ship, yeah it does have it signs of wear and tear about, which are the subject of continual maintenance. The paintbrush is always out and about trying to keep it looking fresh. Given the ships age (1995) and given that it is has been at sea almost every day since its launch (barring refits) the ship is in remarkably good nick, and I would have absolutely no hesitation in jumping back on again today -- it is still a very fine ship. Itinerary Sensational, simply sensational. 28 countries, 39 ports (was to be 40, but we could not tender at Mykonos). The itinerary was the great attraction of this World Cruise, as unlike some other 'world cruises' it did do a full lap of the globe. It will be impossible to select a 'best port' and I am not going to even try, as there were so many fantastic locations. For both Donna and I every port we visited after we left Penang was new to us, we had never been to any of them, so every port was a new adventure, a new culture to absorb, a new treasure to witness. Clearly there were some real stand out individual items, like the Pyramids, the Lost City of Petra (for Donna), Suez Canal, Anzac Cove, the moonlit gondola ride in Venice, St Peters Square, Pantheon, Colosseum, Acropolis, Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Times Square, Panama Canal etc etc Visiting so many cities was just a wonder. The 'big ticket' cities , Rome, Venice, Paris, Athens, London, New York all lived up to their reputations, but there were some real surprises in the list that we just took a real shine to, like Mumbai (yes truly), Istanbul, Dubrovnik amongst them. We had an overnight stay at Venice and New York, which was just fantastic. The decision to jump ship at LA and fly to Honolulu was a pearler, as we had just a great week there. The thing about cruising is that you dont get the time in each location to 'experience' them, you are usually only in port for one day, so with logistics, and transportation time, you get to see them fleetingly and then move on. So we now have a very long list of places that we will be returning to so that we can really 'experience' them. We feel so very very lucky and privileged to have seen all these places, which I am sure we would not have done, had it not been for the cruising format of travel. Weather and Seas We were just so fortunate with the weather. We did not experience any rain, land or sea, until we reached Paris, and then it was only patchy. Similarly in London, patchy rain. The only real 'wet' day that we experienced was our first day in New York, although the evening was clear, and the second day there was fine. As usual, Asia was warm, and slightly humid, but not uncomfortably so. Egypt was bloody hot, no two ways about it, the day at Valley of the Kings will be etched in our memory as it was 45C in the shade and 56C in the open. The European summer was what we had hoped for, warm fine days. After we left Dover, and headed north things cooled down considerably, as expected, with our day at Shetland Islands being the coldest of the cruise. Iceland was not the cold spot we expected, it was surprisingly warm and sunny, as was Halifax. Of course once we left New York and headed south towards the Caribbean the weather was stunning again, and stayed that way all the way home, so we were just so fortunate. The sea gods favoured us all the way around also, bar a few days as we transited the North Atlantic where it got a bit heavy and tossed the ship around a little, the seas were generally just as you would hope for from a cruising comfort perspective. Again, having the cabin on the lower deck made for a very comfortable ride, and we will probably always cruise down low now. Shore Excursions We did a mixture of Princess Tours, Independent Tours, and our own thing. We enjoyed them all, although if given our time over again we would have done more Independent, and less Princess. Not that there was anything wrong with the Princess Tours, they were all fine, but when you do Independent tours you are usually travelling with people whom you know, everyone gets back on the bus on time, and they were cheaper for the same and in may cases, better product. On Princess tours you were stuck with selfish couples who would hog the window seats by sitting apart, and therefore force other couples to sit apart -- this happened every single Princess tour, and on one occasion Donna and I were made to sit apart -- selfish bastards. At almost every stop there was someone who made the bus full of passengers wait, and if you have a lot of stops it gets a bit tedious. This was not Princess's fault, just the nature of the beast, human behaviour being what it is. This did not occur at all on the Independent tours that were organised by Cruise Critic colleagues. When we did our own thing, we usually caught the ships shuttle into town and went from there, and on a few occasions we shared rental cars with friends which were just great days. Cool Cruisers Most cruisers would know of a website called Cruise Critic. This website has some great information resources available to assist folk planning a future cruise. It also has forums where people exchange cruise related information. One of the boards on the forum is for what is called 'Roll Calls'. Folks who are going on a particular cruise look up the roll call relevant to their cruise, introduce themselves, and perhaps agree to meet up once on board. When we booked the cruise in January 2011, a roll call had not yet been started for this cruise, so I started one. Over the next 14 months the roll call grew and grew and grew, to the point where we had 140ish people starting the cruise in Sydney joined. There was another 40 or so who were joining at other sectors around the journey. We had collectively decided to call our group the Cool Cruisers. Some of us who live within striking distance of Brisbane caught up for a lovely pre-cruise lunch, organised by a fine gentleman in Ross Anderson. There was a similar pre-cruise catch up arranged by the lovely Marie Callum, for those who lived, or would be in Sydney a few days pre-cruise. The lovely Pam Ryan from Tuscon Arizona, was kind enough to organise our first meeting on board, which was just the best. We had the Shooting Stars nightclub packed out, with officers (including the Captain) attending. It was just an amazing afternoon meeting all these people who you had communicated with pre-cruise. This was the start of what would be an amazingly social and enjoyable cruise that would last close on 4 months. We met so many wonderful people at the catch ups, and lunches arranged by Pam, and later by Anne, and some close friendships have been struck. Some with folk who live in USA, some live in various parts of Australia and New Zealand, and some who live in the next suburb from us. We did tours with some of the Cool Cruisers, we dined with some, we drank with many, and we chatted with nearly all. It was such a wonderful thing to meet so many lovely people, and if I had to name the highlight of the whole holiday, it would be meeting and befriending such a fantastic group of men and women. Disembarkation No surprises with disembarkation from a process point of view. Given this was the end of an epic journey around the world I was expecting a little ra ra from Princess, Welcome Home thingo, but nope. Luggage Ahhh, the dilemma of luggage. Well as it turned out we did not exceed our flight allowance home. However, we took far too much to start with. We did need to cater for all weathers, and we did, but we took too much (although Donna will probably not agree ?) We had a flight allowance (Bris to Syd) of 4 x 23 kg cases, and we used every bit of it on the way home. Home again In summary -- UNREAL. It did not seem real that we were going on a World Cruise when we left home. It still did not seem real when we got on the ship in Sydney that it would be home for 14 weeks. It did not feel real that it was at an end when we came through Sydney Heads when we arrived back. It certainly did not seem real when we were back home , sitting in our lounge, sleeping in our bed and doing all those household things that we all do. We have had some catchups with friend who live in Qld since we have returned, and we really do feel so lucky to have met so many wonderful people. We are even travelling with some of them again on a Xmas Cruise on the Diamond Princess leaving in two weeks on the 14th Dec. Summary We had a marvellous time on a fine ship, with wonderful people, visiting sensational cities, seeing famous locations on the dream holiday of a lifetime. We travelled in comfort and style around the world. There was many a day when we just pinched ourselves, we felt so lucky and privileged to be doing what we were doing, being with who we were, and going where we did. It was a very special way to spend 14 weeks overseas. Having said that we probably would not do a full world cruise again. I think somewhere around the 10 week mark on a cruise would be our maximum in the future. We love sea days, but there were such a lot on the last third of the cruise, after we transited Panama Canal. There was just a few too many blocks of 4 and 5 sea days at a time, and whilst they are very relaxing days, it was a bit too much end on end for us. This is not a criticism, just a personal preference. The fact that all the ports after Penang were new to us, really added to the enjoyment of the whole cruise for us, as we always had a new location coming up. Our appetite has really been whetted now, and we have all these places that we want to return to, and spend time at, plus new ones that we have not been to. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
PRINCESS CRUISES DIAMOND PRINCESS When we booked our 35 day cruise, taking us some 13,000 miles from Auckland to Beijing with 16 stops in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China we wondered how Princess could meet ... Read More
PRINCESS CRUISES DIAMOND PRINCESS When we booked our 35 day cruise, taking us some 13,000 miles from Auckland to Beijing with 16 stops in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China we wondered how Princess could meet the standards we have experienced on Cunard and Holland America at a cost of only £140 per person per day on a magnificent ship and in a mini suite with one of the largest balconies imaginable. The answer is they can't and they make little pretence of trying to. That is not to say the cruise -- which we thoroughly enjoyed -- wasn't good value. But it's a distinctly downmarket product. One gets a sense of this with the first cup of coffee. The mugs in the Lido (or the Horizon Court as Princess calls it) are melamine, as are the plates. And the coffee is pretty much undrinkable. The food there is however, very good. Bland, of course, but varied and with simple things done well. I would rate their production of breakfast as highly as anything we've experienced at sea with first class eggs, excellent corned beef hash and lean English bacon alongside the crispy American variety. The Lido is really where Princess put most of their catering effort and, in their defence, they are responding to what customers want. Huge portions are the priority and day after day, meal after meal, we watched cruisers fill the enormous oval dinner plates with massive helpings. Not surprisingly, many of the cruisers were as massive as the portions they loaded onto their plates. But in the formal restaurant, things are disappointing. Formal dining may not last much longer on Princess. On the second, 8.15 sitting, we sat in a frequently half full restaurant where the service was very good but where the food was largely mediocre and sometimes simply poor. If only it had matched the quality of the prose on the menu. One night, between Hong Kong and Taiwan, the six of us ordered Rib Eye steaks which were huge in size but with so much gristle that not one of us would have paid for them in a restaurant. The beef was almost always lacking in flavour and the kitchen perpetually struggled to produce steaks or prime rib which met our requirements. One night, medium rare beef would be nearly blue and on another almost well done. Vegetables were sad, the soups inevitably uninspiring and everything was served with far too much salt. We drank so much water at dinner that we always left the table feeling bloated. There are good things about Diamond Princess. The ship is magnificent with six pools and eighteen bars and its size meant that it coped superbly with some unusually difficult weather including, at one point, 30-foot seas and a force ten gale. The staff are always well presented, always wonderfully welcoming, and we found the bar staff outstanding. The Crooners Bar produces Margaritas to die for. But the entertainment was generally very poor with puerile comedians and two Cruise Directors convinced that their job was all about presenting an imbecilic morning show on stateroom TV. Movies Under The Stars provided an exception. The picture quality was good, the sound quality excellent and this was a delightful way to watch the cinema late at night. The cabins are the usual high quality. We had D736 a mini suite but designed for disabled customers and with two beds which would not easily fit together. But by compensation we had a huge bathroom and a magnificent balcony of double the normal size and with views to the rear as well out to sea. We had just one cabin steward who had to cope with twenty rooms on his own and we soon realised that it was impossible for him to respond promptly or sometimes at all to additional requests. The customer base is a little different to our previous experiences on Cunard and Holland America. There was little formality and only a minority of men wore tuxedos on the half dozen formal nights. On the other nights smart casual really meant that anything goes, including shorts and lots of blue denim jeans worn by men who were old enough to know better. Baseball caps in the formal dining room were a common sight. So our verdict on Princess? Good value but this is an economy product. Nothing wrong with that. But if you have enjoyed the standards of lines like Cunard or HAL (even though they might cost more) you'll find Princess seriously lacking. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
This was our first cruise on Diamond Princess. We are veteran cruisers and chose this particular cruise for the itinerary it offered. The ship is especially well laid out and has elegant decor. It is well maintained and the staff is ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Diamond Princess. We are veteran cruisers and chose this particular cruise for the itinerary it offered. The ship is especially well laid out and has elegant decor. It is well maintained and the staff is very attentive. The Calypso Pool is an especially cheerful place - beautiful mosaics and dramatic lighting at night. The food was exceptionally good in all venues. We liked the flexibility of Anytime Dining. Cabin Great location - close to the atrium elevators. While Princess calls this a "fully obstructed view" many cruise lines would have called this a "partially obstructed view." We had a good view over the top of the lifeboat. (We could completely see the Sydney Opera House over the lifeboat.) I believe you would be able to see over the lifeboats from almost any of the cabins in this category on deck 8. We also had a small view down to the water, next to the lifeboat. The cabin felt fairly roomy for its size, probably because there was only an armchair, not a settee or sofa. There was a flatscreen TV, about 36", a refrigerator, vanity with 3 small drawers and a desk chair. There was one long closet, about 7' of hanging space, which felt underutilized because it didn't have any shelf space (other than the shelf above the rod in the closet) that some other ships have. The shelves were in a separate closet, about two feet wide, and the safe (which used a keypad entry) occupied one of the shelves. The bathroom was typical in size and had a shower curtain (not doors). We liked most of the ports. The towns of Airlie Beach, Port Douglas, and Darwin, Australia are somewhat similar. There is not a lot to do, especially in Airlie Beach, unless you want to go to the Barrier Reef, which we have already done in the past. Many shore excursions seemed overpriced. Taiwan was a disappointment. We took a shore excursion, but the guide's English skills were poor. The city itself seemed less prosperous than the other cities we visited. Busan, S. Korea was one of the prosperous cities. They have the second largest fish market in the world - really a sight to see! Busan goes out of its way to make cruise ships and passengers feel welcome. Shanghai was wonderful. We toured on our own without a problem. The metro is clean and easy to use, with signage in English. We rode the fastest train in the world, the maglev, from a metro station in Pudong to the airport and back just to experience it --well worth it. We shopped at an underground market at the Science and Technology Museum metro stop, then took the metro to the Bund. The buildings look like something you would expect in Brussels. The promenade along the river goes for many blocks and offers good views of both the Bund and Pudong with its world class skyscrapers and the Pearl Tower. In Dalian, China we took a shore excursion from the ship that featured a visit to the home of a local family. That was one of the highlights of the whole trip. The cruise ended in Tianjin, China, the port for Beijing, about a 2 1/2 - 3 hour bus ride to Beijing. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2012
This was our first world cruise, and certainly not our last. We are using the words "charmed" and "amazing" to describe our experience. Everything about it was wonderful. Princess treated us like royalty and added so ... Read More
This was our first world cruise, and certainly not our last. We are using the words "charmed" and "amazing" to describe our experience. Everything about it was wonderful. Princess treated us like royalty and added so many special touches to our experience. They celebrated every holiday and occasion with decorations, special foods, and much fanfare. After a long shore excursion, we were greeted on the pier by the chef, maitre d', and others with a hearty "welcome home" and a promise that they held dinner for us. The food was perfect; not so rich that you couldn't stand it after a week and never boring. The variety was amazing and always included local specialties. We were so lucky with our weather. Ports were fascinating and we mixed ship tours with cruise critic tours and solo adventures. We even had a world choir for which we practiced on sea days and performed for passengers one evening (2 shows)each segment. Entertainment was varied and very good. We packed perfectly and would share our experience with anyone. We also brought items that made our daily living more pleasurable and comfortable; a calendar for the wall, a world map which we hung and traced our course, and organizers for the bathroom door. We bought a closet extender in San Diego and it will be a permanent item to take on long cruises. This trip could not have been better! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2011
Ok, it wasn't quite perfect. Close but no cigar. From my viewpoint, the food was great. I had one bad meal (Duck-very tough) and that was it. All the desserts were great, the meals were very good to excellent. There was usually a ... Read More
Ok, it wasn't quite perfect. Close but no cigar. From my viewpoint, the food was great. I had one bad meal (Duck-very tough) and that was it. All the desserts were great, the meals were very good to excellent. There was usually a bit of a wait for 5:30 seating in the Non traditional dining room, but it went fast. A smile and a thank you went a long way with the Maitre D. He was a bit harassed. The ship was great too. Lots of places to go and relax or not. That's what I love about cruising, the choices are yours to make. Not sure I got my money's worth with the soda package, but it was fine. I didn't get the coffee package because I drink one cup of coffee in the morning and I'm not a gourmet about it. I most often got coffee from room service and had it on my balcony. The bed wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great. A bit hard for me, but not that bad. The Trident Grill was nothing to write home about nor was the Pizza parlor. The ports were fine, although I have no comparison, since this is my first trip to Hawaii. I loved the way they organized the departures for the excursions. It was really well done and absolutely no waiting on a dock to find out where you were going. You waited in the Princess Theater until your group was called, went to the disembarkation deck and got right on the bus or van. It was truly great. They do need more seating in the Princess Theater. I only got to see one show because there was no seating. The 10:30 was too late for me because I get up at 6 am, without an alarm clock. I'm not sure what I missed, but everyone said the shows were great. My only issue was my flight home. When I left, I was flying out on US Air 6344, but when I got to the airport, they said there was no such flight. Finally, I got on a 10:10 flight that took me to Philadelphia. Not my first choice, but at that point I didn't have any choice. I'd have liked to know about the change before I left the ship. I spent money trying to check-in on line. It was frustrating. Can I blame Princess for that snafu? I don't think so, but they should have let me know about the change. US Air's people were great. They helped me all the way along. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
Day 1 23rd Nov The Radisson was an excellent place to stay prior to a Manchester flight it cost '£89 thro Holiday extras, hotel for one night and APH parking for 28days a bargain. Easy check-in and walk straight into the terminal ... Read More
Day 1 23rd Nov The Radisson was an excellent place to stay prior to a Manchester flight it cost '£89 thro Holiday extras, hotel for one night and APH parking for 28days a bargain. Easy check-in and walk straight into the terminal undercover in two minutes Day 2 24th Nov. We flew with Singapore Airlines, Manchester to Singapore with a short stop for fuel and some more passengers in Munich. Excellent service and food, the seat back entertainment was exceptional over 50 films + comedy shows+games and TV programs on a 10inch screen. Easy on-line check-in 24hrs prior to flight. Day 3 25th Nov .The pick up from the airport was excellent a gent with a board with our name was there, he showed us where to wait whilst he went for his brand new black Mercedes and took us straight to The Traders Hotel, the room was small, as reports had said but was adequate and aircon was good, the pool was excellent, shopping in Orchard rd, shuttle bus to town and routes, we did [a groggy "Orchard Road"] The shops in this city are awesome [not cheap] and everywhere they have Chrissy decorations up, it all looks so good!! Spent some time by the hotel pool in the sun at lunchtime until it clouded over and p-----d down for an hour! Had a meal in Tanglin Mall [attached to the hotel] and bought some food and wine for the evening Day 4 26th Nov. Hippo Bus tour, got over the journey, now up at 7am, today we are doing the hop on hop off bus around all the tourist spots for a quick view of Singapore! This was an excellent way to see the sites in a very short time with a running commentary as to where you were and what to see. We booked this via Viator on the internet and paid '£11pp on the day it would be $S23 It takes 1hr to do each of the two routes, then you can choose where to go and get off at that stop, then rejoin the trip when ready. We had an exceptional meal on Clarke Quay whilst on the route and even though it rained we were under cover and had excellent service and views, had a take away in the room that night and crashed out. Day 5 27th Nov. Lounged in the hotel in the morning chatting to the friendly staff and other people who were going on the cruise, There was one thing to mention, the maid had put a Kitkat on our bill, so we spoke to her and she said we had taken it and that she found the wrapper in the bin! {WE DID NOT HAVE THE KITKAT] so reception removed the charge, as we left the Hotel the next day we noticed a Vodka and Tonic had also disappeared!! Make your own assumptions, then the Taxi to the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre to book in for Transfer to ship [only S$10], this was poorly organised we are Elite so we are supposed not to have to wait but wait we did, in a grotty hall on uncomfortable seats until a bus took us thro a massive container port about 25mins drive away to join the ship, we then booked into the ship had a meal and relaxed. We went for dinner 2nd sitting looking forward to meeting our new companions, they were a gentleman of approx 90yrs by himself and a family of 4 mum, dad and two boys one 9yrs and one 10yrs all from Auss. During the meal the 10yr old was unwell and mum went out with him twice on the 3rd occasion they came back he had the waste bin from the cabin with him! Within 5mins he was being sick in the bucket at the table!!! We resolved to move tables the following day. [And did!] We went to see the show and enjoyed the performance and went to bed! Day 6/1 28th Nov. Day at sea had breakfast on the balcony [room service Free] then decided to spend some time in the sun. It was partial cloud all day so we had a lazy day on deck but unfortunately got a little sunburn. The evening was formal night and Champagne fountain plus our new table [what will we get?] We also had a meet and greet with our friends in the Cruise Critic group at 11am to 12pm for drinks with the Captain, Cruise Director and staff which was good fun followed by another meeting some other good friends we had met on Facebook Rollcall and had had some Video chats with prior to the cruise at 6pm, this went on till Dinner at 8.15 and was an absolute brilliant party!! Then off to dinner at the new table, we couldn't have been more pleased we had a lovely lady from Sydney Sue, and her husband Max[who was Italian and was fluent in many languages] they where a joy to be with. Then another couple from Yorkshire turned up and the table was a delight, pleasant intelligent conversation with a bit of banter all night, then off to the show again till late, then bed. A thoroughly brilliant day!!! Day 7/2 29th Nov Ko Samui. Tendered to the shore for 9.15am which was poorly organised and time consuming then a mini-bus to Chaewang Beach, left to ourselves from 10am to 12am $29 each with Princess. The beach wasn't exceptional, many in the Caribbean and Med are much better, swam and enjoyed an expensive beer and returned on time. Had lunch with some people we had met in the Singapore hotel, it was to hot to sunbathe so we chilled out in the room with a few drinks. Went to dinner enjoyed a pleasant meal with good company then crashed out with a Baileys and brandy. Day 8/3 30th Nov. Bangkok/ Pattaya Took the FREE shuttle bus to Pattaya 45mins, what a brilliant place great shopping right on the beach [not sure about swimming though] spent most of the time spending money and choosing clothes great fun, Sandra bought a silk dress and I bought a pair of trousers. Shuttle back to the ship, crash out and relax with a drink!! Very happy with Pattaya went for dinner with our four companions Sue and Max, Sue and Allen, we have a great time with in depth conversations about just about anything, and we are always the last people out of the dining room. It's a relief to have such good company. Received our first laundry back today all properly cleaned and pressed and free!!! Day 9/4 1st Dec. Day at sea. Woke up this morning the sea is like a millpond not a cloud in the sky, we tried to buy some sunscreen yesterday on the ship but they only had factor 4!! Breakfast on the balcony Spent the day in the sun watched a Movie "Cowboys and Aliens" funny! A few drinks plenty of relaxing. Time for evening meal enjoyable as ever, then off to bed!! Day 10/5 2nd Dec. Vietnam. Decided the 2.5hr drive to Saigon would be to boring [which was confirmed later by people that went] so we took the free shuttle bus to a small town market 45mins away, what a treat, started at a decent supermarket then thought there must be more to see so we walked 2 blocks and found this huge 3 story local market with a food market next door, spent ages routing around clothes shoes belts everything you could think of, all genuine designer goods [not!] I bought an Armarniish belt! Ha Ha. Then off to the food market, OMG fish drying out in the dirt on the pavement, what a stink and flies everywhere, next the Veg. Market what a difference beautiful food everywhere the vendors were the classic ladies sitting amongst the produce sorting, cleaning, peeling and posing for photos, so friendly, indeed everybody was friendly, giggling as we tried to talk to them [apart from the occasional guy pushing sunglasses at you on the street]. A great morning out [except some poor cruisers didn't walk the block and missed all the local stuff, we told a few when we got back to the bus and they them went off to see the local market!] Bought a bottle of wine and twelve cans of coke and tonic with the rest of the Dongs and went back to the ship. Enjoyed the sun and the peace as most had gone to Saigon and we almost had the ship to ourselves! Excellent dinner, had a little argument with Sue who was a NHS worker supporting the strike! So I couldn't let that go and we had a ding dong [which I enjoyed but I don't think she did!] Day 11/6 3rd Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [ Chillin all day!!!] Dinner, atmosphere was ok all forgiven! Day 12/7 4th Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 13/8 5th Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 14/9 6th Dec. Bali Elephant Safari This was great fun, up early tender to the shore was 40mins and it poured down with rain, the people who got on first where on the open top of the tender and got totally soaked!!! Then a 1.5hr drive to Elephant park in the mountains of Bali. First we fed them then had a half hour+ ride on them thro the jungle, it poured down for 10mins, but they gave us capes for that and there where huge spiders all around us in the trees, then an Indonesian meal [not me normally!] but it was very enjoyable! Then an hours drive to a local market [just sold crap!] and back to the ship. A good day out and very enjoyable. Great meal that night and good company, we were late as usual. Day 15/10 Wednesday 7th Dec Day at sea Lovely hot day, too hot went to the room for a drink at 2pm and stayed till 3.30pm sunny on the balcony. Tonight is Captains Circle night so Formal and free drinks should be good!! Plenty of free drinks; the most cruised person was an Aussie who had done 1500 days at sea [over 4yrs at sea] now thats a lot!!! A good meal we don't bother with shows, so a walk around the decks and off to bed! Day 16/11 Thursday 8th Dec Day at sea Getting hotter as we reach the equator, Had to do Aussie customs today before Darwin tomorrow, all done by midday, sunbathe, but so hot, always above 30C we had to retreat to the spar for a break. Day 17/12 Friday 9th Dec Darwin 37C walked off the ship, passed the protected beach [protected from Box jellyfish] to a lift which took us 5 storeys up to the road into town. Walked into town and explored the shops, very pleasant, with lots of shops. Went to buy some wine in Woolworths, they wouldn't let us as we didn't have photo I.D. a friendly Aussie bought 3 bottles for us and we paid him [ace] Day 18/13 Saturday 10th Dec Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 19/14 Sunday 11th Dec Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 20/15 Monday 12th Dec Port Douglas, The Great Barrier Reef We where taken to the port by local tender to join the high speed catamaran for the journey to the Outer Barrier Reef [approx 90 mins] where the boat tied up to a pontoon above the reef, we were then given any equipment we needed [$5 for a latex stinger suit ref the Box jellyfish] and were then free to snorkel in the large protected area. The visibility was about 10 metres, there were plenty of fish large and small, We then had a semi-submersible ride around the reef for about 35mins, next we had a pleasant lunch on the pontoon or in the cat. We the returned to Port Douglas and due to time we where transferred straight back to the ship and missed Port Douglas itself [shame]. A long enjoyable day on a trip that has to be done. Day 21/16 Tuesday 13th Dec Airlie Beach, Daydream Island Resort, The Whitsunday Islands we arrived at 10am and had a right mix up with the tenders from the ship, it seems that they didn't have enough Auss customs officers to do both sides of the ship so we were delayed, we finally went to this beautiful island by cat arrived 12pm and watched the hotel staff feeding the fish on their living reef, it was very hot! We had a look around the 7 pools, it was now lunch time at the Fishbowl Restaurant after 30mins it started to rain slightly, we were sitting with a Scottish couple having a good natter and the wind suddenly changed direction. A mini Cyclone went straight thro the whole resort, smashing tables, glasses, chairs, and taking down a number of large trees, one landed on some sun beds crushed them and fell into the pool!!! It was one of those times when you say Wow! that could have been deadly. Luckily nobody was hurt and the sun came out and we enjoyed the rest off the day, 5pm to 7pm with low cost cocktails $3.99 in Skywalkers, "Rob Roy" was the best [Chivas Regal base] Day 22/17 Wednesday 14th Dec Day at sea This was a lovely day slightly cooler than all the others [we are heading south out of the tropics] still very sunny and warm, sunbathing and a few drinks, we then had a goodbye party with the Facebook crowd at 4pm, till 5pm and cocktails in Skywalkers [Cocktail was "Chairman of the Board", Bombay Sapphire base] next changed for the formal night and free drinks at the captains farewell party, superb beef wellington and great company till late. Day 23/18 Thursday 15th Dec Day at sea Last day of the cruise, weather changed as expected, a lot cooler 20C and cloudy, packing has to be sorted as they take the cases tonight after dinner [or before if you want] sort out all the admin. Day 24/19 Friday 16th Dec Sydney, The Sail into Sydney Harbour to Circular Quay was amazing with fantastic views of the city, the opera house and the bridge! Disembark and get a taxi to the hotel [ only $A15 The 4 Points Sheraton Hotel, This is a lovely hotel, check in was perfect, no effort, bags taken to room. The room was a harbour view with a large picture window overlooking Darling Harbour excellent! That morning we chose to buy a joint ticket to The Aquarium, The Wild Life Adventure and The Sydney Tower. The Aquarium was brilliant with lots of exotic sea creatures that you don't see in the northern hemisphere, The Wildlife Centre was just what we wanted, we stroked Kangaroos, saw a Duck-billed Platypus, a giant crocodile, a Wombat and best of all we cuddled a Koala. Next a short walk, to the Tower fabulous 360 views of Sydney. Finally an evening having a meal and a walk around Darling Harbour, this was amazing, Christmas Tree, Carol singers and buzzing with loads of people having a great time in all the bars, a great day all round. Day25 Saturday 17th Dec Sydney Today we had breakfast in a Restaurant on Darling Harbour, the weather was a little cloudy but warm. At lunch time we decided to take the ferry from the harbour to Manley Beach. This was so easy $13 return every 20 mins, about 30mins to get there, the weather was now brilliant and hot, we were surprised how beautiful the area was, lots of shops, a beautiful prom and a fantastic beach, loads of surfers, people having barbecues on the beach, a market, lots and lots of things going on everywhere! That night we went back to harbourside and had a meal, It was Saturday night and was all set up for a fireworks display so we went back to the hotel to watch from our grandstand view room. It was a brilliant display especially with some chocolate and a bottle of wine. Prior to this we had to call our pick-up for the airport the following day to confirm, when we did we couldn't get thro' so I asked the Concierge to help, he tried and said they were closed, however, he went onto the internet and looked up their web-site, got an out of hours number and confirmed our pick up with them [all without me asking him to do it] absolutely excellent service!!. We then needed to check in to Singapore Airlines and print our boarding cards, I went customer services at the hotel and asked about the printer and the girl on the desk offered to do the whole job for me!! I gave her the flight details and she sorted everything out and printed the boarding passes!!! Another example of fantastic service by the hotel staff. Day 26 Sunday 18th Dec Fly home, We had the morning at leisure as our flight wasn't until 4.15pm, so we strolled around the harbour, had breakfast and did some last minute shopping. We were picked up on time by a company called Sunbuses and taken to the airport. Dropped the bags off waited for the flight to Singapore on the Airbus 380 8hrs, then a 2hr wait in Singapore for a flight to Munich 12hrs, then stay in the plane for an hour whilst some passengers left and others joined and the wings were de-iced then a 2hr flight to Manchester. Day27 Monday 19th Dec collect car Arrive at Manchester call APH, they sent a bus to transfer us to the car park. The car was parked ready to collect then off to home 40mins Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
This was our third cruise on the Emerald, first being Venice/Greek Isles, second voyage. Nothing is like it was on the first cruise anymore. Princess continues to be the only line that does not take contagious/infectious control ... Read More
This was our third cruise on the Emerald, first being Venice/Greek Isles, second voyage. Nothing is like it was on the first cruise anymore. Princess continues to be the only line that does not take contagious/infectious control seriously, thus the blast of Norovirus on the ship. Granted, the staff worked diligently attempting to serve at the Horizon, but there is, on any day, such lack of control, food arrangement, and direction in Horizon, it is utter chaos. Anger and frustration on the part of passengers did not help.This is the only line we cruise that does not have someone at every door insisting on hand cleaner prior to entering any common areas. FOOD: The food was so poor, we stuck to mostly fruit, salad bar vegetables; grain bread and butter, wherever it was hidden. It appeared more people opted for Anytime dining, and lines were staggeringly long waiting to get inside. Service was very slow, and no one ever came back to ask if your meal was OK. Thus, we ate at the Horizon, among dirty plates and no service for even water.Getting past the poor selections, tough meats, uncooked fish, and service, the biggest problem - and one most anyone over 55 hopes not to experience - was the inedible varieties of foods overwhelmed with salt. Everything had far too much salt in it to taste like anything but salt.CROWDS: The ship sleeps more than 3000 people; but there just is not enough room in the common areas, the lounges, nor in the theatre when everyone is out and about. To see a show, you needed to be in a seat an hour prior.Since the ship is so large, you can only get into cargo ports - away from the towns. Shuttles were provided, at a cost each way. Again, we often have shuttles on other lines, but they are provided as a "service" for free.BEDS: We knew the beds were not great from the first cruise, and made phone arrangements prior to cruising. Sadly, one bed tilted toward the floor; the other sank so deeply in the middle we asked for pillows (6) to fill the gap and sleep on. Minimal response from the ship. Our cabin steward was phenominal in assisting and continually apologizing for the situation. SMOKE: Hallways were reaking from smoke coming out of cabins. Why they don't designate one side of the ship for smoking makes one wonder. It is not possible to eliminate the odor of smoke by washing down a cabin "when needed".We were part of 290 CC's, with four M&G with invitations sent to the Captain, etc. We never saw the captain or co-captain; they (unlike other lines for CC) never served appetizers or drinks. Very disappointing as it was obvious we were part of the "masses" and not important as cruisers.PORTS: The TransAtlantic and ports were the best. The Baltic ports were crunched into short port times, and inability to see as much as desired. St. Petersburg was a delight. Can't say enough about our private tours booked through members of CC, and all the organizing that went into the M&G. The one tour we did with Shore Excursions was simply OK; as usual, huge busloads and wasted time getting on and off for a "photo op".This 27 day was chosen for the itinerary, not the ship. Those of us who enjoy much longer cruises, and know it is possible to have much more for your money than what we experienced will look elsewhere. For us, three times and we're out. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2011
Embarkation: We purchased Princess transfers and were told we'd be taken to the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney and shuttles would run from 11am to 4pm to the pier. That was not the case. We were taken to a dowdy downtown hotel ... Read More
Embarkation: We purchased Princess transfers and were told we'd be taken to the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney and shuttles would run from 11am to 4pm to the pier. That was not the case. We were taken to a dowdy downtown hotel and dumped into a room with not enough seating. We stood for 6 hours with no explanation as to why there were no shuttles nor when there would be any. We were told "soon." Had Princess been honest we would have taken a cab. Finally at 2:30 we were taken to the pier only to have to stand in a horrendous line for 1 1/2 hours. Not a good experience after an 18 hour flight from California. This ranks as one of the worst embarkation experiences in our 22 cruises. The Diamond Princess is one of the most beautiful ships we've ever seen. Standing on a deck in Sydney Harbor was awesome. We were thrilled to be in Sydney and on the Diamond. There was a CC Meet and Greet at Skywalkers and then no other CC activities for the duration of the trip. Since there were 127 CC members we were very disappointed that we weren't acknowledged or that anything else was organized for us. Our port side balcony cabin was nice although there wasn't as much storage as on other cruise lines. As on other ships the cabin steward - Chai - was very helpful and anxious to please. Unfortunately Princess has a smoking in stateroom policy and, as luck would have it, passengers across from us smoked non-stop and, it seemed, round the clock. Guest Relations would not do anything to help us. I repeatedly asked to be moved, was even willing to give up a balcony for an ocean view, but they refused saying the ship was sold out although I knew for a fact it was not. I suffered from a major sinus infection as a result and my illness went to deaf ears, even to Santa Clarita who obviously does not care about client retention. For a ship the size of the Diamond the fitness center is inadequate. I love riding the Exercycle in front of a floor to ceiling window overlooking the ocean. That is not the case on the Diamond. There were 3 bikes all facing a wall with weights in front. There was always at least a 30 minute wait for the cycle. The room was always uncomfortably hot. On other cruise ships there were jars of water with lemon or cucumber. No water was offered in the fitness center. The scale was in kilos so I couldn't keep track of weight gain. This cruise went from Sydney to Beijing and for some reason we always docked far from town and at container ports. Most of us were disappointed that we were always so far from town and had to rely on shuttles to get to town. Unfortunately the entertainment was mediocre at best. Since the theatre did not accommodate all the passengers each show was repeated. After the first couple of shows we didn't bother going to any more. As for the comedians who appeared in other venues on the ship, the jokes were very old and hadn't been particularly funny in their prime. During the first part of the cruise we had both an Elvis and a Rod Stewart. They appeared a few times during the first few days and then got off the ship. They were quite good and it was fun to watch them. There were 2 or 3 good movies. They should have had more since this was a 23 day cruise. Movies Under the Stars had a few movies and concerts but they should have offered much more. Dan Styne, the Cruise Director did a good job and there was a variety of activities. Zumba was offered on most sea days and was very popular. We even had horse racing on three days and had a wonderful time. At $3 a race that was a fun and reasonable activity. We are seasoned travelers and know how challenging it is to feed thousands of people. However, the food in the International Dining Room was not as good as it could have been. The meat, be it beef, pork or lamb, was always dry and overcooked, as was the fish. Luckily I could order gravy and tartar sauce to drown the food. The desserts were very bland. We had pavlovas one night and I used my knife to stab the meringue shell into pieces. It was that hard. The Horizon Court is very nicely laid out. It has the feel of a restaurant instead of a cafeteria as in most ships. Unfortunately the fare was repetitive and boring after the first few days. We enjoyed having fish and chips at the English Pub lunch which was offered quite often. There were a few different brews for sale, although at a high price. The tea at 3:30 every afternoon was very well presented with a nice variety of sandwiches and little cakes. Wine tasting was very reasonable - $9.50 - and the wines were all quite good. Our cruise was shortly after Yasi. Port Douglas was still experiencing bad weather. Nevertheless we still snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef. Although visibility was poor it still was a wonderful experience. The lunch provided by Quicksilver was wonderful. Because of our late return the ship sailed two hours late. We took the Elephant Park Safari in Bali. That was one of the high points of our cruise even though it took a couple of hours to get there in very heavy traffic. We were also late getting back and again the ship sailed 2 hours late. We were so glad that we took Princess excursions as the worst thing that could happen is waving to a ship sailing away. When we docked in Keelung, Taiwan, "bankers" boarded the ship to exchange currency. Sale was from 10:00-12:00, purchase of unused New Taiwan Dollars 3:00-5:00. That was a major disaster. As soon as we got off the ship it started pouring. We could see that the streets across from the pier were dirty, dingy and ugly. We immediately returned to the ship and asked to change the currency back. We were told that we had to wait until 3:00. Luckily I showed up at 2:30 as I knew the lines would be huge. A few people lined up at 3:30 and after waiting 1 1/2 hours, the bankers left at 5:00, leaving those passengers holding useless currency, not accepted anywhere else. There was such a huge uproar that a few days later the ship offered currency exchange services - at a fee, of course. So, my suggestion to everyone, do not exchange any more currency than you can put in coin collections if exchange is not available. Although I made sure that Express Checkout meant Express Checkout - that turned out not to be the case. A credit balance must be taken care of before disembarkation. This I found out as we were trying to exit the ship when bells clanged. Since it took an hour of waiting in line at Guest Relations to clear up the credit balance I asked for help in finding the Princess transfer. My request was refused. When we arrived in the terminal there were no Princess representatives nor any English speaking people and we couldn't find our Princess transfer to Beijing - 2 1/2 hours away! This was an unbelievably stressful situation which was resolved by a Chinese lady offering assistance. The bus was parked a distance away and we got there within 2 minutes of its leaving. I shudder to think what would have happened if the bus had left and we'd have to take a taxi with no Chinese money and no knowledge of the language. There again voicing concerns to Customer Relations in Santa Clarita fell to deaf ears. They really could care less. The Diamond crew did not enforce hand sanitizers and when we returned to the ship in many ports there were no sanitizers visible. Many people entered food areas and did not sanitize their hands nor were they encouraged to. I heard that two cabins had been quarantined so I told everyone I met to be sure to wash their hands often and to protect themselves and others. Pity the crew didn't think that was important advice. So, all in all, the Diamond Princess is a beautiful ship but this is not a ship I would recommend. Nor would I gave any points to Princess for Guest Relations or Customer Service or customer retention. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2010
We booked this cruise for 23 days, but Princess considered it two back to back cruises. That had its advantages and disadvantages. The first cruise, on the 18th of Sept, that went to Vigo Spain, Lisbon Portugal, La Rochelle France, and St. ... Read More
We booked this cruise for 23 days, but Princess considered it two back to back cruises. That had its advantages and disadvantages. The first cruise, on the 18th of Sept, that went to Vigo Spain, Lisbon Portugal, La Rochelle France, and St. Peters Port embarked with no problems. We had sailed on the Grand before, but still wanted to familiarize ourselves with the ship again before heading for the Horizon Court for lunch. It was like coming home. Later that day and all the next day I noticed that there was a long line at the purser's desk. I asked what that was about and was told that they were all cancelling their automatic gratuities. Talking with our room steward, he said that is a common occurrence when the ship leaves Southampton (the Grand's homeport). I just wonder how many people under-tip or don't tip at all. Anyway, the stops were great except for St. Peter's Port which was cancelled due to high winds. We encountered some strike problems (nothing violent) in La Rochelle, but the tours finally went on. One returning bus was delayed by the strikers and didn't get back until 2 hours after our scheduled departure. I expect the Captain wasn't very happy! On the 25th we departed for the crossing to Ft. Lauderdale...the second back to back cruise for us. Most of the Brits had disembarked and were replaced by primarily Americans and Canadians. We stayed on board to avoid the embarking crowds. I guess the embarking was a nightmare with down computers and too many people arriving at the terminal at the same time. The ports were the main reason we booked this cruise. We went to Bergen, Norway, Shetland Islands, Faroe Islands, two stops in Iceland (we swam in the thermal pools there!), and on to Sydney, Nova Scotia. It rains 300 days a year in Bergen, but not that day. The only rain we got was in Nova Scotia. INTERNET: Those of us who get free internet were told that we were supposed to get 500 minutes of internet, but in actuality, we only got 400 minutes and even that was a struggle as the system deleted any usable minutes when we started the second cruise and then deleted the entire account. We worked, without much success, with the manager of the Internet Cafe and the Captain's Circle manager, Lola. It was very frustrating, to say the least. DINING: We had traditional dining in the Botticelli dining room with some great table-mates. The service was impeccable, but I found that the food selections had gone downhill from the Princess cruise we took last summer and the eight others that we had taken in the past. As the Grand is usually home-ported in Southampton, maybe the menus changed to accommodate that clientele. Not sure. The food in the Horizon Court was good, but it is always a hassle to find a table. LOUNGES: Our favorite lounge was the Wheelhouse Bar. The place is quiet, intimate, and with great service. They also make great martinis! I just wish that they could have found more peanuts to put on the table. The Skywalker Lounge was a great place to read and just watch the water go by. It was quiet during the day and I understand it was even quiet at night on this trip. Every evening they served tapas and discounted drinks of the day to Platinum and Elite members. Loved that. STATEROOM: Our stateroom, this trip, was an inside one on the Baja Deck. It was perfectly adequate, but we had to ask for a blanket as just the sheet was too cold and the comforter was too warm. Edgar, our room steward, provided great service. ENTERTAINMENT: We passed on some of the entertainment. A couple of times the cruise director, Billy London, had to cancel performances due to the rocking of the ship and schedule something else. Most of the entertainment was adequate to good in my estimation. The ship is old and falling apart. The maintenance crews were busy, but nothing was down enough to inconvenience anybody. You can see lots of wear and tear which is why the ship is scheduled for a 6 week, $60 million dry dock this spring. The Captain stated that we will not recognize the ship when she comes back out. We are looking forward to the first trip out of dry dock. I believe it is scheduled to head back to Southampton on 5 May. NOTE: I noticed that there were more short-tempered passengers on this cruise than on others that we had taken. Spouses were at each other and even strangers were getting testy with other strangers. Most of the passengers were veteran cruisers so there was no explanation (or excuse) for it all. The "Walk-off's" had congregated in the Michelangelo Dining Room for debarkation. When they finally allowed the first group to depart one older man pushed his way to the door and someone pushed him. He came up swinging and apparently connected with the person who pushed him. The fight only lasted seconds, but seems to be typical of the temperament of the people all during the crossing. Maybe these people need to fly next time. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2010
Crown Princess Is Better Than Queen Mary! We departed Ft. Lauderdale on May 1, 2010 on Crown Princess for a 53-day cruise to ten countries arriving Southampton, UK on June 23rd. We boarded the Queen Mary 2 on June 25th for a 6-day crossing ... Read More
Crown Princess Is Better Than Queen Mary! We departed Ft. Lauderdale on May 1, 2010 on Crown Princess for a 53-day cruise to ten countries arriving Southampton, UK on June 23rd. We boarded the Queen Mary 2 on June 25th for a 6-day crossing to New York. Crown Princess is an excellent ship with great food, service, and entertainment. Our expectations were high that the Queen Mary 2 would be even better. We discovered Crown Princess is better than QM2!! Food: QM2 food was poor to fair. The maitre D confirmed one entree was an "inedible rubber fish". Also, Venison had no flavor nor texture. Side dishes were strange, e. g. guacamole filled twice-baked potato with re-fried beans. Food was rarely served at the right temperature - entrees were often cool; ice cream arrived half-melted. The QM2 menu was very small making it difficult to find something I wanted. Buffets served "cafeteria quality food" with extremely limited choices. I tried a cookie and almost broke my teeth. Food was consistently great/excellent on the Crown Princess. The menu was very large. Food was served at the right temperature and it had great flavor and texture. Compared to QM2's puny buffets, Crown Princess has huge buffets with lots of choices of freshly-prepared, delicious food! Princess also has well-stocked areas such as the International Cafe with lite fare meals, great snacks, deserts, and an excellent choice of flavored coffees. If you like frozen coffee, Princess serves about six flavors vs. one flavor on QM2. Likewise, there are four types of cookies, freshly baked throughout the day, on Princess vs. one type of cookie (baked weekly?) on Queen Mary. The QM2 buffet has "fake ice cream" from a machine. Princess has "real ice cream" and for $ 1.50 you can buy three scoops of delicious gelato. A passenger explained, "Of course food is better on Princess, but that's an unfair comparison. Princess has Italian chefs. They're passionate about food and world-renowned as the best. The priority on Princess is food taste/quality. Chefs offer freshly cooked food when passengers want it. Guess where the chefs are from on Queen Mary? They're Indians. Who ever heard of a world famous Indian chef? On QM2, the priority is cooking schedule. All food is prepared at once and much of it is frozen and reheated with a sauce poured on top. That's why entrees don't have natural juices, just toppings." At the cooking demonstration, the head Indian chef fried a steak and asked his assistant to taste it. The assistant answered, "I don't eat meat." OMG! The chefs don't taste food as a quality control measure. That's why my venison was tasteless with no texture. Food Service: Princess food service combines great service and having fun. Waiters are friendly and outgoing. They proudly announce which county they're from, engage passengers, and we become friends sharing stories and laughing together. Waiters are extremely attentive and personally committed to anticipate and immediately respond to passenger needs at the table. Queen Mary waiters are formal and reserved, limiting their conversation to "good afternoon". Waiters are not involved nor aware of passenger needs at the table. We had to ask, multiple times, for more water, coffee, bread, etc. Food would arrive and waiters didn't know who had ordered it - lots of mistakes and confusion. Queen Mary only had a few waiters (I think three) at the pub lunch. They couldn't keep up with orders nor bus tables. Princess has the number of waiters needed for quick, efficient service and busing of tables for pub lunch at the Wheelhouse Bar. Public Area Appearance, Cleanliness, Design, & Layout: Princess is beautiful. Queen Mary is both beautiful and elegant. Both ships have attractive, clean public areas. QM2 even has an automatic wash system to clean dining room windows at sea. Really slick! Design and layout of public areas on Crown Princess are excellent - thoughtful, practical, and good for mobility-challenged passengers. Facilities are organized logically and centralized at the Piazza with entertainment, the computer center, future cruise booking, lite fare food, a bar, a great coffee shop, wine tasting, deserts, etc. Public spaces are open with lots of seating so it never seems crowded even with 3200 passengers. Designers of the Queen Mary failed interior design school. Public area design ranges from impractical to just plain stupid. There is no central hub with access to everything. Facilities are scattered all over the ship. You would think this helter-skelter layout would reduce crowding, but the Queen Mary public areas feel crowded with no place to sit even though it has 700 fewer passengers than the Crown Princess. Bad layout on QM2 is further complicated by different ceiling heights. To achieve a "luxurious feel", designers used 20-foot high ceilings (two-decks) in some areas which connect to two 10-foot ceilings/decks. When you exit the main elevator, you see two sets of stairs. One goes up/down 20-feet, the other goes ten feet. Queen Mary has manually controlled, tiny wheelchair elevators to go a single-story. They're the width of a wheelchair and deep enough for the chair and a person to push it. I pushed a wheelchair into the elevator. We went up one-story and discovered the manual door was at the other end. I couldn't reach over the person in the chair and couldn't walk beside her to reach the door. A passenger saw our predicament and opened the door. Another problem ramp-type floor to adjust from a 2-story deck to the adjacent single-story decks. I found it difficult to push a wheelchair up the carpeted ramp. Queen Mary poses a problem for all passengers trying to find their way around the ship and a special problem for mobility-challenged. Design of the Crown Princess is better because it is simple and intuitive to find your way around the ship and it's handicap-friendly. Queen Mary has two theaters; both pose problems. The Royal theater has twelve pillars about a foot and a half in diameter that block the view to the stage. Passengers see empty seats from the aisle, walk past seated passengers to the empty seats to discover they can't see anything. Then, they get up, walk past seated passengers again to the aisle. One man started to shout to passengers entering the Royal theater, "You can't see anything from these seats, that's why they're empty". By comparison, Princess has an excellent theater design with no pillars and good viewing from all seats. Acoustics are also better in the Crown Princess theater. The second theater on Queen Mary is Illusions. It's also the planetarium. A dome in the ceiling is lowered about 10 feet over 150 red color seats. The seats recline by pushing a button, but many are broken so you have to standup, push it back and jump on it quickly to keep it in the reclined position. All lights are turned off so you can watch a 23-minute video projected on the dome. There are only two, 23-minute computer generated videos using NASA images. The video is slightly blurry. If you like this kind of video, tune your TV to the History channel. They have much better and clearer videos with more information and cover more subjects. QM2 "hypes" this as the "only planetarium at sea". Other cruise companies are smarter about how they spend money. "Movies under the stars" on Crown Princess is a much better offering that QM2's planetarium. Embarkation on Queen Mary 2 in Southampton UK vs. Crown Princess in Ft. Lauderdale: Embarkation on Crown Princess ship was efficient and fast. We arrived at 2:00 PM at QM2 to avoid the early boarding crowds while comfortably in time for the 4:30 PM deadline. The terminal was very crowded and lines were NOT moving. I asked a Cunard employee how long she thought it would take for me to get onto the ship. She said, "Princess Anne was here today and that delayed everything." I said "Ma'am, Princess Anne is not in this terminal, I'm just trying to get past the six couples in front of me to the check-in lady." She said the problem is that passengers don't have all their documents ready for check-in. I said, "Ma'am, I've timed the process. It takes 15-20 seconds for a passenger to hand documents to the check-in lady and she takes 9 minutes and 45 seconds to complete the check-in. I think there's something wrong with your systems or procedures. It's not like Cunard didn't know my wife and I were coming to board this ship today." After check-in, I was told I had to wait until number 15 was called and that I should sit down in the terminal which was dirty, hot, crowded and had no air conditioning. The reason was "the gangway is full". I said, "Ma,am I can see the gangway all the way to the top at the ship entrance and there are only a couple of people on it. Why can't I just walk up the gangway to the air conditioned ship?" She said the gangway is not designed to handle a lot of people. I said, "Ma,am there are only a dozen or so people on that gangway. Princess ships load 3200 passengers and I've seen continuous lines of people on the gangway." She said, "You're in the UK now and this is the way we do it." I sat down and waited till number 15 was called. There was NO line on the gangway nor at the entrance to the ship. Later, passengers told me the delay in boarding was to give photographers more time to photograph passengers. That's amazing; Princess photographers quickly take photos so as not to inconvenience passengers. Summary - Why Crown Princess Is a Better Cruise Experience than Queen Mary 2: For Princess, it's all about the passengers. Their ships are beautiful and well-designed with all the creature comforts, services, entertainment, etc. I may want. The entertainment, food, and services are truly exceptional. Our cruise experience on Crown Princess was excellent because their culture of employee commitment involves everyone in a relentless effort to improve customer satisfaction. For Cunard, it's all about their "regal", $ 800 million ship. They don't realize the interior ship design/layout is impractical because they're pre-occupied with hull design, powerful engines, and ability of QM2 to crash through huge waves at very high speed so all passengers can throw up in a storm. Fortunately, we didn't encounter a storm. Cunard believes passengers are privileged to travel on the Queen Mary and the ship is exempt from critique. They assume I don't know what great food and service are. Rather than involve employees in a continuous improvement program, Cunard allows employees to distance themselves from customer satisfaction creating an employee culture of excuses explaining away and diminishing passenger problems rather than improving service to fix them. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2010
This was our third Princess cruise, having previously visited the Baltic and Mediterranean. We looked upon it as a chance to see many Asian ports briefly and then decide to perhaps revisit one or more for a longer stay eventually. This was ... Read More
This was our third Princess cruise, having previously visited the Baltic and Mediterranean. We looked upon it as a chance to see many Asian ports briefly and then decide to perhaps revisit one or more for a longer stay eventually. This was a very good Asian sampler, especially with the addition of a Tokyo stopover on the way home. We arrived in Bangkok two days early and would really recommend another day as so many flights arrive near midnight after 20+ hours of flying. Nevertheless, we arranged a private tour through Oriental Express (highly recommended) to begin at 10 am. They picked us up at our hotel (there were 4 of us) and took us to see the Grand Palace, Jade Buddha, the Reclining Buddha, canals cruise (skip this, especially on a hot day!) and the Temple of Dawn, which is visited by boat and includes views of the other temples from the river. It's all very fascinating and beautiful. We also arranged for a "romantic" dinner cruise on the Loy Nava but I would not recommend it. It's an historic rice barge and very pretty but also not air-conditioned and the food was pretty mediocre. While in Bangkok for 2 nights we stayed at the Park Plaza, which was very nice, had free internet, a great breakfast buffet, and all at a very reasonable price. However, it was too far outside the city center. I would recommend staying some place near the river. Also, be advised that taxi drivers throughout Asia do NOT speak English! So have your hotel name printed up in the appropriate language (by the hotel) before arriving. Princess did not sell a port transfer if you were not part of their tour or were not arriving at the airport the day of the cruise, so we arranged transport through our hotel. It took about 1 1/2 hours but was on a Saturday -so allow plenty of time. As usual, we breezed through Princess check-in at approximately 1 pm. We were already pretty familiar with the Diamond after having sailed on the Ruby last year. The only major changes we noted were far fewer machines in the workout area. And, of course, price increases! Photography is so expensive ($25 for basically an enlarged snapshot) that we don't even get our picture taken if we can help it. I can't comment on the entertainment as those types of shows don't really interest me. I did hear that the acrobats were very good but we were not back at the ship in time to see them as it was a late afternoon show. The things we really enjoy onboard are the lectures before each port, high tea, reading on our balcony, and dining with our friends each evening. SINGAPORE is a great port to start with as it is very pretty, easy to navigate, and so clean with lots of green space. Since we were docked at a container port, we took the free shuttle into the city and then took a cab out to the National Orchid Garden. Taxis are VERY cheap. The Garden was interesting but not what I had envisioned. Of course it was very hot and humid so that may have made a difference. From there we headed to the Raffles Hotel for a famous Singapore Sling. The hotel was amazing and the drink was yucky and VERY expensive (I think $28 US). We split one and that was more than enough. But it's the idea - and the Long Bar was beautiful. The guys in our group had requested a ride on the Singapore Flyer, which may be the world's tallest ferris wheel. While not that excited at first, everyone loved the fantastic views from 40 stories up and I highly recommend it. This is one amazing city architecturally. HO CHI MINH CITY (Saigon) was just unbelievable! A crazy mishmash of motor scooters piled high with all kinds of unimaginable things, crazy "spaghetti" wiring everywhere, beautiful buildings next to hovels, women cooking on every sidewalk, and just so many people. It's something that you have to see once. Unfortunately the bus from the port is a 2+ hour ride so bring a book or a friend because you can only look at the scenery (amazing as it is) for so long. As someone who was around during the Vietnam War, it was incredible to see the Rex Hotel and the Reunification Palace - places that we heard about so much. We had an excellent lunch in the dining room of the Rex. Be sure to ask for the Vietnamese menu so you don't have to eat the Vietnamese version of a hamburger! I guarantee that you will be exhausted by the time you return to the ship, so build in time for a nap before dinner. NHA TRANG was really a relief after Ho Chi Minh City. It's a very pretty seaside resort area and most people enjoyed just walking around. My husband and a friend had a great day taking the cable car over to the Vinpearl Water Park. The lecturer did not discuss this as an option but they said it was easy to accomplish. You can clearly see it from the starboard side of the ship. HONG KONG was the reason my husband agreed to this trip and he loved every bit of it - as did we all. The only unfortunate part was the air quality which was partially pollution and partially the result of a terrible dust storm in China. It's still an amazingly beautiful place: 2 islands surrounded by water and with an endless shoreline of gorgeous buildings - all backed by mountains! We took an all day Princess tour which included a harbor cruise, visit to the famous Stanley Market where you can get incredible deals on silk, a trip on the funicular to the top of Victoria Peak for fantastic views - well they would have been if the air had been better. Still very pretty. Lunch was a 10 course affair on the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, a tourist trap for sure but the food was fine and it was quite a sight to see. We tended to drink beer at lunch as it gets tiring always drinking bottled water. Beer was very good in all the ports, especially 333 in Vietnam. That evening we ate an early dinner so that we would be ready for the famous harbor light show. The ship leaves the container port and sails right through Victoria Harbor during the light show. A lot of people head to the top of the ship but you could see everything very well if you had a starboard room. The lighting on the buildings is really incredible and it's a sight not to be missed. After the light show, the ship anchored in the harbor and from then on you had to take a 45 minute tender into Hong Kong Island. I think the speed limit in the harbor accounts for the time. The first tender left at about 9:30 pm and we were on it - along with all the young staff going out to party! My husband wanted to see the lights on Nathan Street on Kowloon Island so we set off to find a taxi that would take us through the tunnel to Kowloon. It was not easy (language was always a problem with taxis) but we got there and enjoyed seeing the crazy night life. The lights were fine but nothing spectacular despite what the lecturer said. The next morning we went back to Hong Kong Island just to walk around and check out all the alley markets. Start in the Queen's Road area and you will see hundreds of these tiny markets branching off down "alleyways". They are so marvelous just to look at - especially the foodstuffs. We ate at a local restaurant (we were the only foreigners) recommended by Frommers and it was wonderful - if somewhat hard to find. It's called Luk Yu Tea House. They are well known for their dim sum. I recommend eating upstairs in the more casual - and authentic - part. TAIPEI was really not a port I was looking forward to but it was very enjoyable. Once you take a 30 minute bus to get into town, it's very easy to do on your own. The bus drops you in front of the 101 Tower, the 2nd highest building in the world (depending on who you believe). Anyhow, it's a very interesting and attractive looking building (it's been described as a bunch of bamboo poles tied with ribbon every once in a while). We did not go up because of the air quality problem. We bought an all-day pass on the MRT and set off to see the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial which reminded me of Lincoln's Memorial. We were in time to see the changing of the guard which was cool, with lots of foot stomping and gun twirling. Then we headed to the Grand Hotel which is shaped like a giant pagoda. Had a wonderful lunch there in the Dragon room (not the tourist place). On the way back, we had time (barely) to stop quickly at another temple (I forget the name) before returning to the ship. A fun day but no burning desire to return. OKINAWA was our least favorite port by far. Both tours that our members took were poor. And it was not a place you could visit on your own because it was a short stop and too far away. My husband did the Pacific War tour and had expected to visit actual sites from the Battle of Okinawa. However that was not the case. He felt it was like they wanted to forget it ever happened and they stressed that they were not Japanese at the time of the war. My tour was of Shurijo Castle, which was impressive enough. But none of it is original - not even the furnishings. It was all completely rebuilt after the war. After that we were dropped off in some horrible (and vastly over-priced) shopping district for nearly 2 hours. SHANGHAI was another very new looking Asian city with a very attractive skyline. I have to say that I have never seen such beautiful new buildings in my life as I saw on this trip. No plain glass towers anywhere. We decided to take a Princess tour here since we were once again docked at a container port far from the city center. Our first stop was the Jim Mao Tower which is one of the taller buildings around at 88 stories. The observatory provided breath-taking views of the very pretty city. Our next stop was the YuYuan Garden which is very famous but unlike any garden I have been to before. Not a flower in sight! And precious few trees! It's all about the rocks - and the water to some extent. Lots of pagoda type buildings but VERY crowded with very pushy Chinese. There was a lot of interesting looking street food and we did try a deep fried crab, shell and all. Surprisingly good. After the garden it was on to the silk factory and then several hours on your own to shop or eat lunch. A so-so tour of a so-so city. BEIJING was our final destination on this 16-day odyssey. We were off the boat by 7:30 am on our Princess transfer into "center city" Beijing. Except it wasn't anywhere near the city center. We were dropped at a Holiday Inn where there were no waiting taxis and virtually everyone on the 3 buses needed taxis. We ended having to take a non-metered taxi at an exorbitant rate and were happy to get that. My advice would be to have your hotel or a touring company reserve transportation from the port. We stayed at a Park Plaza once again, not far from Tiananmen Square. That first day we visited the Forbidden City, the square, and the Temple of Heaven. It was a LOT of walking so take the subway when you can. My overall impression of Beijing was one of gloom and not just because the weather was bad. It seemed so dirty and the people not at all friendly like in the other Asian ports we visited. Plus the ever present police and cameras on the light posts were disconcerting. A very paranoid government. Nevertheless we enjoyed the monuments immensely. The next day we arranged for a private tour to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. We took the cable car up and started climbing! It was surprisingly steep in some parts and often slippery because of a light drizzle. We even had some bits of snow in parts. It was thrilling to finally set foot on the Great Wall and to imagine what it must have been like to build centuries ago. We only climbed to 3 towers as it was too foggy to get much of a view. But it was still an incredible experience. This is supposedly the less touristy part of the wall (less than Badaling) but there were still plenty of hawkers selling "I Climbed the Great Wall" tee shirts! Our guide took us to a small local Chinese restaurant about half way back to Beijing and ordered for us since he was the only one who spoke English. We loved everything about it as that is the kind of experience we are always hoping for. The 6 of us traveling together met up for a fantastic farewell dinner the last night in Beijing. I know this sounds hokey but it was at the highly recommended "Made in China" restaurant in the Grand Hyatt Hotel near The Forbidden City. You have to reserve their famous Peking duck entree ahead of time but it is an amazing experience - and taste! We let our waitress order everything else for us and we were not disappointed. A wonderful way to end a wonderful trip! Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2010
I just returned from an exhilarating 27 day World Cruise leg from Los Angeles to Sydney on the Pacific Princess. I really enjoyed the cruise and was fascinated by the major dramas at sea. I though I would miss my favorite TV show ... Read More
I just returned from an exhilarating 27 day World Cruise leg from Los Angeles to Sydney on the Pacific Princess. I really enjoyed the cruise and was fascinated by the major dramas at sea. I though I would miss my favorite TV show "Desperate Housewives" and instead I found my own live version right on the ship. The stories I heard were unbelievable. There was a big drama on the ship—and I bet there is one every year—and you are either in the know or being made fun of. It is better to in the know than to be left out of the loop, welcome to Desperate Cruisers! This ship had just come out of dry dock and it was in good shape, all new carpeting in many rooms and only one elevator was out of service for several weeks. This is the old Renaissance #3 ship for those who are interested in this. The public rooms were beautiful. The elevator in repair was a Godsend, the food was outstanding and plentiful and I needed incentive to walk those stairs. I spent a lot of time in the Pacific Lounge, the Cabaret Lounge, and the Casino Lounge—Steven the bartender in the Casino lounge was very nice, he made a mean virgin Margarita. We had a lot of rough sea days; however once I got my sea legs nothing bothered me. For many days walking through the ship was like snow skiing, rather tiring but great exercise. I also love to walk around sideways; I am really good at it! :) I stayed in a balcony room by myself and there was plenty of storage for me alone, but sharing this space for a month with my husband might present a challenge because space is much more limited than on a traditional ship. I do need to learn to pack less things, this is the bane of my existence when I travel alone and have to schlep my own stuff around. The bed was very low and a bit hard for me; they don't have real egg crates anymore, only puffy pillow tops which are not as soft as egg crates. I got one bar set up for 27 days, not the weekly set up I though I was getting. I was a little bummed out to learn this after I had given away all my booze and stuff because I had been told the wrong info by another FCC person on another ship. Live and learn, I though it sounded too generous for Princess to do this but I did not listen to my own instinct. I got one set of shampoo and conditioner and lotion for the whole 27 days, fine by me because I don't like the stuff anyway and I always bring my own. I got a nice array of elite amenities and used them for the boat building contest. I did not get any upgraded towels or bathrobe; I don't know why they bother promising them since I have never gotten them as elite. The occasional thick towel is such a treat! I had a weird dining experience initially as I was seated with a loud and unpleasant person who was traveling solo like me. Thankfully I was also seated with a couple, Ken and Peter from Australia, who were fantastic and they totally saved an otherwise problematic situation. We got stuck with an unpleasant person who had made no friends on the first leg of the journey and demanded "young" people be seated at the table. This person treated the waiters like they were personal slaves and we all found ourselves getting more and more uncomfortable with this poor behavior. I finally spoke up in front of the group and asked this person to refrain from speaking to the waiters poorly in from of me. Then the whole table ignored this person, and we talked over this person for several days. Finally this person decided to change tables; this was the only way we could get Princess to take action. We could not get Princess to change this mean person's seat for us because nobody in the dining room wanted to sit with them. This person ultimately became a great source of humor for the remainder of the trip, suffice it to say we saw the humor in a bad situation and choose to find the joy rather than the bummers. Nancy No-friends (the name my friend Ken gave her) sat alone every night! This person terrorized a few individuals on the cruise; Princess did nothing to manage this person because they were bragging about bringing 100 people on the world cruise next year. This was a joke; this person talked a big game but had nothing to back it up with. You know the kind of person who manipulates situations to their advantage. We were all amazed that this person never got booted from the cruise; instead they continue to cause a tremendous amount of trouble for some individuals and a huge annoyance for the rest. If you are going on a segment this year you will meet this person, just don't say I didn't warn you! The food was great; I really enjoyed the variety and abundance of options available for such a small ship. We had a late dining table that seated up to 10 and we had a few empty spots that we used to invite people to join us, especially after ridding ourselves of our problem tablemate. The MDR was a little more traditional with the Head waiters preparing pasta and pineapple flambe, and the food was truly standout fare. We also loved the Bistro, they had their own menu and you could also order off the main dining room menu and you did not have to dress. A fantastic solution to no anytime dining, we loved the bistro! On port days the buffet stays open for the evening, otherwise it becomes the Bistro. We had a few loud and large dinners there and really enjoyed it. I did not want for anything during the entire cruise, there was more food around than you can possibly imagine on such an intimate ship. I learned a secret; you can order things like Lobster and Filet Mignon in the MDR if you give 24 hours notice on any night. We only had 2 formal nights in the whole 27 days and I guess this reflects a general lack of interest in dressing up when one cruises the World. I seemed to be the only one who knew about the Elite and Platinum lounge but soon lots of people were frequenting it. I regularly stopped by for nibbles, especially since I had late seating, we didn't usually get served until 9pm thanks to our poorly behaving tablemate. They had a lot of food and drink parties in the Pacific Lounge, with skewers of Pineapple and Shrimp and all sorts of fruits, kind of a happy hour thing with reduced priced drinks and stuff. Room service was great; I ordered lots of fresh fruit for those late night moments (LOL) where food is necessary. I got to know my morning coffee and toast kid well, he dutifully served me for 26 days and I miss him a lot. I got several trays of fancy strawberries and stuff sent from captain's circle, plus I got to order stuff as an elite perk. This was very nice, and boy did I get spoiled. I had brought my own coffee press and fresh ground Cubita coffee but the press broke in transit and I was not able to get it fixed and then I just got used to the syrup coffee and gave up on brewing my own. I did bring my bag of coffee down to the coffee bar and asked them to brew me a cup which they did, I though that was very nice. I had issues with some of the waiters in the dining room, one in particular was very petty and mean to me based on who was sitting at my table (mean person) and kept handing me scalding pots of hot milk for my "best friend" (mean person) who quickly became the bane of my existence! I realize that when people are mean to waiters, they can become curt and slow but imagine how it feels to be seated as a solo traveler with someone who is so nasty that their reputation becomes yours! This happens quickly on small ships and I found that I suffered the sins of this mean person, as did my other table mates, until we took control of the situation by making this person go away. Meanwhile, I do think it is dangerous to have waiters who target people, even the bad ones, because my hand got burned badly and I was not able to use it for days. I hope none of you get this waiter and if you email me I will give you his name! I did turn him in but nothing happened to him and he is still in the MDR. Be careful of him. My room steward Victor was very good, he had 16 rooms to care for and yet he took outstanding care of me. He made me feel safe and secure all the time. He was never obtrusive, always there when I needed him and kept my room clean and tidy. My laundry was handled perfectly; they never lost one single pair of the junky target undies I bought for the purpose of not caring if they lost or damaged them! Go figure... There were some very interesting lecturers on the ship including an Astronomer, a Middle East Crisis expert, a style adviser, an Academy Award winner, a nice Port Lecturer, and a WWII Historian. We had at least 2 lectures on Sea days. There was also a Water Color paint teacher who gave regular lessons in very high surf! We had Concert Violinists and other wonderful musicians and singers, and we had several dance shows done quite well on the very small stage by the excellent Princess Singers and Dancers. We had several lounge acts, all very talented. There was a wonderful fitness instructor who taught Yoga and Pilate and she had her Appendix burst while we were in Honolulu so we lost her, she is doing great back in Sydney and getting better. By the time her replacement came several weeks later, I had given up on Yoga and Pilate. Oh well, some things are not meant to be. I got much exercise righting myself on such a rocking ship for almost all of the sea days. Karaoke was very fun, we got the whole place going one night and it was very fun. My first Karaoke song ever was "Bye Bye Miss American Pie" which is the longest Karaoke in history. I loved it! Sadly there was only 2 Karaoke sessions during the whole 27 day segment and there should have been more! We had a fantastic crossing of the Equator Ceremony, it was so funny and messy and everybody had a blast. I am no longer a pollywog, now I am a shellback! Many of our sail-a-ways included Champagne although I am not a drinker so I did not have any. The ship building contest was also quite fruitful, all the ships were great and I got to donate all of my "elite amenity items" and my Obama Surfer Bobble head doll to one group who should have won but didn't. Must have been the crappy elite amenity items! I took a Princess excursion in Vanuatu to see Ekasup Cultural Center, it was nice but limited to that place only. I did not get to sit with the people I went with, this always happens when I take Princess tours. I liked the place we visited, a fake tribe who also appeared on Survivor. Survivor was filmed on this island, on the other side of the island but fairly close to Vila! The port had lots of junk to buy, mostly from China but I did manage to find me some Kava. ;) I took a Princess excursion in the Bay of Islands to see the Kauri Forest and Glow Worm Caves and that was really fun. We got to see much of the area including some artsy toilets, there was plenty of stops for postcards and junk and opportunities to hike a bit if you wanted to. It was a good excursion. I took a Princess excursion in Picton to see the area via land and sea and this was a classic bummer made so by an individual who showed up late (they waited) and then who "got lost shopping" at a 10 minute stop and caused another half hour delay, all of this amounting to a shortened excursion. This is why I hate ship excursions. I don't mind so much when we go slower because of handicapped people, but I go crazy when some selfish loon shows up late (duh) or wanders off to shop at a toilet stop! I took private excursions in all the other locations. In Honolulu we rented a car and spent the day tooling around the North shore and more. It cost 50 bucks for the whole day, plus $15 in gas. Several folks rented cars as well, one man who drove to buy flowers and to see the Diamond Head lookout point later told me he was suffering from Macular Degeneration. Be careful driving when the World Cruise is in town! In New Caledonia we took one of the petite tour "trains" around on our own and that provided for a nice overview of the Island, which is quite beautiful and civilized if expensive. We were in town late, we got to port at noon and that is when the market closed for the day so we missed that. It is an expensive place, one can hardly afford to blow ones nose at $7 a box of tissues. I did manage to find a jewelry store open and there was this Gold Tiki I could not resist... We walked on our own in Auckland and Sydney and had a blast. We took local buses and ferries and walked as much as we could. The only HOHO we took was in Sydney Harbor, a boat you could hop on and off but we did not end up using it in that way. The Botanical gardens in Sydney were outstanding, we saw tons of bats just hanging around and mating (flying foxes) and so many different birds, bugs, and butterflies it was amazing. This was a perfect place to end our stay in Sydney. We found a wonderful restaurant 14 years ago in London and were pleased to find it again in Auckland and Sydney, it's called Wagamama and it is well worth a visit. You have to try the Passion Fruit & Lychee Sorbet, with a shot of Sake. All in all it was a nice cruise, it was just the right amount of time to be away and though I did enjoy the cruise I was ready to get off the ship after so many Sea days. I am not sure I could handle being on such a small ship for such a long period of time (107 days) with the same people and the same staff. While some staff was a delight to be around, others seemed tired and battered and ready for a break. The same was true of the cruisers, many were delightful and happy, but there were the occasional grumps that got grumpier as time moved on. I was happy to leave the mean and the grumpy but very sad to leave the wonderful friends I met on the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
We were around the Horn 11 years ago with HAL and had pretty good weather at the Cape. Not as good as we had the other day though. We were really fortunate on this trip, as the Star Princess had ran into some pretty foul stuff coming ... Read More
We were around the Horn 11 years ago with HAL and had pretty good weather at the Cape. Not as good as we had the other day though. We were really fortunate on this trip, as the Star Princess had ran into some pretty foul stuff coming around the Horn just prior to our voyage and they had to cancel the Falklands. We stayed overnight in the Intercontinental at Buenos Aires, just before we headed for the ship passengers came in that just got off of her. They were a pretty depressed bunch. One gal told me that "everything that could go wrong went wrong". Fortunately for us everything that could go right went right. I notice the recent trip comments on C. C. pretty much reflect our views too. Actually, I was a lot more impressed with the trip than I thought I was going to be. It was a super great voyage. There were a lot of folk really into spending time on deck and taking in the marine life. And the biologists Princess provided were super and spent countless hours with everybody. I know The "birders" were in all their glory. Albatross everywhere. We had to cough up $131.00 each in Buenos Aires. We found out though this is a fee for Argentina and is good for ten years. Like we will be going back again soon. Anyway, We paid out $459 dollars for port and government fees plus the $262.00 for Argentina. I'm not certain, but since we stopped in Punta Arenas maybe we had to pay that $100. each, for Chile. Anyway, those who complain about Alaska's $50.00 head charge are simply not paying attention. Thursday, (January 14th) to Seattle, Friday to Buenos Aires, Argentina via Houston on Continental. Saturday afternoon we boarded the Star Princess for 16 days. For a voyage directly to Antarctica, 4 days cruising in and around Antarctica, then back up the coast all around Cape Horn and into the Beagle Channel making stops at Ushuaia Argentina, Punta Arenas, Chile, then out the Strait of Magellan into the Atlantic cruising on out to the Falkland Islands, then north to Montevideo in Uruguay, then back to Buenos Aires and then fly home via, Santiago de Chile, Los Angeles, Seattle, then home late Feb. 4th. On the sea we traveled a total of 5503.9 statute miles. Princess Cruise line has a promotional film out for the Antarctic. It starts with something that goes like this: "Imagine a place where time ceased to exist, a place of unspoiled and unforgiving beauty. A place of quiet. Where peace is everywhere. Imagine no more. The Frozen Continent." That pretty much sums up what we witnessed down there. The Star Princess. In 2002, when new, this was the largest passenger vessel in the world. However, it is quite a ways down the list now. 109,000 gross tons, 950 ft long, 118 ft wide, max speed 23.3 knots, cruise speed 21 knots, 3100 passengers max (we had 2600) plus a crew of 1200. But I did notice that their deck layout schematic is goofed up, so is my Berlitz guide to cruising with respect to the "Star". But then, my guide is 2007. Fortunately for us, the mistakes worked in our favor, we were on the Caribe deck in a balcony cabin. Except, our balcony was twice the size of those on any other deck as far as regular cabin or mini suite cabins go. The balconies on the Caribe were twice as large as those on the Dolphin deck, and the Dolphin deck has all the mini suites. The mini suites were just like ours except they cut the balcony in half and extended the room onto the cut our portion. Most full suites were all on our deck, and all they simply involved was two regular cabins with balcony's, like ours, with the wall removed. Berlitz says you can see down onto the Caribe full suite balconies from above. Not true, half the area of those balconies have a roof. Quite a mix of nationalities on board. Us Yankees were about 45%. I like it that way, gives one exposure to what others think and do. Unfortunately, we don't all speak the same language. There were a lot of South Americans on board as well. The cruise lines have resorted to really cutting rates in order to fill the ships. Another nice thing, the crowd was much younger than we are used to. As we get longer in the tooth we tend to become more curmudgeonish. The Star was by far the largest ship we have ever been on. Almost three times the size of the Titanic. I did not think I would care for a vessel this large but I was pleasantly surprised. Orca, (Killer Whale) just like home came right down the port side of the ship and our patio was on the port side. I got a good picture. This occurred in Gerlache Strait. We had three naturalists on board. One fellow had worked in the arctic since right after world war ll, he gave a fantastic lecture on Shackleton. He had met and spoke to a number of the Shackleton crew who were on the Endurance in 1914 when it got stuck in the Weddell Sea. He wrote a book which I bought, "Antarctica from South America". The other two were biologists as well, with doctorates and had spent many years at stations in the Antarctic. They say that it is a myth to believe warm waters harbor more marine life.The opposite is true. Cold waters contain more oxygen, meaning more zooplankton and nutrients like "krill" which provide the basis for all life in the arctic regions. Hence, large mammals thrive, like whales, such as the Blue and Fins, millions of penguins, seals and birds. Nothing lives on shore though. It is all a marine life show. With humans now harvesting krill in unregulated huge fishing boats in this area, an ecological disaster might be in the making for all life in the Antarctic. About as far south as we got was 65 degrees south latitude. It was pretty cold on deck some times, mostly from the wind moving across it. Actually, we were still almost 1800 miles from the south pole. And over 3000 miles to the ocean on the other side of the continent. Antarctica is not the smallest continent. It's land mass is larger than Europe or Australia. In fact it is twice the size of Australia. It is 98% covered by ice. We were sailing in and around the Antarctic Peninsula. They say that 96% of the continent's coast is ice cliffs. But on the peninsula you can see beaches and rock outcroppings. They also say that during the Antarctic winter the size of the continent almost doubles if you include the winter sea ice. There is also thousands of square miles of permanent sea ice, like in the Weddell and Ross Seas which are not included as part of the official Antarctic Continent either. There is an east and west Antarctic. They don't know for sure yet because of the ice depth, but it is possible that if the ice melted there would be two continents instead of one as the low land between the east and west highlands would be a sea channel. On average, it is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent and has the highest elevation of all the continents. However it is the interior of the continent which is technically the largest desert in the world. The coast does get quite a bit of precipitation, however. The U.S. and Russia both have stations in the interior. The U.S. right at the pole. Russia's is higher up and colder though. They say a structure built at the pole will survive for decades with little snow around it, while a station on the coast will be covered by hundreds of feet of snow just after a few years. So, on the coast, they now build on stilts and keep adding to them as it snows in order to keep the buildings on the surface. That way they don't have to continually plow and move snow. The ships five swimming pools were covered with nets, which means "no swimming today". Even though we had one very sunny and beautiful day down there, the temperature was still around 34. That is the same latitude as Fairbanks except Fairbanks is north latitude, also in Fairbanks it would have been July 22nd. It snowed one day for a bit, I love to take hot tubs in the snow, but for some reason they closed those also when we were there. I took many shots of ice bergs. The huge tabular bergs were amazing. They break off the huge continental ice shelves and there are thousands of them around. I understand they sometimes go for over a hundred miles on top. They float around the ocean for decades. Sometimes their flat tops are over a hundred feet above the sea, and they reach down 700 feet below the surface of the water. There are also millions of smaller ice bergs. For many years they have called some of these "Bergy Bits", Britt speak. But they aren't being cute when they do so. Smaller ones than that are what they call "Growlers", hey, big surprise in Alaska, but there is a reason for this designation. The smaller bergs are what the crew is most worried about as they can't pick them up as well on radar at night and they can do considerable damage. Star Princess has a double hull. The huge ones are no problem to see and avoid. The Star Princess had an "Ice Captain" on board. He was retired Coast Guard and had captained our nation's largest ice breaker, the Polar Star, on scientific expeditions in the Antarctic for years. He spoke to us a couple of times. Right after we left and headed into Drake's Passage he said something interesting "I don't get into these "Global Warming" arguments because I am not a scientist. However, I will tell you this, my first summer here was in 1984, no way we could have taken a ship this size back then into the areas where we have just been. There was so much ice then that even a consideration of doing so would have been ridiculous." Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2009
After a long 14 hour flight and then 3 nights at a B & B in Sydney, we embarked on the Star Princess for our 30 day adventure back to Los Angeles. We stopped in Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand. Unfortunately we ... Read More
After a long 14 hour flight and then 3 nights at a B & B in Sydney, we embarked on the Star Princess for our 30 day adventure back to Los Angeles. We stopped in Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand. Unfortunately we missed Christchurch due to bad weather conditions in Dunedin. Our guide for the NZ ports, Des from Indigenous Trails, met us in each port to give us fantastic tours each of the 3 days. Through the tours and Des, we learned a great deal about the Maori culture and traditions and now have a true appreciation for the Moari people. New Zealand is a beautiful country and the people are SO charming and friendly.We LOVED NZ and Indigenous Trails!! In Suva, Fiji we had hired Sun Vacations. They met us at the dock and we went to the Arts Village and had a nice day seeing the fire walkers and learning the traditions of the Fijian people. Then on to Apia, Western Samoa where we went to the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum (very interesting) and then to a a beautiful beach for a BBQ lunch. Unfortunately the original beach we were supposed to see was destroyed by the recent Tsunami.Still had a nice day. Pago, Pago, American Samoa was our next port of call. We just walked around the town and sadly saw a lot of after effects of the Tsunami. After a few relaxing days at sea, we arrived in Moorea.We rented a car from Avis (they met us at the dock) and drove around the island stopping to see sights along the way. It was a great way to get around and very easy! Papeete was next. We got off the ship and hired a driver to take us around the island. He was very knowledgeable and when we stopped at various places, he walked around with us and explained everything. In Bora Bora we took a tour on an outrigger canoe with Patrick. Went out to a reef to snorkel and then to walk in the water surrounded by Sting Rays. We then went into the ocean and swam with lots of fish and black tip reef sharks. Another great day! Our next stop was Honolulu where we took a private tour in a yellow hummer. We love the TV program LOST so had signed up for a 10 LOST tour. Our guide, Jeff, was fantastic. He was so knowledgeable about the program and made the day a lot of fun! Last port was Maui...we just walked around town, shopped, drank beer and then stood in the long long to get back on the tender! The trip as a whole was wonderful! We would not hesitate to take it again in the future! Read Less
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