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17 San Francisco to Australia & New Zealand Cruise Reviews

Noordam 82318 tons 918 cabins Last Drydock 2018 9/28/2017 Room 6090 The Good Our room was in a great location! Only a few rooms aft of the midship elevator. We had two panoramic midship elevators on either side, ... Read More
Noordam 82318 tons 918 cabins Last Drydock 2018 9/28/2017 Room 6090 The Good Our room was in a great location! Only a few rooms aft of the midship elevator. We had two panoramic midship elevators on either side, and also some central midship elevators. We had the pilot boat arrive right under us. We also got to see the Sydney Opera House from our balcony as we arrived into Sydney. On the other hand, we had a crane sitting right outside our window in one of the Fiji stops. Signature Suites come with some nice square footage (280 square feet of room and 100 square feet of balcony). If we’re going to be on a long cruise, we want some elbow room! They’re wide enough that one of us didn’t have to back up if we met at the foot of the bed on the way to the bathroom. For those with mobility problems, this is key. We had a tub/shower with a separate shower and two sinks. The bathroom was also wide enough that one could move past someone standing at the close sink to the other sink. We had a European and American outlet at the desk, and also the vanity. Since we have an international adapter sets for Kindle and iPad, we were able to utilize all the plugs. Great cabin steward! On embarkation day, we give them a written list of preferences to break the ice with them. We about two weeks in, we put him in our top five of a lot of cruises, and later in the cruise we moved him to the top three. We never returned to a dirty room in 38-days. We did leave the “Make Up Room” lock holder when we left for Breakfast and Dinner. Dining - MDR. Another excellent experience. We give the waiter, assistant waiter and boss with a list of preferences to make it easier for them. We had the same team for the entire 38-day voyage. We ate in the MDR. I don’t think we missed an evening. Our assistant waiter served us coffee with HEATED cups! Our waiter managed my allergy seamlessly. He would bring the next day’s menu with the dessert and say “take your time.” Lectures - The lectures San Francisco to Sydney were fabulous. The container lecture was the most interesting lecture of the batch for me. Especially when we got to the Pacific Islands, and saw all container ports. We wished they’d been able to continue the lectures after Sydney. Pinnacle Grill - Lunch - Really great service! We had the same waiter the five or six times we visited. I loved the chocolate dessert with caramel popcorn! Ocean Bar - Great Waitress! Again, one of the top waitresses we’ve had! We met each sea day at the Crow’s Nest for Knitting, Crochet, and Stitching. Our group numbered over 20, and we had a great time sharing stories, suggestions for upcoming ports. (One member planned to do all the Lord of the Rings Shore Excursions.) After Sydney, one of the bartenders visited daily for drink orders. All cargo ports in the Pacific Islands and New Zealand, so no Wifi. All Kiwi (New Zealand citizens) needed a permit to enter their ports. Security entered the bus and checked all ship cards and identification cards. Before we could leave the ship, they played a recording of forbidden items in New Zealand: no food, honey, wood, of any kind, etc. Only commercial bottled water. Once or twice the cruise director told us only unopened bottled water. In Napier they had a band playing in port when we returned from our EXC tour. Bus drivers must take a driving test every year, and we were happy to learn that they must exit the bus and stand next to the door to help tourists if needed. EXC Tours - Each Guide was very knowledgeable and made our tours memorable. . Clean Windows on the Buses. Nice grab bars to help climb those really tall steps to onto the bus. Good lectures by the guides. Great buses with nice long seatbelts in Sydney and Melbourne. Mentioned the super high bus steps (Tasmania’s bus step came up to a couple inches below my knee), to the EXC staff must have mentioned this to the tour groups, because the bus drivers started providing step stools. Also, noticed the bus drivers started driving the buses right up to the gangplank in New Zealand. Fabulous guide in Hobart Wildlife and Waterways. This lady is finishing her PhD in Tanmania History. Best tour guide of the trip! Napier - Sheep Sheering & Scones Mountain Ride! Great guide and great bus. This bus had comfortable seats, a screen at the front showing a live view of the road ahead. With strict food rules in New Zealand, it’s a good idea to book an excursion with a snack or meal included. This guide trained the others to drive up the mountain road. “Ice Cream Sample” was much larger than expected, I think those 4 ounce single servings at our grocery store were smaller! It would have been much better to stagger the two busloads. At the sheep sheering and afternoon tea, since both were at the same location, have one bus doing the tea while the other did the inside part of the sheep sheering, then switch. Very crowded store at the sheep shearing stop. Wellington - Guide’s coffee recommendation was SO true. Very strong coffee but not bitter. We’re so glad he suggested it, but it’s taking a long time to get used to American Coffee. Wellington has some very interesting rules for bus drivers. He pulled down a narrow street, and the cars had to make room for him by either backing up or going over curbs. The Needs Improvement One of the elevators was down for four straight days. Cruise Director did not schedule our Knitting, Crochet and Stitching group in the daily program, but it may not have been his fault. We heard this decision came from corporate. He seemed glad we found each other. At the collector’s cruise lecture, he read word for word from the handout. At the end of the presentation, he declined to answer a question about a possible conflict with a EXC tour and muster drill, and walked back stage. EXC Tours I had sent an email to headquarters about my disappointment with the way they organize the shore excursions, but so far no answer. The tours need to be staggered so only one bus load at a time at each stop. Some of the tours were to crowded, I didn’t want to shop the local stores. With a few exceptions, too rushed, not enough time at each stop, too crowded. Each bus seemed to have something wrong: A/C blowing very warm air, middle bus door didn’t open, etc. When we have a 15-minute stop, and it takes five minutes to load and unload the bus, there’s not much time left for viewing the sights. Cancellation policy now 48 hours. EXC employee worked at the desk and in the Vista Lounge with some type of upper respiratory infection. She tried to announce shore excursions on port days while she had no voice. A few days later, we both came down with upper respiratory infections too. Some EXC tours had meeting times at 11 am, but the Lido opened at 11:30 am. Also, no food stalls just off the ship in port. With strict food rules in New Zealand, I wish they’d have at least a snack on all tours offered. Tauranga - Yes, it goes in the “bad” section. We’re not planning on booking any more EXC tours in Tauranga. Our bus had very uncomfortable seats, no head rests, no seatbelts. Front seats foot area was so narrow, a man next to us couldn’t put his foot all the way down. It had a ramp down the center aisle to a step, and I saw several people fall. Also, the bus had backward facing seats. The tour guide sat in an open seat for a few minutes, then stood back up and spent the rest of the four hour tour standing at the front of the bus. We almost quit the tour at the first stop and took a taxi back to the ship. Did you make the sale? Yes, we got a couple more Future Cruise Deposits Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
The Aurora is a lovely ship. The facilities are excellent.The kids club "The Reef" was a real stand out for us as our children loved it and wanted to be there all the time it was open. The staff in the Reef were really wonderful ... Read More
The Aurora is a lovely ship. The facilities are excellent.The kids club "The Reef" was a real stand out for us as our children loved it and wanted to be there all the time it was open. The staff in the Reef were really wonderful with the children and the activities and programs kept them busy and happy. This really made the holiday such a good one for everyone in the family! We had a four berth outside cabin and it was a delight. We loved the biscuits and the tea kettle. We found that the storage space was really good - we had a lot of luggage to store. We didn't feel cluttered or crowded. The toiletries in the shower were high quality. Our cabin steward was fantastic. So obliging and polite. She was a great source of knowledge and our cabin always was kept to a very high standard. We ate on the freedom dining plan and we found the meals in the Medina restaurant were of a very high standard. We also ate at the Lido grill for lunch and Horizons for breakfast and of course the children's buffet each night. We think the food was excellent in all the venues. We ate at Sindhu one evening and it really was a five star experience. So tasty, so beautifully presented, such attentive staff. We also ate at the Glasshouse, and tried one of their wine flights each. I really enjoyed the atmosphere, the food was tasty and we had a really wonderful waitress. The wine flight was a definite must try. We thought it was a great overall dining experience. We really loved our cruise on the Aurora. Thank you to P&O for making such a memorable family holiday. Read Less
Sail Date January 2016
As seasonal cruisers, we decided on the Cunard Queen Victoria due to its wonderful itinerary to the French Polynesian Islands plus Australia and New Zealand. We had not visited these ports before. I was a bit leery that the ambience on ... Read More
As seasonal cruisers, we decided on the Cunard Queen Victoria due to its wonderful itinerary to the French Polynesian Islands plus Australia and New Zealand. We had not visited these ports before. I was a bit leery that the ambience on the ship would be too stuffy and too formal but it was not as formal as I had envisioned. We had a rough beginning since we were due to embark in LA on the 17th of February but our flight was cancelled on Southwest due to inclement weather both in NYC and our layover city. Many flights had been cancelled the previous day(s) as well and they were catching up with getting people out who had been stranded due to the inclement weather. Even though we knew our flight had been cancelled, we went to the airport and tried to get on standby, to no avail and decided to join our cruise at the next port, two days later, in San Francisco. We had better luck on that day getting out but the unfortunate thing was we did not get to see San Francisco again since we had been there in the past on a separate "land" trip we had done. Oh well. To our surprise, we had been upgraded to a higher deck (from 6 to 8) and a bigger room - we always go inside cabin unless we can get a better room for not much more than the inside rate. Wonderful, I thought! Since we arrived late afternoon - 2:30-3 p.m., embarkation was a total breeze! Never had we experienced such an easy embarkation process. There were two couples ahead of us filling out their health forms. No lines, no hassles. When we arrived at our stateroom, we found a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice with two flutes waiting for us! Alrighty, I thought, this is very classy! I next checked our shower to see if they had installed a handheld shower which I had requested over the phone. It was there - it didn't have a stand to hold it up as a regular shower head but I was not complaining! Hurrah! I was a happy camper! We went to the buffet for a late lunch and were able to have a nice lunch. The waiters did not wait on you for drinks I noticed, at the Lido Buffet, as is done on most other cruise lines I've been on. Hmm, I thought - weird! We had to get our own drinks from the fountains. However, we discovered that they had the usual - water, coffee, o.j., ice tea, cranberry juice and apple juice. They also always had lemon slices and small jars of honey! Of course, I wrote about my displeasure about the service in the Lido when given a questionnaire during the end of one of the legs of the trip and soon after noticed they had taken my advice. Especially in the morning, waiters were now coming around with carts and carafes offering coffee and drinks. They still have much room for improvement in this area at the Lido though! During check in, I had inquired about our luggage being sent to our new room since they had been tagged with the old cabin number. We waited for the luggage to arrive and nothing. I took a walk to the old assigned cabin on deck 6 and found our luggages waiting there! It took some waiting and patience to get someone to get our luggages to the proper cabin! The ship itself was very nice and clean. I had previously read and seen the video on the retrofit that had taken place not too long ago prior to us boarding. The ship was comfortable in terms of its length - it was not so big that you tired trying to get from front to rear. It was just right in size, I thought. Dining was a wonderful experience - the food was excellent and plentiful! Our waiter, Arnold and his assistant, Albert, were excellent and very affable! Entertainment had some highlights but overall was O.K. They had some interesting lecturers - I especially enjoyed Mr. Bauer's talks about the White House. As a seasonal cruiser, I always look forward to watching the latest movies on board on sea days and this was one of those areas where the ship greatly disappointed. Good movies were hard to come by and there were only two that I had not yet seen. Most of the movies shown were pretty old! Excursions were fair - nothing extraordinary and if anything disappointing. Luckily, we only took three and did most on our own except for the highlight of our trip, the excursion run by Tom through Cruise Critic in Bora!!! OMG! We had the best of both worlds and more - thanks to Tom and Cruise Critic! We went on a nice boat adorned with leaves and flowers, run by Moreto, our Captain, who took us to various sites in the lagoon. Our group (not me) swam with stingrays and sharks; then we were taken to another place where we swam with beautiful fish, we continued our beautiful, glorious trip all along the lagoon until finally landing on a "private" island where we found our food being cooked in a ground pit and a BBQ. We lunched on half a piglet (I don't eat pork any more), sweetbread, yuca, cooked sweet and green bananas, bbq'd tuna & mahi mahi; pineapple, grapefruit, bottles of water, beer, white and red wines, champagne and sodas! After lunch, we swam in clear, blue azure water that was very, very shallow - I was in heaven being a non-swimmer!!! This was our highlight of the trip in terms of excursions! Thank you Tom, Cruise Critic, Moreto and Patrick (I believe is the person running the tours). What an experience! We loved it!!! Our itinerary was out of this world - we visited 3 Hawaiian islands (Honolulu, Hilo and Maui) but we had been there exactly 11 years ago; Apia, Samoa; Suva, Fiji; Port Vila, Vanuatu; Brisbane, Sydney, Australia; Picton, Wellington, Auckland, New Zealand; Rarotonga, Cook Islands; Papeete, Tahiti; Bora, Los Angeles. Each and every port was a new discovery for us. We enjoyed visiting them all! I especially loved the vibrancy of life in Brisbane and Sydney, the beautiful and helpful people of Wellington, New Zealand and the beautiful and clear waters of Bora, Bora!!! Disembarkation in LA was a breeze as well - very smooth! No waiting! I would return to the Queen Victoria and highly recommend them especially for the dining aspect of the cruise and its itinerary. I am also willing to try their sister ships - the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, which I heard much about from fellow cruisers! It appears Cunard has a great following with their cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
Yes, the ship is magnificent. It is a magnificent structure, with a grand and beautiful fitout in the public areas that makes you feel very special. The facilities onboard are generally first class EXCEPT FOR THE INTERNET which had over ... Read More
Yes, the ship is magnificent. It is a magnificent structure, with a grand and beautiful fitout in the public areas that makes you feel very special. The facilities onboard are generally first class EXCEPT FOR THE INTERNET which had over 300 people screaming with frustration at its inadequacy and dropout rate. Considering that we were supposed to be on a five star ship, the internet could only be compared to a very slow dial up. When it worked. Many of us were given substantial time credits because of the problems. It made trying to do work or communicating with your office almost impossible. I felt really sorry for the head IT guy who constantly had a line of people trying to communicate but with little or no success. Even the admin office was at one stage unable to communicate with head office.................the word pathetic enters my head. Our cabin 8040 was great and we were greeted in the cabin with a half bottle of french champagne which was rapidly consumed as we slid into shipboard mode. The dining opportunities are varied, from the delightful and popular pub with great lunch menus, the standard lido buffet, the alternative dining solutions which vary on a daily basis, from steak to indian or asian depending on the day. There is also the Verandah, the ships first class restaurant which was largely empty whenever I walked past and which required a top up payment. The dining mainstay restaurant is the two level Britannia, which was generally very good but which has sadly stuck to the old standard of two fixed dinner seatings rather than having open seating to allow you to dine when YOU want to. Something that many other lines have adopted with success. We had 5 formal nights in 20 days and this got a bit much even though I enjoy going formal occasionally. Every other night was good casual and that meant men had to wear a jacket even though we were in the tropics and the aircon could not reduce the inside temperature enough to make wearing a jacket comfortable. Many men abandoned their jackets as soon as they were seated. Drink prices were as expected, pricey, and I found that bringing your own wine aboard and paying the corkage fee of $20 enabled us to drink much better wines at what we were to be charged for lesser quality on board. In all a lovely trip with great staff but Cunard really must get with it and stop just catering for the 80+ year olds with their level of formality, must abandon fixed seating times and MUST upgrade its IT system to a workable 2015 standard. The market has shifted Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
Having read a review by Bruce Kubik about his experience on this cruise ,I can agree totally with several major point he has raised about this cruise .My husband and I have been on QE2 , until a serious incident in April 2000, when an ... Read More
Having read a review by Bruce Kubik about his experience on this cruise ,I can agree totally with several major point he has raised about this cruise .My husband and I have been on QE2 , until a serious incident in April 2000, when an umbrella which was not fastened down as we left Miami port, hit my husband and knocked him out as we left the dock. So here we were trying out Cunard again on a new ship, which is very beautifully fitted out. As with Bruce, we had most lunches in the Pub, as it was the best food available at lunch-time ,we were very disappointed with the evening meals in the Britannia dining room, also the choices in the Lido self service. Arriving in Honolulu--no dancing girls, welcome or lays!!!Just a large dirty shed to walk through--so went to Walmart and bought my own artificial lay.The day after Honolulu, I felt under the weather, started with a cough, not a CUNARD COUGH but WHOOPING COUGH!!!! which the doctor failed to diagnose although I was being ill and loosing weight at the same time--very poor attitude from the medical staff. We too met some lovely guests who were very supportive. Leaving San Francisco was disappointing--no band, no deck party, where is all the excitement which we all had on starting our journeys? Well after spending 3more weeks in New Zealand with proper health care we are back in UK getting over the incident rather than talking about a wonderful cruise, come on Cunard get back to looking after your passengers not just having them for financial gain. Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
Boarded the QE one night after leaving the Star Princess on which we had just had a great Mexico cruise. The QE and the way things operate differ some what to most other lines we have sailed with. Our first cruse with Cunard took a few ... Read More
Boarded the QE one night after leaving the Star Princess on which we had just had a great Mexico cruise. The QE and the way things operate differ some what to most other lines we have sailed with. Our first cruse with Cunard took a few day,s to get used to, but all good and we sure did enjoy the cruise. Found the main restaurant great for diner .Outstanding presentation and food each night at our assigned table.Breakfast and lunch service every much up and down depending which waiter you ended up with. The lido buffet , never once was my wife offered help with food or drink even though she struggles with a walking stick ,never struck this on any other cruise ships ! Never once saw anyone else offered help either , not good at all. Cabin 5141 was a very nice cabin with a good balcony. Shows were very good on the whole and the dancers the best my wife says we have seen. We did enjoy a very nice ship and what it had to offer Read Less
Sail Date February 2015
Well were to star about this cruise, the facilities were bad, the ship is old and past its sell by date, the food was never up to celebrity standard, very repetitive and choice very poor.The entertainment well like the ship most were past ... Read More
Well were to star about this cruise, the facilities were bad, the ship is old and past its sell by date, the food was never up to celebrity standard, very repetitive and choice very poor.The entertainment well like the ship most were past their sell by date, a couple of exceptions j walker s oshey tge guitarist and the billy joel impersonator, the rest needed throwing overboard , we had thd toilet system break down 3 times , once raw sewage was coming back through the systsm, all guest relations said with a smile it hasnt overflowed yet , so what is the problem.There wrre no sugar free drinks in cafe, which is a first for me, so I guess diabetics have to drink water, as for the itinary well who ever made it wants sacking, we arrived in tahiti and figi on a sunday nothing open, we docked in a container port in new caledonia what a shambles over an hour sfter docking their was still a long wait to get shuttle and no taxis allowed in you had to take shuttle what a bloody disgrace, we also docked in cargo port in another port are celebrity trying to save money, over all if this was my first cruise I woukd never cruise again, this is run like a bucket ship very vrry poor Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
I had a great time on this itinerary; the length of time and the number of sea days made it possible to meet practically everyone onboard. I have made new friends and seen new places. What could be better? I admire the work that goes into ... Read More
I had a great time on this itinerary; the length of time and the number of sea days made it possible to meet practically everyone onboard. I have made new friends and seen new places. What could be better? I admire the work that goes into keeping a clean and healthy environment, and the Chief Housekeeper certainly does that. Every inch of the Century was spotless; the staircases, landings, handrails, etc. were immaculate. Kudos to Michael and Kinga. The public ladies' rooms were always clean and well looked after. The guest speaker, Andrew,was alright, but his attendant family were everywhere - and not in a good way. However, Fred, the astronomer, was the best speaker I have ever heard. He was engaging, informative and easy to understand, well paced, AND always on a stern deck after dark to help passengers see what he sees in the sky. Celebrity is lucky to have him. The Reflection is lucky to have him onboard for the TA. He should be a headlining speaker whenever possible. I would like to mention a few names: Katerina in the lido cafe is wonderful; bar servers Jayson, Filip, and David were outstanding. As much as I enjoy, and am loyal to, Celebrity - having sailed with them enough times to be 'elite plus'. I honestly can't figure how Celebrity appreciates that. With perhaps one or two small differences, I was treated no differently, better or worse, than the 400 'elite' members. Tell me, why should I bother to be loyal to Celebrity when Celebrity is not loyal to me? This cruise, I was completely forbidden to go into Michaels' club, when on all previous cruises, Michael's Club was a room set aside for passengers on my level. With this new system, I now have less than I ever had before. This is a loyalty program? Not from where I stand. Pity. Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
My wife and I just completed this repositioning cruise on Celebrity Century with dear friends and found this cruise to be one of our best if not the best,Yes, the ship is about to change owners and is a bit tired and requires a few ... Read More
My wife and I just completed this repositioning cruise on Celebrity Century with dear friends and found this cruise to be one of our best if not the best,Yes, the ship is about to change owners and is a bit tired and requires a few upgrades. What made up for all of this was the crew. We could not fault the crew who were always at your service and could not do enough for us. I once heard a Captain say you can have the newest ship in the world with a bad crew and the ship is nothing, have the oldest ship in the world with the best crew and it is a great ship. We think people's expectations are too high. The meals were of a high standard and our waiters were like family. What more can you ask for. Our cabin attendant kept our room very clean and tidy. These crew members work for very little pay and rely on their skills and service to compliment their income. Some passengers think they are royalty and treat them as their servants, they are not, they are human beings going about their tasks. It is sad to see a ship of this size leaving the fleet, but other cruise lines are doing the same. Value for money we were most pleased.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
Embarkation at San Francisco was not too well organized. As everyone joining Queen Victoria (over 1000 passengers) seemed to arrive at the same time, the queue started on the pavement well outside the terminal building. after about an ... Read More
Embarkation at San Francisco was not too well organized. As everyone joining Queen Victoria (over 1000 passengers) seemed to arrive at the same time, the queue started on the pavement well outside the terminal building. after about an hour, we arrived on board just in time to have some lunch. Our suite was spotless and we were well looked after for the whole cruise by our butler and cabin steward. We did not ask the butler to do very much other than ensuring that our drinks, fruit, crisps, olives etc did not run out! It would be very hard to find any fault with either the food or service in the Queens Grill - both were excellent and our waiters soon learned our preferences.As has been noted before, you can order just about anything you want provided you give 24 hours notice. After 5 sea days we reached Maui and the following day was the Big Island (Hawaii). For some reason, we did not call at Honolulu on Oahu - a disappointment to many on board. A few more sea days took us to Samoa then on to New Zealand with our first stop in Auckland followed the next day by a tender stop in the Bay of Islands - probably our favourite of the whole trip. We disembarked in Sydney after having spent the previous day there as well. No problems getting off and on our way to the airport. To sum up, this was our third cruise on Queen Victoria and was very enjoyable - particularly as we like the days at sea. The ship itself is well looked after and all the crew seem to be happy - long may it continue! Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We booked back to back cruises, first the repositioning cruise from San Francisco and the follow-on circumnavigation of Australia and New Zealand. We had the same cabin for both cruises but the second 33 days were very different from the ... Read More
We booked back to back cruises, first the repositioning cruise from San Francisco and the follow-on circumnavigation of Australia and New Zealand. We had the same cabin for both cruises but the second 33 days were very different from the first 27 days. Embarkation in San Francisco was held up 3 hours because the ship had been in a 10 day rehab and was still off loading trash. The port in San Francisco is in dire need of updating if they want to increase cruise ship traffic. There is no place to wait inside the terminal, you have to stand outside on the sidewalk. No fun if it is raining. You must tip the local porters to take your bags to the ship. Australian passengers were having a real hard time with this because they don't tip. Cabin - We had a balcony cabin across from the aft elevators, starboard, Baja Deck. We were a little worried about traffic noise from the elevators but it really was not much of a problem. We could smell garlic and onions and a noxious fume mainly at night. After a couple weeks of this we mentioned the noxious fume was causing headaches to our room steward. He said he would tell his supervisor and it seemed to go away for the most part. The only other issue we had was the air conditioning went out but was repaired within 2 hours. The cabins on Sea Princess are slightly smaller than other Princess ships. We did notice that Shampoo is now attached to the shower in a pump bottle. We don't know if it is just the Sea Princess or a change for the entire line because in the spring on Emerald Princess we were still getting individual shampoo bottles. Food - Horizon Court - The food on the Horizon Court is terrible. While food is a matter of taste and not everyone likes the same thing, I will address the quality and preparation. All the meats are a low grade cheap cut. We had slices of meat that we were lucky to get a bite or two out of after the fat and gristle were cut off. Cheaper cuts of meat like beef chuck and stewing hens need to be cooked longer before you can hope to chew them. I had braised short ribs of beef that I could not cut with a knife. Fish dishes were dried out and overcooked. All pasta dishes were under cooked and inedible. If you like pasta almost crunchy, then this is for you. Fruits were all what we called "blemished" as in bruised and banged up. We could understand bananas getting black after long stretches at sea but there were enough port calls once we got to Australia that this should not have been the case. Cooked vegetables were under cooked for my taste. Once we got to Australia, vegetables seem to be steamed slightly longer but still half cooked as far as I was concerned. The Horizon Court intensively used leftovers. Any day at lunch or dinner you could see the ghosts of meals past and what the MDR didn't use. The food was just a little more dried up and picked over. My pet peeve was nutmeg in the mashed potatoes. This seems to be a Princess thing because it showed up on Emerald Princess as well. We got to where we could not bear to eat the vile mashed potatoes and unfortunately, these same mashed potatoes were recycled in to soups for thickeners or Shepard's Pie, Twice Baked Potatoes, etc. Nutmeg showed up in dishes that should not have nutmeg. Pre-made sandwiches were disgusting. There were strange combinations such as sliced roast pork with cold eggplant on soggy cold toast. If you like soggy cold toast, this is for you! On the positive side, breads and pastries were very good. Lots of food was wasted because people just could not eat it.Riveria Grill - On the way to Australia, hamburgers, cheese burgers, hot dogs, and chicken sandwiches with French fries were pretty average but much better than the Horizon Court. Once in Australia, pies, sausage rolls, and what Americans call Gyros but Australians call Kebobs were added. I tried one of the pies that looked like a beef pot pie with no vegetables but could not eat it because it was hard as a rock on the outside. I don't care for lamb so I did not try the Gyro or Kebob. Cafe Cornishe - You could only get pizza on deck 8 from Noon to 2 pm and 6 pm to 11 pm. In the afternoon all you could get was pizza. In the evening you could get antipasta, Cesar Salad, soup, Lasagna, and ricotta, spinach crepes and dessert. The pizza is very thin crust with add your own Italian Seasonings. Each pizza is individual size and cooked to order. With out the Italian seasoning that you add yourself the pizza is bland. DH had the Lasagna three times and it ranged from awful to OK. The Spinach crepes were mushy swimming in a soupy sauce. If you like thick crust pan pizza, this place is not for you. MDR - The first half of the cruise we had anytime dining but it was not offered as a choice once we got to Australia. The food in the MDR was 100% better than the mess served in Horizon Court. We ate as many meals as we could in the MDR during the second half of the cruise. Breakfasts were good, lunch was usually good with some inconsistencies, dinner ranged from just OK to excellent. Portion sizes were small but you could get a second entree if you wanted it. Fish dishes could leave you hungry if you did not get appetizers and dessert. The "always available" menu was very good and often a sell out for our table. When we reached Australia, the menus changed or I should say what the food was called changed. Thankfully our great waiter, Jerome would tell us what the descriptions meant. There were a lot of strange food on the menu, cold pea soup with mint made us all gag and no one ordered it! One day pork bellies was offered! No one ordered that either. The only really bad meal I had in the dining room was pot roast. It was tough and served with nutmeg mashed potatoes.Entertainment - Again this is a matter of taste. There were guest lecturers for a wide range of topics. Zumba was available on sea days. Television was most improved. MSNBC, CNBC, and FOX replaced CNN International and Headline News and was a great improvement. MSNBC and Fox disappeared once we got to Australia and was replaced with Sky News. There were 191 Americans on the second half of the cruise and many of us complained that we wanted to see the Third Presidential Debate and the Election Returns. MSNBC and Fox came back for the Third Debate and then again for two weeks beginning on the Sunday before the election. Stranded in Akaroa, New Zealand - 712 passengers and 50 crew were stranded in Akaroa, which is a tender port. The story Princess put out was that the weather turned bad faster than expected. Before we left the ship we were all told to wear close toed shoes and to dress for bad weather. We were on tour and returned at 5pm to find that the tenders were shut down and one was filled with water. We were taken to the Akaroa school gym. Local people provided water and coffee. Around 8 pm "food" arrived. Food was once slice of buttered bread with 1/2 breakfast sausage covered with ketchup. Accommodations ranged from a bed in a private home, two strange couples sharing hotel rooms, a couple with a strange man or woman sleeping on the couch in their room, to 5 star hotels in Christ Church 90 minutes away. Princess paid the hotel bills and gave us all $85 to pay for missed meals. Andrew, an assistant cruise director who was stranded with us was terrific keeping order. Kudos to all the crew who were stranded with us. Boo to the Captain who made a bad decision to let us off the ship in the first place. This debacle cost Princess a bunch! Fellow Passengers - On the way to Australia, about 1/3 were Australians and New Zealanders, about half were American or Canadian, there were about 200 Germans and as many French, with Chinese and Spanish speakers as well. Most of the passengers were in the 50-75 age range. You could count the number of kids on one hand. Once in Australia, there were 191 Americans, a few British, a few New Zealanders, and the rest Australians. Age range seem much older with few 50's and many people late 70's up to 90 year olds. During the second half of the cruise people embarked and disembarked in several ports and younger people with kids did get on. One warning to American and Canadians taking an Australian based cruise, Australian table manners are not what you are accustomed to. This seems to be a cultural thing because they all do it. Australians eat with two utensils at the same time. Usually they hold the fork with the left hand upside down and use a knife or table spoon to scrape and push food onto the back side of their forks. We found ourselves sitting with a large table of Australians and they were elbowing each other poking fun at us because we ate with one hand and put our knives down after we cut our meat. Emily Post would faint dead away if she had to sit at a table with these folks. The people on the second half of the cruise seemed to favor lots of perfume. At times it was overwhelming. Ship changes - When we got to Australia, all the prices went up. The port t-shirts that were 2 for $20 were raised to 2 for $25. The junk sale of cheap watches, purses, scarves, etc. that were $10 each became $20 each. Post cards that were $1 became $1.95. A box of peanut brittle that had been 11.95 became $16.95. Cokes went from $1.95 to $2.45. Since Australian money is worth $1.03 USD, prices should have gone down. We were told that since Australians didn't pay tips that the prices were raised. It was clear that Australians paid higher cruise fares. I think that Princess takes advantage of the fact that Australians are used to paying higher prices for everything so they charge them more. Laundry Mats - Each passenger deck has only two washers and two dryers. In 60 days I could only use the laundry on deck 10 once. I always did laundry on port days and could use the deck 5 laundry without waiting. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
We were on the repositioning portion of the cruise that prettygirl describes below. For the most part I agree with her assessments, but would like to add a few of my own. Environment: Our cabin was mid ship Aloha deck. Before we ... Read More
We were on the repositioning portion of the cruise that prettygirl describes below. For the most part I agree with her assessments, but would like to add a few of my own. Environment: Our cabin was mid ship Aloha deck. Before we reached Tahiti we started to notice a noxious, sewer smell in the corridor that eventually seeped into our cabin. Not even keeping our balcony door open helped. We had to leave the cabin several time, specially at night, because we were about to get sick. We complained but nothing was done to correct the problem. Food and seating: Though not 5 star quality, I always seemed to find dishes that I liked in the Horizon court. We specially enjoyed the different rices that were offered as well as the pasta that was individually prepared just outside the main serving area. The desserts and pastries were delicious. Contrary to other Princess ships Horizon seating was always adequate, with plenty of (very popular) tables for 2. Entertainment: plenty of interesting things to do. Good lectures, excellent painting lessons, a well stocked and manned library, good entertainment at night. Akaroa: We were one of the lucky ones who got to spend the night at a good hotel in Christchurch. But were part of the very unlucky hundreds who were disgorged by Princess tour buses and left drenched and shivering at the dock for more than an hour, with no protection from the elements or information while the captain decided what to do about the tender situation. Coordination with the tour companies to retain passengers inside the buses should have been a priority. Shame on Princess for making a bad situation even worse. Fellow passengers: Good mix of nationalities and cultures. Everyone seemed to get along. What prettygirl describes as Australian table manners is generally how Europeans eat: fork in left hand -"upside down", knife in right hand. My European grandparents taught me that this was the "proper and polite" way to eat, but I only do so when in Europe. I have always liked the Australian's sense of humor and good nature and was very glad of the opportunity to share with so many on this trip. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
NOTES FROM A CRUISE In February ROBIN KNIGHT* and his wife Jean spent 24 days on board the 90,000 ton Queen Elizabeth as the cruise ship sailed 9,200 miles from San Francisco to Sydney on her second world voyage. Here he reports his ... Read More
NOTES FROM A CRUISE In February ROBIN KNIGHT* and his wife Jean spent 24 days on board the 90,000 ton Queen Elizabeth as the cruise ship sailed 9,200 miles from San Francisco to Sydney on her second world voyage. Here he reports his impressions. The first thing that hits you as you board Queen Elizabeth is the design -- somewhat boxy and top heavy on the outside, stately and classical inside. The dominant art deco theme inside the ship works as well today as it must have on the original vessel when she was launched in 1938. The centrepiece is the magnificent 18ft David Linley marquetry panel carving which dominates the Grand Lobby. But all over Queen Elizabeth one finds elegant, imaginative touches -- Great Gatsby-era light fittings, nostalgic black-and-white photos, display cabinets full of Cunard memorabilia, 1930s signage, deep pile carpeting, an eye-catching glass statue and a fine new portrait of Queen Elizabeth 11. Some facts and figures: the average age of passengers on our cruise was 75. One lady celebrated her 97th birthday and a man died of a heart attack while eating breakfast in the cafeteria. If you get exasperated shuffling behind walking sticks, zimmer frames and wheelchairs, this is not the cruise for you. On the other hand, the atmosphere is calm and civilised. Between San Francisco and Sydney the ship carried about 1,850 passengers (some 200 below capacity) including 640 Brits, 200 Germans and 100 French journeying around the world on a three-month long cruise at a minimum cost of £25,000 a head. Thirtyseven nationalities were represented among the passengers and 50 nationalities in the 1,000-strong crew. Most of the senior officers were British or Irish. Service: generally attentive, friendly, flexible, obliging. We moved our dinner table reservation without difficulty to escape a garrulous neighbour. On Valentine's Day Cunard sent us a rose and a card. Our stateroom (never cabin -- a Cunard affectation) steward was conscientious and reliable. The Purser's Desk (vital for all queries) was well run by a multilingual team of capable, polite young women. When a screw came loose on our balcony panel during a stormy spell, it was repaired quickly by a technician who strapped himself to the railings to avoid falling off in the high winds. Real dedication! Numbers: congestion resulting from the presence on board of so many other passengers was not, on the whole, a problem. Occasionally it was -- when getting into small tenders to visit and depart from Fiji, queuing up for food in the Lido cafeteria early in the morning, finding a seat in a bar before dinner and, above all, using the guest launderettes. Charges: Cunard seems bent on emulating Ryan Air. Just about everything discretionary came with a hefty price tag -- and the total mounts up during the best part of a month on board. Many drinks cost more than in the UK - $20 for two pre-dinner glasses of wine in the Commodore Bar and a minimum $30 for a bottle of wine with dinner. In Fiji and again in Dunedin, New Zealand, we purchased wine, gin, tonics and beer and were allowed to bring the haul on board. Still, the fact is that it cost $25 to buy a photograph of oneself from the photo team and $25 to attend a wine-tasting session. Shore excursions could be pricey (about $75 per person on average) but were worth it. The minimum charge for Internet access was $50 (everything is denominated in US dollars). Tips are included for every service and automatically add $12-15 a day per person to one's onboard account. Cabins: with three main categories and more than 30 price grades on offer on Queen Elizabeth it is hard to generalise. We had a light and airy balcony cabin measuring about 300 sq ft. Drawer space was rather limited and there was no bath (only a shower). But the bed was comfortable, linen was changed regularly and the furniture blended in well -- as did the invaluable balcony. Laundry: charges ($8 for a shirt) seemed set to deter usage. However, each deck has three washing machines and three driers for free use. The difficulty was that they were never sufficient. On our deck a queue of (largely female) users formed at 7.30am most mornings and the machines went non-stop for the next 12 hours. People even sat waiting for an empty machine and angry confrontations were not unknown. On a long cruise, this is a real Achilles' heel for Queen Elizabeth. Passenger behaviour: Superficially, it seemed reasonable to us. Behind the scenes Cunard was finessing numerous issues. In particular there appeared to be an endless stream of minor complaints -- about cabins, exchange rates, restaurant tables, staff service, invoices, smoking in cabins (banned), email access and so on -- maybe reflecting the seniority of many of the cruisers. Dress code: Formal evening wear was mandatory (except in the Lido cafeteria) on about one in three evenings when we were at sea (not in port). Dressing up suits the traditionalists but is a bit of a bore for anyone who imagines they are on a relaxing holiday. Activities: Cruise passengers are adept at entertaining themselves. But to help them Queen Elizabeth offered a huge range of activities starting with a 6,000 volume library, games of all descriptions (cards, board, bingo, deck quoits, life-size outdoor chess), golf nets, lectures, shore excursions, crossword puzzle competitions, seminars on iPADS, a health spa, table tennis, satellite television, choir singing, whisky and wine tasting, dance classes, clothes sales, talks about stress. One clear evening we received a brilliant, laser-guided talk given by one of the Second Officers on the night sky in the southern hemisphere. Magic! Entertainment: A downmarket trend was apparent. None of the entertainers on this QE cruise could be termed top rank. Some were American, others British, Australian, Maori and German. One of the stars, in our view, was the resident band -- a disparate international grouping that proved versatile, engaging and professional. Much of the rest was no more than average although there were a couple of stand outs -- Valerie Perri, known for her role in 'Evita' in the USA; and Bruce Morrison from the UK -- another strong all-round singer/performer with a background in musicals. For us the number one attraction proved to be a stylish young American harpist called Hannah Kuipers who played soothingly at venues all over ship most afternoons and evenings. The lectures (always an onboard staple) were a mixed bag. The main feature was a nine-talk series on the Pacific region given by an American anthropologist. In quick-fire fashion this covered the whole vast region, its history and culture. Two superior talks were given by the recently-retired head of the Australian armed forces. Port destination presentations -- crucial preparation for passengers not sure if they were visiting Honolulu or Pago Pago - were the responsibility of the efficient tours department. Food: Opinions varied about the quality if not the quantity. Feeding thousands of people several times a day -- 12,000 meals are served daily when the crew is included - will never be simple however good the chefs. Queen Elizabeth also operates a rigid, old-fashioned class system which separates Princess Grill and Queen's Grill passengers from the common herd who must make do with the 878-seat two deck Britannia restaurant. An alternative is the a la carte Verandah restaurant where main courses cost $25-30. At the Britannia level (ours) breakfast was always excellent, dinner uninspired. The best rule, we found, was to order the simplest item on the daily-changing menu and avoid elaborate-sounding sauces. In the Lido cafeteria, food was varied if routine. Rather late in the day we stumbled across a top notch pub lunch option (yes, there is an authentic British pub on board). The afternoon tea experience in the Queen's Room -- all white gloves, string quartets and cucumber sandwiches -- is not to be missed. Weather -- the Pacific is wrongly named. Based on our experience, it is anything but pacific, being enormous (one third of the Earth's surface), ultra deep and subject to strong winds and currents. We learned this the hard way. Between San Francisco and Hawaii Queen Elizabeth battled 55 knot headwinds and 16ft seas. Taking a shower became a balancing act and there were many complaints of seasickness. Outside decks were closed and evening performances by dancers in the theatre company cancelled as the stage was lurching around so much. Things were little better as we rocked-and-rolled across the Tasman Sea. Crises: leaving Fiji for Auckland, New Zealand, I received an email from home about a potential family crisis. We calculated that it would be at least five days before we could get back to the UK. This is one of the downsides of cruising, especially for the elderly. One "world cruiser" developed an ulcer in San Francisco and was hospitalized. Then he and his wife had to fly to Hawaii to catch up the ship. Travel insurance didn't cover the emergency and the couple ended up paying £3,500 in additional charges. Cruising concerns: With more and more cruise ships at sea, port capacity is becoming an issue. In Sydney (where cruising is worth $400mn a year to the city's economy) there is only one quay for a ship the size of QE. Eight times last year Carnival (owners of Cunard) had to anchor a ship in the outer harbour with all the attendant transport difficulties involved. Disputes also are cropping up everywhere over shore-based facilities such as baggage trolleys in terminal buildings -- who should pay for them? In Wellington and Sydney Queen Elizabeth was made to arrive at 5.00am before first light to avoid disrupting local ferry traffic. In American waters, there were innumerable security checks to navigate as each port of call insisted on its own inspections. At Port Melbourne the authorities made all passengers disembark from a single gangway to enable sniffer police dogs to check that no one was importing a banana into Australia. As a result it took two hours to leave the ship. Later it took the local ambulance service nearly an hour to rescue an injured passenger who had to be moved off Queen Elizabeth to hospital -- to the irritation of the Captain who made his feelings known over the public address system. Downsides: The air conditioning system on Queen Elizabeth is erratic -- alternately too cold or too warm. Many passengers (including me) caught nasty chills as a result. Over-friendly strangers are an occupational hazard on all cruises; Queen Elizabeth had her fair share. We also heard many gripes from young crew members about their lack of time off and their tough work contracts. Our Captain twice blotted his copybook by failing to respond to written enquiries about his ship. Overall impressions: After a shaky start to its cruising career the newest Cunard Queen has bedded down pretty well. Today the general experience is restful and classy if a tad more staid than on a ship like P&O's Arcadia, perhaps reflecting the upmarket retailing strategy Cunard favours. Children are conspicuous by their absence. Queen Elizabeth also is staunchly British in character, which may not appeal to everyone. Our bottom line? We returned home delighted to have had such a wonderful experience. Robin Knight was a foreign correspondent for an American newsmagazine for 28 years, working all over the world. He now runs his own corporate writing company Knightwrite Ltd Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
My wife and I just recently retired and decided to see the Pacific as we both had all our lives read Michener's "Hawaii" book about the Pacific peoples. Got on the Sea Princess in S/Francisco and was very disappointed in the ... Read More
My wife and I just recently retired and decided to see the Pacific as we both had all our lives read Michener's "Hawaii" book about the Pacific peoples. Got on the Sea Princess in S/Francisco and was very disappointed in the Port Authority facilities that were run down, filthy and poorly marked. Thankfully we go on the Sea Princess and we walked around the ship while there were few people on it to find out where everything was. Well "right sized" is the perfect description as well it had a feeling of luxury the larger ships do not have. As we are 65 years old we are not looking for "a theme" ship that is laid out like a carnival but we are not old scrooges either. The Sea Princess is a warm, hospitable ship that is just right for us. We had two stops in Hawaii, then numerous stops in in Fiji, Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand (4) and finally landed in Sydney. Well we fell in love with Moorea and Bora Bora two ideal places that you thought about as a child and growing up and them dreamed about after seeing the movie Mutiny on the Bounty. What a beautiful place (make sure you take a boat tour at Bora Bora, the colors of the water, the power of the waves breaking on the coral and the palm trees and sand beaches are - well breath taking. New Zealand is very similar to Canada with a small population, large rugged land mass and variable weather. We arrived in their spring time so everything was in bloom, grass was green and the weather was sunny but cool. Very nice gracious people, I could move there in a moment. We took the Tavire gorge train ride (recommended) and were treated to old "English" hospitality by a fantastic group of senior volunteers that informed and entertained us for 5 hours. Beautiful countryside with spring sheep and horses everywhere. Our next portion of the cruise was through the fjords of New Zealand which were spectacular in all respects and we timed it just right. It was sunny and the many waterfalls were pouring over their ledges because it had rained for a week just before we arrived. This is a place you MUST GO once in your life. Milford Sound is one of the most spectacular places I have been and I have been travelling for the last 25 years on business. I never realized that Sydney was such a large city. Modern, full of life with an urgency to succeed, no graffiti and the people are warm and friendly. The Sea Princess, its crew, the food we great in all respects. All the way across the Pacific the ship was varnished, cleaned and pampered 24 hours a day. We could not have enjoyed it more. The ONLY negative issue I can recall is that after 3 days at sea you could smell sewage I imagine from the vents, this cleared up once we arrived at a large port where it was "unloaded" Thanks Princess for another great cruise - we will be back. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Our cruise on Queen Victoria was one sector of the ship's 2010 World Cruise, ie San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand. We have just booked another cruise (Venice to Fort Lauderdale) for later this year and on looking at the ... Read More
Our cruise on Queen Victoria was one sector of the ship's 2010 World Cruise, ie San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand. We have just booked another cruise (Venice to Fort Lauderdale) for later this year and on looking at the reviews on this forum have been absolutely staggered at the degree of negative responses to Cunard and its ships. It almost seems that some travellers simply set out to be as negative as possible. Obviously there are going to be the occasional problems with any airline, hotel or cruise operation .. especially when you are dealing with 2000 passengers and 1000 crew ... but our experience was that when these were brought to the attention of the proper person they were promptly fixed. We cannot speak highly enough of the officers and crew on QV - and on the ship itself that provided all the service and comfort that was expected. We look forward to our next Cunard adventure and suggest to some of the critics on this forum that they should take a deep breath and enjoy themselves. Isn't that what cruising is all about? Disclaimer: We are not associated with Cunard or any other travel organisation and have submitted this review as personal feedback. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Our cabin was great, good view from the window, our cabin steward was helpful, kept everything in very good order, I couldn't fault anything there. The dining staff were attentive, friendly, amazed me by remembering things, (like ... Read More
Our cabin was great, good view from the window, our cabin steward was helpful, kept everything in very good order, I couldn't fault anything there. The dining staff were attentive, friendly, amazed me by remembering things, (like did I have coffee with milk or not). The food was well prepared, served and always perfect, the variety of the menu was staggering. Each meal, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, it would have been impossible to not find something delicious even for the most 'picky' eater. The presentation was excellent. The ship was always clean, the entertainment staff friendly and helpful. The evening shows were always wonderful. The only thing that was unfortunately not up to standard was the reception staff. It appeared to me that they would tell you anything just to get rid of you. We had a problem with the shaver power point in the bathroom, when I asked for someone to check it, I was told that there was another power point near the bed. I knew that this was not so, but she insisted it was correct. Also the captain announced that a survey was being distributed. I went to reception 3 times over 4 days requesting a copy of the survey. Each time I was assured that one would be delivered to our cabin. In fact the last person insisted that he would deliver it personally. It never arrived. Why I couldn't just be given one on the first request is incomprehensible! If for some reason, it was a limited survey, that was not included in the captain's announcement. I feel that it was just slack staff!! Would this minor problem stop me from cruising again, the answer is a definite NO. But I do feel that P&O need to be aware of some staffing problems. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We decided to look for a cruise either to or from Australia in 2007. After searching several sources we decided to book the 30 day cruise on Dawn Princess from San Francisco to Sydney. Even though it was a year in advance the cruise ... Read More
We decided to look for a cruise either to or from Australia in 2007. After searching several sources we decided to book the 30 day cruise on Dawn Princess from San Francisco to Sydney. Even though it was a year in advance the cruise critic roll call had already been very active with a group that had booked a cruise from Australia to the US that had been cancelled. By the time the ship sailed we had some 100 cruise critic folks chatting on line. I volunteered to obtain meeting space and time on the ship for the group to gather 4 times during the cruise. The group name was DAWN DOWN UNDER and we had some name tags and pins available for purchase. To say this group created a lifetime of memories would be an understatement. Our portion of this trip consisted of recruiting 6 other local couples to travel with us. These of people we have travelled with in the past at one time or another. The plans for the trip included a 3 day visit to San Francisco and the surrounding area. I had researched a wine tour that several DAWN DOWN UNDER people booked that they told me they enjoyed. Since my sister-in-law who lives in California is dating a native of the San Francisco area we arranged to have a special sightseeing period with them. The highlights included lunch outside of Sausalito, dinner on the pier at Scoma's, walking the "hills" with stops along the way for wine and Irish Coffee. One afternoon we had lunch in Chinatown. We even got to have drinks at the Top of the Mark with a friend who was in town on business. One of the original organizers of the DAWN DOWN UNDER cruise critic group had booked rooms at a small hotel for less than $100 per night that included meal credits. Since this was during the Oracle convention it was an incredible bargain. She also arrange for a tour bus to take us from the hotel to the pier for a nominal cost. The sail away was picture perfect. After 2 days at sea we had the DAWN DOWN UNDER gift exchange. Some 30 couples from all over the world gathered at 4 PM in the bar reserved for our group. A great time was had by all. After 5 sea days we arrived in Honolulu. We spent most of the day on board ship as we planned to spend two weeks after the cruise back in Honolulu. We did arrange to have dinner with friends of our daughter who was in the Army in Honolulu. They took us to the time share we would be staying after the cruise so I could drop off some very heavy luggage for them to store until we arrived. We had one couple in our group who convinced us to sign up for something Princess calls Chef's Table later in the cruise. This turned out to be one of the highlights of this cruise. I just read another review in cruise critic and this is what prompted me to chime in with our highlights. The next port of call was Kona on the big Island of Hawaii. This is a place where we own a time share and have spent time there almost every year. We have a reservation to visit there in October of 2009 for two weeks so we just walked to the local outdoor Olympic size swimming pool and spent the day swimming in the fresh water. At dinner we all discussed what activities we had participated in during the day. Everyone seemed to enjoy their choice of shore activities during the entire trip. We shared photos and stories a lot. The next stop was supposed to be Christmas Island (Kiritimati) but the Captain explained that the harbor had not been dredged and marked and the docks had not been repaired and refurbished and he was NOT taking a chance of having tenders stuck on sandbars so we did a sail around. We brought along binoculars so we were able to see the deserted beaches with only a few people in isolated areas. The weather was beautiful. The Captain did "spin" the ship around so all passengers could view the small island. Five days from Kona we were on land again in Bora Bora. This was one shore excursion we felt was worth more than we paid. We did a helmet dive. We were the morning group and I understand that was the best choice. We were up close and personal with sting rays and hundreds if not thousands of beautiful fish. We bought the videos the underwater cameraman took even though we had purchased a top of the line Olympus underwater digital camera which had many still photos. This is one port we would love to visit again for a week or two. My wife prepaid for all the Pilates classes and went to most if not all of them. I went to a few free stretch classes with her and walked a lot of laps around the deck with her and walked the steps instead of the elevators to keep from gaining too much weight but still managed to go up a few pounds. The next port was Papeete. We wound up walking around near the ship to an internet cafe because I refuse to pay 75 cents a minute to use the ships internet. We decided on the spur of the moment to take a local cab around the sightseeing spots. A German couple had been waiting for somebody else to join them and share the cost of a sightseeing van. He spoke very good English and in fact worked for the American Military in a place the Army calls K town. His wife spoke very little English. We enjoyed sightseeing at our leisure and got to see a lot of the sights. Next was Moorea. We took the launch into town and then hired a cab to take us to a nice beach where we could snorkel. We brought our own snorkel gear. He arranged to pick us back up at a set time later that day to take us back to the docks. We met some very nice folks that were staying at the resort next to the beach and snorkeled the day away. Not quite as spectacular as the Bora Bora helmet dive but very nice. The next port was Raratonga. We signed up for a stroll through the woods searching for the rare Raratonga flycather. Our guide was the Park Ranger. He was a delight. We hiked up and down all the hills but never spotted our bird. Part of it may be because of some rude Germans who insisted on shouting and calling out all along the way. The nicer Germans we met insisted they must be East Germans!! Pretty bad when even your fellow countrymen are willing to classify rudeness as being a trait of a minority group! The next stop was American Samoa. The on board lecture was done by a very knowledgeable woman who had been there when the natives would shower the cruise ships with flowers from a gondola that travelled from on side to the harbor to the other high up in the hills on either side of the pier. The gondola is now just a rusted out pile of machinery. We had bowled with friends back home from Somoa and enjoyed seeing the sights. We walked all over. We stood outside one of the churches where we heard the children singing beautiful songs. As we left the church we saw a group of men preparing a fire pit to cook the meal after church. They had fish and breadfruit in the pit covered by wet leaves. They were dressed in the native dress (men in skirts?. We have photos standing around the firepit. We did a little shopping with US dollars. In Suva Fiji we opted to join several DAWN DOWN UNDER folks for a trip about an hour away at a resort with a nice beach. They had fresh water swimming pools. You could also rent boat rides and other activities. They had a nice open cafe with decent food and drinks. They arranged for a group of strolling musicians to parade around and serenade you. A nice lazy day. We did see lots of poverty on the ride out and back. The New Zealand stops were Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and the Fjordlands. We opted to take a hop on hop off bus to see the museum and other sights in Auckland. Windy Wellington we ate a wonderful lunch at the revolving restaurant in the highest building in New Zealand. What a view. We stopped to buy a couple bottles of New Zealand wines. We walked and took a cable car up the mountainside to a beautiful garden area. Christchurch was one place I had visited almost 40 years ago while I was single and in the Army. All I saw was the golf course and the airport! This time our group opted to visit the Antarctic center. It made for a very enjoyable day. We then strolled along the tiny river that runs through the center of Christchurch. What an unspoiled English speaking spot. I would love to revisit and spend more time there. The gardens are incredible. Every home has a flower garden. The weather was perfect. Denedin was a place our group booked a train trip out and back. We were late finding the train and got separated from out friends but got reunited at the various stops. The countryside was rugged and beautiful. The people were as friendly as anyplace in the world. This was the most expensive excursion we took but was fairly priced for all we got. Food and drink and sightseeing. The Fjordlands weather was perfect which we understand is unusual. It reminded us somewhat of the inside passage in Alaska in spots. Our arrival in Sydney came after a very calm crossing from New Zealand which is unusual. We had created a land travel package that included 3 nights in a hotel in Sydney with our friends and sightseeing to the Blue Mountains and around the harbor on a sightseeing boat. Now to describe "Chef's Table". One other couple in our group booked the same night as us. They are good friends we have travelled with often and in fact the wife is probably my wife's best friend. The other 6 people who joined us met at 7 PM with the Maitre De Neville. He gave us white smocks to wear in the kitchen and introduced us to our wait staff for the night. One of the best waiters on the ship if not THE BEST. As soon as we arrived in the kitchen we were given a champagne flute and the first of several appetizers. Almost before we could take our first sip we were informed the champagne was NOT up to the standards of the Maitre De! He immediately had a better champagne served. We were introduced to the head chef who remained with us for the next 3 hours. We watched the kitchen in action preparing to serve literally more than one thousands diners. When we left the kitchen area we were escorted to a table for 10 that was our home for the next 2 1/2 hours! We watched as dish after dish of food was presented to us and the Maitre De poured a variety of wines to match each dish. A whole lobster tail was an appetizer! The chef and his assistant prepared veal in front of us. We were offered a variety of sauces for the meat. Dessert was over the top. We were given photos that were developed while we dined. Each couple received a special hardbound cookbook from the chef. The chef pulled up a chair after dinner and drank an Alaskan beer!! He said it was almost as good as some German beers. (The ship had done an Alaska cruise just before the repositioning cruise). It turned out there had been a crew turnover of about 75% between the Alaska cruise and the repositioning cruise. Some other memories of this cruise include the fact that buying a coffee card was the best deal on the ship. You were entitled to a set number of specialty coffees (lattes, cappuccinos etc) but unlimited fresh brewed coffee. The coffee anyplace else on the ship was a poor excuse for coffee. We attended many of the lectures given by a young man from Tazmania. He entertained us with his jokes and lecture style. One of the best lectures was given by the ships Captain. He used slides from the Hubble telescope to take us on a journey through the Universe. The woman who provided information on each port of call was very good. The ship offered a variety of entertainment to satisfy almost all tastes. We were offered almost too many choices of activities during the entire cruise. Even the sea days could be filled with a variety of activities but of course you could choose to do nothing!! The average daily cost of a repositioning cruise is such a bargain that we may look for noting but repositioning cruises in the future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008

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