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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
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2015
Probably the best ship in P&O's fleet, having sailed on her, around the world and elsewhere, several times since 2007. Sadly her recent refit has removed one of her most loved features - The Bordeaux Restaurant, and replaced it ... Read More
Probably the best ship in P&O's fleet, having sailed on her, around the world and elsewhere, several times since 2007. Sadly her recent refit has removed one of her most loved features - The Bordeaux Restaurant, and replaced it with The Glasshouse which was noticably deserted for most of our cruise. Her well stocked Library is now crammed into the Cyber Cafe (dont think of sitting there quietly with a good book). The Sindhu restaurant has replaced the Library - OK for those who want a particular style of Indian food. Clealy the new features are centered around profit generation, but I doubt they will realise significant revenue as they are not in keeping with the British style of cruising. The change from the Pennant Grill to the Beach House does offer an alternative dining experience on the back of deck 12 which is recommended in the warmer climbs, possibly not so appealing on the Atlantic routes. The newly installed bulkhead which now divides the Vanderbilt room to provide a kitchen for the Sindhu restaurant lacks the original build quality, evidenced by the creaking whenever the ship gets into a lively sea - something which both Aurora and Oriana have not suffered previously. The multi million pound refit could have benifitted from removing the flaking paint and rust which is particularly evident around Deck 7 and elsewhere. On a more positive note Aurora still rides very well in rough seas - Coming through the Tasmin Sea in a Force 11 she remained very stable - so if your sea legs are not the greatest, this is the ship to choose. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2014
Consider ourselves seasoned cruisers - 20+ cruises since 1996 and 10 or so with RCL. Maybe it was coming off of a rather wonderful cruise on the Allure in September, 2013 or just the time of the year, but it certainly wasn't up to ... Read More
Consider ourselves seasoned cruisers - 20+ cruises since 1996 and 10 or so with RCL. Maybe it was coming off of a rather wonderful cruise on the Allure in September, 2013 or just the time of the year, but it certainly wasn't up to standards. Time of year: week before Easter and Passover week so there was a plethora of youngins. Not much of a hassle on board but on the one snorkel excursion in Nassau, it was. Living in FL full time we are used to snowbirds but failed to note that this was a week where lots of parochial school kids would be out and travelling with families. Had heard some spring breaks were cancelled due to the number of snow days. It does NOT excuse the well below par food and service on the Enchantment. Our cabin steward DID find us a refrigerator when we didn't even have a mini-bar refrigerator the first night so we could at least chill (and freeze) water for shore excursions. We chose My Time Dining at 7;30 and had the same waiter (Valeriano) & assistant, Arturo neither of whom can be faulted for their services. Both were excellent and always at the ready with refills. The food in the dining room is where RCL fell way below par whether it was the soups, salads, entrees or desserts. My last meal, the seafood "mash" was cold and overcooked. I remarked that the scallops were hockey pucks and the cod "fillets" were the hockey sticks. The baked potato barely melted the butter. They left off the "brulee" part of the creme brulee. We did do one dinner at the Windjammer and it was unsuccessful as well AND without the service we expect from Royal Caribbean. The "lobster" bisque was so fishy tasting in an awful red "sauce" that I spit it out. Even the seafood "crisps" on the Indian buffet were stale and soft. Lunch at Windjammer was OK. The Park Cafe was the saving grace for this cruise. Breakfast had all we needed... warm bagels, a variety of cream cheeses, great lox and ok paninis. The BEST by far, hands down meal was the beef on weck (kimmelweck rolls) soaked in au jus for lunch each day. Small bit of horseradish made it even better. Decided to do one snorkel tour with Seahorse excursions and it was delightful VERY short walk to the catamaran with FOUR crew members AND the captain. TWO heads which were checked throughout the morning by the crew. All the water and punch (spiked on the return) you could drink. Two cautions: 1. The water is COLD (by FL standards) about 73 degrees, so bring even a shortie wet suit if you want to be in more than 20 minutes (me) 2. Admit that you CANNOT SWIM and take a life jacket/BC from the crew. They were not mandatory and when people (children esp.) owned up to not swimming, it took longer to get them outfitted properly. Had to wait about 15 minutes to get back on board while these guys were getting off for the first time. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2014
We joined Arcadia in Los Angeles, at the start of the second sector of her World Cruise, and disembarked 7½ weeks later in Dubai. It was our first time on this ship, and the longest cruise we have yet experienced. We found Arcadia to be ... Read More
We joined Arcadia in Los Angeles, at the start of the second sector of her World Cruise, and disembarked 7½ weeks later in Dubai. It was our first time on this ship, and the longest cruise we have yet experienced. We found Arcadia to be a very welcoming ship, and she very soon wrapped herself around us and became ‘home’. As with most cruises we have taken, we’ve come home with a bag full of impressions, some good, some not so good. Our comments here are intended to be positive and constructive, and we hope readers will take them this way too. Arcadia had just undergone a refit which seems to have worked well for the public areas, but not so well perhaps for the cabins, which have retained tired-looking bathrooms and limited storage space for such a long cruise. Our cabin was on C deck, overlooking the stern, and contrary to some passengers’ perception of these cabins we experienced very little engine noise, and a very sheltered balcony which we used a lot. Arcadia does however have a rather strange arrangement on the stern, with balconies on D deck being larger, but completely covered by the C deck one above (very little sun), and those on E deck being completely open to the sky and to those looking down on them from above (so very little privacy) Future cruisers beware! With the refit also came the introduction of ‘Freedom Dining’ on the upper level of the Meridian Restaurant, and the abandonment of ‘silver service’. Both changes worked well for us. Restaurant Manager Rajeev was adept at matching us to the size of table we wanted, and we rarely experienced queues. Until the very end of the cruise we also enjoyed meeting different folk each night (and at breakfast and lunch, since we took most meals here). The lack of ‘silver service’ actually meant that our food came quicker, on (very) hot plates, and looking as the chef intended. On the whole, the standard of food was very high, and we made only 3 visits to the two speciality restaurants, the main advantage being to escape the noise in the Meridian at its busiest times. Service in the Restaurants and throughout the ship was superb. Daytime activities could have proved problematic on such a long cruise. We enjoy dancing and in Jeffery Dobinson (ably assisted by Brenda Twigg) we found one of the best teachers we have ever had. He quite literally ‘made’ the cruise for us. The ‘downside’ was that his lessons had to be held in The Retreat, up on Deck 10, a room intended for Yoga and gentler fitness classes, NOT for ballroom dancing ( with its low ceiling and unsuitable floor). The ship added its own movements to the dancing, too! Other venues were also badly matched to the activities planned for them, and far too many events started at around 11am, making choices difficult. Painting classes were held in the Globe, a gloomy space with no natural light (but the obvious choice for dancing!), and quizzes in The Rising Sun, right next to the noisy Casino. Classical artists had to perform in the Crow’s Nest Bar, where new screens put in at the refit meant that they could be seen properly only by a select few sitting right in front of the piano. The acoustics there were poor, with low ceilings and thick carpets. On just three occasions they were moved to the Palladium, a much better space for them. We particularly enjoyed Allan Schiller, the pianist (by far and away the best of the performers) and the clarinet and piano duo of James and Maciej. Another example of mismatching was the siting of the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party in the Neptune Pool area. With the roof closed, this event was unbearably noisy, and the Captain’s speech could not be heard. Surely the Palladium Theatre would have been a better choice? We noticed that areas such as the Spinnaker and Intermezzo Bars were not used for events at all, because they remain ‘open plan’. Maybe that was why they didn’t seem popular as bars, either! We did not take many of the ship’s excursions, but those we did do were generally well-planned and enjoyable. We do wish, though, that the planners wouldn’t assume that we all need toilet stops and ‘shopping time’, which eat into time better spent at more interesting places. On the Mumbai tour, for example, we had 1¼ hours ‘shopping time’, but only 5 minutes at the ‘Gateway to India’! The Port Talks on board were excellent, and Sam was always ready to give her advice to independent travellers, too. Evening entertainment was a bit ‘hit and miss’. The ship’s own Headliners were brilliant (particularly the ‘Killer Queen’ show), but we got far too many ‘crossover’ acts (two violinists, two pianists, even two sets of tenors!). The Palladium is a lovely, comfortable venue, but sight lines are obscured by pillars and high-back sofas, and it was often impossible to find a seat at the first show if you arrived after 8pm. We enjoyed the regular dances in The Globe, though after the first few weeks things did get a bit repetitive! Internet use on board most cruise ships continues to be fraught with difficulties, and the charges that P&O make for it are quite outrageous, given its slow speed. We had reason to query charges twice, because the connection had been lost, and we were clocking up the pounds and pence simply getting back on to email. I guess most of us are not interested in using the service every day, or even every week, but we do like to keep in touch with family and friends on a very long cruise like this one. Passengers could be seen scurrying ashore with laptops at every port of call, to the cruise terminals and beyond, just to get a connection at an acceptable price. We managed 2 dollars an hour in Singapore; on the ship, this would have added £30 to our bill! Free Internet use should be included in the cruise fare, and if this causes problems with bandwidth on board, passengers can be allotted specific times to access it. These few ‘moans’ apart, we had a fabulous cruise which was excellent value for money.   Read Less
Sail Date: February 2014
Arcadia world cruise 2014 Auckland to Southampton We returned to UK from a month touring in NZ by 51 days on Arcadia. This was our first time on P and O and we chose this cruise because of the port calls which seemed to us a wish list of ... Read More
Arcadia world cruise 2014 Auckland to Southampton We returned to UK from a month touring in NZ by 51 days on Arcadia. This was our first time on P and O and we chose this cruise because of the port calls which seemed to us a wish list of many places in the world we wanted to see and we were not disappointed. Sadly, the planned calls to Egypt could not take place because of the security situation; P and O substituted Sallalah in Muscat which was a waste of time as the majority of passengers did not get off the ship, and also Aqaba, which gave us an excursion to Petra and was the high point of the trip. We liked: our cabin (E deck next to midships gangway), the promenade deck, some of the lectures and entertainment, the art tutor, the Captain who is outstandingly good, reception staff, the port presentations, the excursions we took. The entertainments staff worked hard but there is a great reliance on quizzes. Headliners theatre company are very good, but on a long trip you eventually get repeats of the same show. The ship is modern and comfortable but not glitzy. Disembarkation was rapid and efficient. We disliked: the food, quality was very variable. In particular, preparation and cooking of vegetables and selection was poor (‘not peas again’). For vegetarians it was difficult. Meridian restaurant menus became somewhat predictable. Belvedere self service was often over busy and with bizarre choices, some days lots of curries, other days none at all, some days plenty of non meat choices, other days none at all. The beauty salon is over priced and not very good, I had a poor experience myself and heard many unhappy stories from other women passengers. We would have liked: better lecture choices, (there was rather a lot of history of the second world war), an experienced choir leader and I was surprised that the ship does not carry a chaplain. A lot of passengers seemed to be ill towards the end of the cruise. While P and O do have some hygiene procedures in place, they do not enforce rigorously, nor remind people as often as they need to. I think there is specific problem on a world cruise, where new groups of passengers, up to 600 at a time, are embarking for a particular sector, and bring with them a lovely selection of winter infections which they then fail to keep to themselves. Those of us who had been away from the UK since January did not stand a chance. Overall this was a successful cruise which met our expectations but we would probably not travel with P and O again, as we now know that we prefer smaller ships with fewer passengers.   Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2013
I have cruised since 2002, previously with Holland America (excellent experience & after Cunard regard them as much better value for money),Princess (very good, would choose them again) & P&O Australia (probably not again - ... Read More
I have cruised since 2002, previously with Holland America (excellent experience & after Cunard regard them as much better value for money),Princess (very good, would choose them again) & P&O Australia (probably not again - well, enough said). Embarked in great expectation, but found as the cruise progressed, pre cruise publicity not very accurate. The disappointments came fro a lot of little things. I will fill you in in 'dot point' fashion. I would probably think hard about going with Cunard again as the value is not there when compared with other cruises I have experienced. * Embarkation & De-embarkation - very smooth & easy (looked like P&O ground crew being used) * Found stateroom quickly (A lot smaller than other ships of same vintage & older) but not cleaned or prepared for 3 of us. * Went to Kings Court for a 'cuppa' ( & experienced our first taste of unhappy crew - sniping at each other) * Dined in Britannia Restaurant that evening (& most evenings), stewards and Maitre D welcomed us - great, but meal was good but not special. Our table stewards' service was excellent but took some time to warm up (again suffering from unhappy crew syndrome, may be because of many & varied cultural backgrounds)I must add that our table steward proved excellent. * Speciality Restaurants were booked out in a very short time after boarding. * Afternoon tea was a disappointment with soggy sandwiches and often stale cakes, &, often cold tea. * Ship ambiance, excellent but looking close at the timber panelling etc. showed how clever people are with the artificial. * Meals followed our first meal experience of being mostly good but not great. * We partook in the formal night activities and enjoyed them (your choice). * Kings Court, the few times we went, the food was pretty ordinary but always quick & easy. * Stage shows typical of cruising, not a lot of variation from other lines shows. * Illuminations would have been OK if special reclining seats were repaired or replaced. * Cunard Enrichment activities were good, informative & worthwhile - Library & Bookshop worth visiting. ( Commodore Rynd was available for book signing one day but I think was overwhelmed with response with many passengers turned away). * It was good not to feel overcrowded - on board passenger/space ratio excellent * Room Service excellent (better than buffet for quality) * Cabin Steward very obliging * reception staff very good. * Overall ship appearance - at just under 10 years old and following previous maintenance & upgrades, the ship is showing some lack of regular/ongoing maintenance (tired looking, bad rust in some areas) * We had 2 tender ports which was good but some new crew had difficulties with tenders (got to learn sometime somewhere I guess). * Entertainment throughout the ship was excellent * Guest entertainers ( mixed quality) * Ports were all good particularly Akaroa and Fiordland - bonus at Milford Sound where Cunard had arrange some publicity shots allowing us extra time in that beautiful place, even maneuvering/navigating within a few metres of a waterfall. * To repeat it was a lot of little things including some unhappy crew that let the ship down. Overall enjoyable cruise to a lovely area but not quite as publicity generated expectations. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2013
We arrived at the terminal around 1:30 and was greeted with a check in line that snaked all over. For a ship with only 1150 people, taking 2 1/2 hours to check in is pretty bad. The line was just as long when we did get checked in as it ... Read More
We arrived at the terminal around 1:30 and was greeted with a check in line that snaked all over. For a ship with only 1150 people, taking 2 1/2 hours to check in is pretty bad. The line was just as long when we did get checked in as it was when we started. Felt the ship was fairly dirty when we got there and it took about a week for it to really look better. By the time we left 49 days later, it was looking really good. Experienced some of the same problems the lady from the previous cruise wrote about. Our commode over flowed several times, but they responded quickly each time. The ship was the coldest we have ever sailed on and there were MANY people sick with colds, etc. I swear you could almost see your breath in some of the spaces. Cabins in our area lost partial power several times but maintenance was right there. The food and service in both the dining room and the Lido deck were very good. The only complaint was that there were times when it seemed the dirty dishes would never be picked up, especially in the outdoor areas. Due to the length of the cruise, we may have had special entertainers, but all were very good. I couldn't have afforded to pay to see them on the outside. All of the staff were very friendly and the customer service people, ie. Future cruise, computer help,excursions, etc, kept longer hours than usual. We had several tender ports and in general, they went pretty smooth. Over all a pretty good cruise. 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
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2013
We greatly enjoyed the 2013 HAL Grand World Voyage (115 days) on the ms Amsterdam. It's a little sad getting back to the real world after the adventure, the glamour, and the pampering over the past four months. However, we do have ... Read More
We greatly enjoyed the 2013 HAL Grand World Voyage (115 days) on the ms Amsterdam. It's a little sad getting back to the real world after the adventure, the glamour, and the pampering over the past four months. However, we do have some fabulous memories. In case it might be useful for anyone else, the following is a wrap-up of what this incredible journey was like for us. When we started the World Voyage, our hunch was that 115 days might drag on forever, but it didn't -- the time actually flew by. We felt very comfortable with the daily schedule and began to think of the ship as our home that was being magically transported to places around the world about which we had always dreamed. Many other destinations that we thought we would never visit in our lifetimes turned out to be equally intriguing and exciting as well. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. General Impressions The ms Amsterdam is an excellent sized ship for a world cruise. It's big enough to contain everything a person could possibly need in a home-away-from-home: several excellent dining venues, lounges, theatres, classes, deck chairs, etc. Although it's classed as a medium-sized ship, the Amsterdam had many of the advantages of a small ship: we recognized most of the passengers and staff (and knew many of them by name), and it wasn't a long walk from one end of the ship to the other. Our stateroom (Verandah Suite) never felt confining; there was enough room for everything we brought with us. The ship's staff and crew always reacted positively to passengers' comments or requests. We frequently observed them going out-of-their way to ask if guests needed assistance. Especially striking was the positive, helpful attitude of the "Front Desk" (Guest Relations) staff on this Grand World Voyage. Without exception, they were always friendly, always cheerful, and always willing to help. We have never encountered anything like this on other cruises. Bravo! The Cruise Director, Bruce, seemed to be especially attuned to the special needs of guests on a long journey such as this one. We understand that Bruce has been with Holland America since 1992 and has served on 18 Grand World Voyages -- nine of them as Cruise Director. We can't say enough about Bruce; he is undoubtedly one of a kind and a real asset to Holland America Line. We packed almost exactly the right things to bring on the cruise, due to our reading of numerous message boards on the Internet, including CruiseCritic.com. Pre-cruise assistance from Holland America was almost non-existent. Perhaps they believe that pre-planning should be simply personal preference, even for people who do not cruise often. For this itinerary, both us brought too many cold-weather clothes (e.g., sweaters and jackets were not needed). The weather was beautiful almost the entire four months -- remarkably good luck! - We never had seriously rough seas -- a few days of gale force winds, but nothing serious. That's really amazing for spending this much time on the open ocean. - Temperatures were moderate to warm the entire time, with the exception of early in the cruise along the west coast of Peru until we left the cold Humboldt Current. There were also cool rainy days in Cape Town and Richards Bay, South Africa. However, it needs to be said that these "cool" periods meant temperatures were in the low 60s. - During the early part of the cruise we missed two tender ports -- Easter Island and Rarotonga -- due to windy conditions and moderate swells. However, as we went along, local people in many ports told us that we must have brought good weather with us, because "the day before you arrived it was terrible weather." - In Asia and Africa, we had a few days with brief rain spells that didn't spoil our enjoyment in visiting these locales, including Nha Trang, Sydney (Day 2), Albany, and Cape Town (Day 2). The rain for our mini-safari from Richards Bay was uncomfortable and limited wild-animal viewing, but we liked the experience nonetheless. - Captain Mercer always kept us updated on meteorological conditions and any future weather or sea problems that we should anticipate. Things We Liked No decisions, no work, no worries for four solid months Free time for us to do as little or as much as we wanted to do We went places we never thought we would ever see (e.g., Tasmania, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Devil's Island) The two weeks we spent visiting New Zealand & Australia (actually 3 weeks, if sea days are included) were absolutely great. These two countries made a very favorable impression on us -- wonderful ports and wonderful people; we left reluctantly, wishing we could stay longer. Touring some of the most renowned cities of the world (e.g., Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Cape Town) with free time built into the schedule was exciting and enjoyable. The desert experience in Namibia of riding in 4x4 vehicles on the very tall sand dunes was a thrilling adventure beyond our expectations. Professional entertainment in the Queen's Lounge almost every night aboard ship for four solid months was enjoyable. There were at least 60 different acts; some were hits and some were misses -- that's understandable. We did hear complaints from veteran world-cruise travelers that there were no "big-name" entertainers this year as they had seen in the past. Nonetheless, we went to the shows almost every night. That's something most people can't do at home. The 6-person Amsterdam Orchestra was superb. The orchestra remained intact (no changes in membership) for the entire four-month journey. Their challenge was to accompany each of the visiting professional singers and solo artists nearly every night, with a different style and tempo. They were always the perfect complement to the guest performers. As we understand it, the orchestra members receive their music the day of the performance and then do one rehearsal. We don't know how they managed this so well. Outstanding meal programs -- a wide variety of selections, superb preparation, wonderfully presented and served. Preparing 5,000 excellent meals per day for passengers, crew members and officers for four solid months in locations all over the world must be a huge challenge. Holland America delivered supremely well. The main dining room and Lido buffet offered consistently excellent food served by correspondingly excellent staff. We were very lucky to be assigned to a table at dinner in the main dining room with two other couples with whom we were compatible and whose company we enjoyed for the entire voyage. Other passengers were not so lucky. Pinnacle Grill is an excellent specialty restaurant on the Amsterdam. The atmosphere, staff, and food quality were always superb. Much of this can be attributed to the managers -- Kim & Tina -- who are first-class professionals. The ship has a particularly good library, including two librarians on-duty for the full cruise, as well as a book club, and a book exchange. There were many special benefits (perks) for cruising on a Holland America Line Grand World Voyage that we greatly appreciated. These included the following: - Pickup and delivery of luggage from our homes by FedEx one week before departure was a brilliant and prized benefit for Grand World Voyage guests. At the end of the voyage, our luggage arrived at our home by FedEx one day after cruise disembarkation. - Complimentary shuttle busses available at every port where it was needed - "Good Morning Amsterdam" TV show taped before a live audience every sea day - Special gifts for all World Voyage passengers on many formal nights - Ship-board activities, including photo contests, HAL Chorale, book discussion groups, exploration speakers, sit & knit group, and many qualified instructors on varied topics such as dancing, tai chi, watercolor, arts & crafts, bridge, etc. We heard someone say, "If you're bored on a HAL world cruise, then you're a boring person." - Special events in the Pinnacle Grill -- Captain's Dinner, Murder Mystery Shows, Le Cirque - Special educational emphasis on regions where we were traveling was especially well done. We clearly felt a cultural immersion at many ports, and we thought it greatly enhanced our experiences. These included Travel Guide Barbara's presentations, selected local menus in the dining rooms, country-oriented pool deck parties, as well as folkloric shows or local performing groups brought onboard the ship for entertainment. - Several-day visit by Holland America's CEO indicated to us the importance the cruise line places on the Grand World Voyage and on its guests. - Very big, labor-intensive (for the crew) special party in Bali, arranged to coincide with the HAL CEO's visit, was just amazing. - Two highly talented dedicated florists were onboard for the entire cruise, and they created beautiful, artistic fresh flower arrangements all over the ship which were refreshed frequently -- wow, they were great! - On this long voyage, crew members seemed to enjoy getting to know the passengers, including their drink and food preferences. - Medical and dental department on board for the entire cruise. One of us had an abscessed tooth and might have had to leave the ship if the dentist and his equipment had not been available. We were aware of other passengers that were treated by the medical staff for broken limbs and other ailments. Travel Guide Barbara has been a staff member on 15 world cruises and has worked for Holland America for more than 20 years. She presented a 45-minute lecture in the Queen's Lounge several days before every one of the port calls on this cruise. The insights she passed along were always pertinent, useful, and based on her experience. She never pushed shopping at particular stores, rental car companies, etc. The Digital Workshop (sponsored by Microsoft) was very well done. "Techspert Tom" was an unusually good asset for the cruise. He is one of the best personal computer teachers we have ever encountered -- relaxed, patient, knowledgeable, and always current on new technology. His classes were informative, and he even tailored some of the material for the world-cruise experience. We congratulate Holland America and Microsoft for developing this relationship. Areas for Improvement For passengers, use of the Internet was expensive, and reliability was spotty during long stretches. We were very happy that some access was provided, especially for this lengthy cruise when it was essential for many of us to stay in touch with family or to communicate in the event of an emergency. We were frustrated with the limited bandwidth onboard ship. We understand why reliability is so bad when we are in the middle of the ocean or in less-developed parts of the world. However, that doesn't mean that we were happy with the situation. Holland America was very late in sending detailed information to passengers in sufficient time before the cruise. Even though most of us made reservations more than a year in advance, they waited until the last minute to give us the details we needed for advance planning. As an example, we would have preferred knowing the themes for the 19 formal nights at least 3-4 months in advance, for shopping purposes, but that didn't happen. We talked to passengers who never received advance information, and many others who received theirs only days before their departure from home. We didn't understand the need for 19 formal nights on this voyage. That's too many, for myriad reasons. Perhaps we could understand having one formal event per week. The Grand World Voyage was 16 weeks long, so 16 formal nights should have been the absolute maximum number. We paid a lot of extra money for a stateroom with a verandah we couldn't use, because guests in the adjoining stateroom used their verandah for cigarette and cigar smoking many times during each day. Spending a day on Easter Island was one of our reasons for booking this particular Grand World Voyage. Getting so close, but not being able to go ashore due to choppy seas, was a big disappointment. That much being said, we believe Captain Mercer made the right decision to curtail tendering passengers to the island; we don't fault him in any way. We were just frustrated that the opportunity eluded us. We found this hard to believe, but apparently fellow passengers could not be trusted. Early in the voyage we put refrigerator magnets, from the ports we visited, on the outside door frame of our stateroom. Our Bora Bora magnet disappeared after a few days (obviously stolen), so we removed the magnets off our door. Down the hall, another room was doing the same thing, and despite their magnets also being stolen, they continued displaying them. After about 2½ months, five of their magnets had been stolen. They put a sign on their door asking that the magnets be returned; but, of course, they weren't. By the end of the voyage, eight magnets had been stolen from their door frame. Unbelievable! Summary Holland America's 2013 Grand World Voyage was everything we had hoped for, and more. We had wonderful experiences that will remain with us forever. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2012
We have been on quite a few cruises, mostly Caribbean, Bermuda, etc but never to the Europe. Have traveled with Norwegian many times, mainly due to the costs per itineraries- we find they seem to offer as good a deal as anyone else and ... Read More
We have been on quite a few cruises, mostly Caribbean, Bermuda, etc but never to the Europe. Have traveled with Norwegian many times, mainly due to the costs per itineraries- we find they seem to offer as good a deal as anyone else and better than most. Lots of stops on this cruise. First the positives- Great deal, around 50 bucks per night base price. Great ports. Less structured freestyle dining equals more flexibility in most cases. Crew was excellent for the most part ( some exceptions noted later ), Helpful and Friendly. Check in at Venice was a breeze compared to some other embarkation points we have visited. The Spirit is the oldest ship Norwegian has but is in great shape for her age. Next the Negatives- The food in the main dining rooms(once again Norwegian) was not really up to par. It sees as if they are trying to steer you to their pay, specialty restaurant options which are all very good. We did have dinner in the Bistro, Cagney's and The Italian place on board. All very good- VERY good. Food in the main dining rooms was average at best. Food on the buffet, average at best. Next Negative - On several occasions I felt like some ships personnel had lied to me from the shore excursion desk. We rarely use the ship's shore excursions but since we had never ventured into this part of the world we were curious about getting back safely. We had already made arrangements for some off ship activities (not through the ship) but were still curious about our options. So I stopped in the shore excursion desk on two different occasion to ask some questions. Was told by one young lady on the shore ex desk that Athens Greece had no public transportation available on the days we would be in port so if we wanted to get around, we had to buy their shore excursion. We had heard of similar experiences from other cruisers. Also, on our trip, we had to verify our time many times- for some reason some of the ships people couldn't get the time right. Had this same story again a few days later for a stop in Turkey, shore ex desk people told some areas were not open for tourists unless we booked passage from them as it was a holiday. Perhaps I misunderstood, but we did talk to some other couples with similar stories. I hate to just make the statement that we were intentionally lied to, but it sure seemed that way. After we actually got ashore, a nice 10-12 min walk to the public train station and a 4 euro pp ticket ( all day ) got us easily to the Acropolis sites and back ( this versus 149 pp for a Norwegian tour of the same ). Summary of my story, do your research first, for each and every port, days you will be there, bus & train schedules, locations, etc. and do not completely 'trust' the ship's people to give you advice. Compare notes and ask for second opinions. Now if you have an extra thousand dollars just laying around and don't want to go to the trouble to do an hour of research, then the ship's sponsored shore excursions are for you. Once again about the time, as this cruise does cross a time zone you must triple check your time before you leave the ship and with more than one source. We had a printed daily newsletter stating the ships time change and a loudspeaker announcement with an update and a clock at the front desk showing another time. PLEASE verify the time. On our cruise some passengers were left behind at each and every port ! The time confused staff and announcements may have played a small part. OK next negative- The ports, all are very historic with a lot to see and do. Having this said you should not try to see or do it all. That is not possible and you will stress yourself out. Most of the ports are not exactly close to the sights that most came to see- so a lengthy ride on a bus or train is needed. Example, Florence Italy is a great, MUST SEE city, but it is about 1 HR 20 mins by train from the port. OK - that is 3 hours travel time taken away from your in port time. so don't be fooled by the time in port listed on the itinerary. This is not Norwegians fault that they cant drive the boat that far inland but it must be taken into consideration when you book this cruise. Florence has many beautiful and historic sites so my suggestion is pick one or two must see places and stick to those and spend the appropriate amount of time to enjoy them. Another example is Rome, over an hour inland by train from the port. Rome is a really big city with too much to see in 6 hours, so once again pick one or two things, don't pressure yourself to do it all, because you cant see it all in a week. This is not the fault of the cruise line that the ports are not very close to the sites, but the way it is advertised it can be a little misleading. Please take into account the travel time, distance and costs for these ports before you book this cruise. you will find that you have about half the time available that you think you have. A little tip about money, most European countries use the EURO, Turkey still uses the Turkish Lira. Most places in Turkey will accept Euros or even US dollars but you can usually make a better deal if you travel with the correct local currency. We exchanged money at our home bank BEFORE we left getting EUROS and LIRA. We got a better exchange rate doing it this way versus using the ship or a port side agency. Then when we did make local purchases we were able to negotiate a better price. I estimate we saved about 20% doing it this way. Just watch the exchange rates to make sure the vendors don't un-do your savings. Another tip, I think the Turkish government requires that all ship shore excursions must include a portion of that tour for a hard sell. In IZMIR we were required to sit through a leather fashion show and sales pitch at a leather store- about 40-50 mins of the sore excursion. In ISTANBUL we were required to sit through a carpet demonstration and sales pitch at a carpet store.( once again 40 mins or so ) Purchases are not required but participation is required if you book the shore excursion from the ship. So be prepared if you book an excursion from the ship. Getting off the ship in Barcelona- easy, smooth, trouble free. Plenty of available taxis. We had a taxi for 4 from the port to the airport for 36 EU . The Barcelona is beautiful and wished we had most time to explore. We did arrive 3 days prior to the cruise in Venice and spent a few days getting acclimated to the weather and time change. 3 days in Venice was wonderful. Overall, Norwegian cruises did a good job, We will probably go with them again. If we ever do Italy again it probably will not be on a cruise as the ships cant get too close to the good stuff and you need more time to see it than a one day stop can provide. 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: March 2012
We did the 30 day Hawaii South Pacific Cruise. While the Rotterdam is an older ship there is still a lot of charm. Enjoyed the library area and the lounge areas on that level were very comfortable. While we had an inside cabin, it was ... Read More
We did the 30 day Hawaii South Pacific Cruise. While the Rotterdam is an older ship there is still a lot of charm. Enjoyed the library area and the lounge areas on that level were very comfortable. While we had an inside cabin, it was roomy and comfortable. The ship is due to go into dry dock in Germany this December. Besides doing refurbishing, they need to do a major disinfecting of the whole interior. People have been getting sick aboard the Rotterdam for the last several cruises. You couldn't escape the racking chest coughs that so many passengers had. Thank goodness I travel with an antibiotic, as the only thing the ship offered was Cipro which is for gastrointestinal problems. Three of my table-mates were diagnosed with pneumonia upon seeing their personal physicians when returning home. Probably my major complaint was watching them change the beds for the next cruise and realizing that they did not remove the mattress pad or the blankets for washing. I'm sorry I didn't realize that at the beginning of the cruise. The crew was a wonderful group of friendly and helpful people always ready to help. The food was very good and choices were plentiful. The entertainment left a lot to be desired. There were a few talented entertainers that offered us an opportunity for a pleasant evening. Seeing the South Pacific Islands was wonderful. The views from the boats on snorkeling trips were amazing! Moorea was by far my favorite with Bora Bora following right behind. If your a lover of poolside sunning and swimming, you better love the sun as there aren't any shaded areas to place a lounge chair - forward or aft on the ship. One pool is also not enough to accommodate the many guest, but that's OK because they only have about 50 lounge chairs around the pool. All in all, it was a wonderful adventure and good value. The 30 days at sea seemed to fly by. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
Overall we 'quite' enjoyed the cruise, but it has to go down as one of our least successful. I'll get the problems out of the way first before giving an overview of the cruise ship. Some of the problems on this cruise were ... Read More
Overall we 'quite' enjoyed the cruise, but it has to go down as one of our least successful. I'll get the problems out of the way first before giving an overview of the cruise ship. Some of the problems on this cruise were caused by events in a previous sector, namely a major drug bust of 4 passengers carrying cocaine who were arrested in San Fransisco and Sydney, before we boarded. (Serious enough to have been reported on Sky News.)However, the result of these events meant that we were a marked ship, subject to the most rigorous screening (full cabin searches, dog sniffing and additional baggage and personal searches especially in remaining Autralian ports and in Bali. Bad luck for anybody carrying small amounts of recreational stuff for own use!)The worst aspect was that we were unable to visit Yorkey's Knob, from where we had hoped to visit the Great Barrier Reef after 30+ years of trying. This was because the Australian authorities decided that Yorkey's Knob didn't have adequate screening for such a dodgy ship, so we would have to be screened at Cairns - but our anchorage position remained the same, and it would have taken hours to tender all 2000 passengers and crew up to Cairns. So Captain decided not worth it at all - we wouldn't have got the the GBR that day. So that was the first disappointment. But there were other difficulties, including a taxi blockade in Bali preventing P&O shuttle buses leaving the pier (so going nowhere)coupled with the pontoon on the pier getting damaged by waves, so preventing tender boats coming to pick up stranded passengers. (Many of whom spent the whole day in a bar off the pier who must have thought it was Christmas birthday and anniversary all come at once.) The Bali authorities appeared to be unable to mend the damaged pontoon, such that engineers from Aurora were despatched to do the job. This took until about 3pm, by which time tours buses that had got through before the taxi blockade were returning. We got to the pier around 5.30 after our tour, to face a 2 and a half hour queue. Medics from the ship had been brought over to identify any urgent medical cases to get priority. Aurora finally left Bali several hours late, with some very disgruntled people (also some very drunk ones). The other 'external' cause of passenger fury was that local tender boats were used as well as ship's tenders in Koh Samui, and the one we were on had a completely incompetent crew incapable of tying up to the Aurora, so passengers sat or stood on open decks in 39 degree temperature stewing while senior P&O officers were sent down to sort things out. Being overheated temperature-wise certainly raised the emotional temperature too.On the ship itself, the only significant problem was the continuous dripping from the air conditioning. The sight of buckets everywhere, and dehumidifiers to dry out soaking carpets, became the butt of continuous jokes both by the entertainers on the ship and the passengers. The staff did what they could, but it was not an edifying sight. It has to be said the weather was very hot and humid for most of this sector. So having got the problems out of the way, how did I rate Aurora? We liked it / P&O a whole lot better than Cunard, which we also experienced this year. Drinks and excursions half the price, so less feeling of being ripped off. Most staff very good, especially cabin and dining room service. Loved the spa, and the gym (though gym far too small given the number of people attending classes), the pools were nice. Library was quite good, there was plenty of public area space, reasonably well kept (ignoring drips). There were some quite good enhancement offerings like art clubs, photo clubs and dance lessons. The theatre was quite nice but too small to accommodate half the passengers (i.e. all of first or second sitting) - which might not have been a problem had there been any alternative entertainment while the show was on. But most nights at 8.30 everything else shut down, so if you weren't having dinner and didn't want to watch the show (or couldn't get in) there was absolutely nothing to do, not even live music in a bar - oh, and the occasional quiz, which is fine if you watch TV a lot and can answer those type of questions. The standard of the food was mostly pretty good (much the same as Cunard, not as good as on the smaller luxury ships). However, the alternative dining venues were a disappointment. Marco Pierre White would not want his name put to what is served in his name in the Cafe Bordeaux. It was 'OK' but much the same as in the Alexandria / Medina restaurants. Te Pennant Grill was maybe slightly better but the heat and humidity made it a less than enjoyable experience up there. Overall, I think most passengers would have had a good time, there are a lot of very loyal P&O passengers. But for us, it confirmed what we thought after our Cunard cruise: we never want to go on such a big ship again. Having a large number of tender ports (over half) plus being forced to moor in big industrial docks well away from city / towns centres, requiring some long shuttle buses rides, the continual queuing for one thing or another, and fixed seating / timing in restaurants - not for us. We also would never go on a sector of a world cruise again.Too few ports and too many sea days, and a different atmosphere with some passengers doing the whole world cruise and the rest continually changing. I like embarking with everyone else (preferably fewer than 400 people) ans sharing the whole cruise in common with them. I did meet some nice people, and would not try to deter anyone from taking a P&O cruise. I just know I won't be doing it again. The itinerary wasn't that great either, once we'd lost Yorkey's Knob for the Great Barrier Reef. I haven't been able to rate all the ports because several are not on the list, and probably for good reason. The last few ports were very repetitive - basically the main attraction was the beach, which when it is really hot is maybe not where you want to spend hour after hour. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
Background: We're 60 year old Australians with 10 previous cruises on different ships (and many different cruise lines) with which to compare. This was our first cruise on a British ship except for cruising on the original Oriana ... Read More
Background: We're 60 year old Australians with 10 previous cruises on different ships (and many different cruise lines) with which to compare. This was our first cruise on a British ship except for cruising on the original Oriana way back in 1984! The official sector of the around the world cruise was from Sydney to San Francisco but we were allowed to embark in Brisbane. This added another 3 nights to the cruise making it a total of 28 nights. British pounds which are used onboard are now only $1.50 as our exchange rate has improved. Embarkation: As we live near Brisbane we drove and left our car at a nearby car storage. As our return trip would be by air from USA, they would collect us at the nearby international airport. Their shuttle service was efficient. Arriving after 11 am, we were forced to stand in line at the cruise terminal until midday when they opened the counter. The line moved slowly as only about 3 cruise staff processed the 300 odd passengers boarding here. Gradually more staff appeared (maybe they had been on lunch?). We couldn't understand why the process wasn't started earlier or more staff used as with other cruise ships at this port. With such a relatively small number of passengers embarking here, the process should have been quicker. Once on board, we were directed to our cabin where we left our hand luggage and went for lunch. Throughout the cruise we had 5 Cruise Critic meetings with our small group followed by lunch in the MRD. The Ship: Built in 1995, the Oriana was showing its age but the recent refurbishment helped it feel modern. Public areas were nicer than we expected. Carpets looked new and the crew were constantly painting and undertaking other maintenance. It had recently been converted to an 'adults only' ship. The recently added 'duck's tail' to the lower rear of the ship seemed to help it handle some rough weather near USA. With 1800 passengers it is a comfortable size and has a good layout. The promenade deck was very wide and great for walking. While the majority of the passengers were British, there were a large number of Australians. We did get the impression that some of the reserved Poms were taken back by the comparatively loud Aussies. As mentioned in previous reviews, passengers in the rear restaurant complained of noisy vibration. At a 'question & answer' session, the captain apologised for the excessive vibration and said it was due to the 2 propellers being slightly out of timing. He said that it was worse at certain speeds which they were trying to avoid. Fortunately we weren't in that restaurant but did find the noise from the vibration excessive when in the Pacific Lounge which is on the deck directly above the rear dining room. It appeared that certain performers were moved from here to the front theatre for this reason. After the captain's comments, the noise did appear to reduce. In the interest of hygiene we would have preferred if the public toilets had the main door left open as on many other ships avoiding the need to use paper towels to open them. Also some public toilets regularly were out of order. Cabin: The overall size of our inside cabin is not large, but sufficient for two people and our luggage. Unfortunately as we booked late (at a good price), we had a 4 berth cabin. The top bunks against the walls caused problems as we had the queen bed arrangement. Also there is no space between the end of the bed and the wardrobe on one side and the desk on the other. The shower was fairly small but the curtain didn't get sucked inwards. The flat-screen TV was a reasonable size. The a/c made the cabin freezing even on the highest setting (this was fixed after complaining). There was a small fridge which was handy for keeping our supply of Coke & snacks cold. Ice had to be requested (we had a standing order at noon each day). Also if you want a top sheet, ask for it. Food & drinks: We found the service in the main dining room to be fine but the standard & variety of food was inferior -- certainly not to the quality of food on American ships like Princess. There was a noticeable lack of seafood other than fish -- not even the usual prawn cocktails (as my DW is not a seafood lover she was reasonably happy with the quality). We laughed at their idea of tiger prawns - extremely little in size & in number. Even on the formal 'black tie' nights the food was nothing special! Our wine waiter was prompt & reliable. As this is a British ship there were strict rules on dress code in the MRD (we were aware this of pre cruise). There were 6 Black Tie & 7 Smart (jacket required!!!) nights on this cruise. This was different to the relaxed Aussie & American cruises. After experiencing the long lines at the buffet the first morning, we used the MRD for breakfast most other mornings. Also the food seemed improved and the atmosphere more relaxing for breakfast. We enjoyed the popular fruit smoothes but missed the large American style pancakes and freshly made waffles. Also fresh fruit at times was in very limited supply. We did use the buffet for lunch but wished the quality of the food was to a higher standard -- much of it looked like leftovers. Trays are still supplied. On some port days many passengers were late for the early sitting in the MRD. As a result there were long lines in the buffet as only one side was being used (the other side was kept closed in the evening as it led to one of the extra-charge restaurants on the rear deck). We did use this Italian extra-charge restaurant on the evening leaving Sydney. The view of the harbour as we sailed out was fantastic but the service was extremely slow and the food disappointing. To receive better quality food an additional payment was required! We were pleased to see hand-sanitizers at MRD and the buffet -- their use was strongly encouraged. Alcohol was reasonably priced. We used a soft drink card for post-mix drinks which only gave a small saving but was convenient and time saving. Surprisingly low-priced duty-free spirits could be bought and consumed in your cabin. Also P&O UK has relaxed views on the amount of wine brought onboard. Staff and service on board: Organization on the ship was generally excellent with the one exception at Honolulu where maybe USA customs clearance could have been handled better to avoid long lines. Tendering, which occurred at only one port, was well organised with no delays. The crew who were mainly from Goa, India were polite but didn't seem cheerful. Generally they were not up to Princess' standard. The reception staff were friendly and polite. Captain Camby, who was the youngest in the fleet, was very popular especially with the females as he was a John Travolta lookalike. We found him to be very approachable, humorous and conveyed information in great detail. Cruise Director, Michael Mullane was also popular and did a great job. Both performed well together one evening in the miming game, 'Give Us A Clue'. A 4 page daily newspaper printed for Australia as well as Britain was popular and much appreciated. Prices in the photo gallery were half that of Princess. Having several laundrettes on board was a bonus. Also surprisingly they were free but this can cause problems as some passengers used them to wash a few clothes only at a time causing delays. Entertainment: The program of entertainment was much organised with a full colour 'Your Cruise Overview' printed at the start of this sector. This listed the dress code and all the evening activities for each day. On cruises we enjoy the shows in the evening. The performers in the Headliner Company did a superb job. Also we were pleasantly surprised to find they did 8 different shows during the cruise -- certainly more than Royal Caribbean offer! These were the highlight of our evening. On 2 occasions we even saw their repeated show the next night. Unfortunately the main theatre (the Theatre Royal) had a design fault with the seating. Many of the flip-seat bases were sloping downwards causing us to slide forward. Also to increase the capacity of the theatre, legroom was minimal. The alternative entertainment area (the Pacific Lounge) was laid out like a lounge - as a result its capacity was limited. Also unless you arrived early, one's view could be blocked by supporting posts. Most of the guest entertainers were British (our favourites were a singer, Emily Reed and comedian, Richard Guantlett) and of an acceptable standard. This cruise consisted of many sea days. The program of activities was good and my DW loved participating in the passenger choir but missed not having Zumba. The many guest lecturers were popular (almost filled the theatre) and very informative -- every sea day had presentations by at least 2 lecturers. There was a cinema on this ship with good movies but we didn't have time to see any - for us days at sea go by quickly. We should mention that we were travelling with friends with whom we spent at least 2 hours each sea day playing cards. The only suitable location for this activity was in the buffet. Shore Excursions & Destinations: We normally try to avoid shore excursions organised by ships as we feel that they were too expensive although on this ship they were more reasonably priced than American ships. Armed with maps & information collected before the cruise (supplemented with detailed free local maps picked up on land), we easily explore ourselves. Also as we had been to New Zealand before this worked extremely well. The other Pacific ports of Bora Bora & Papeete were easy to explore ourselves; whereas, in Honolulu we with our friends found a great guide who copied the ship's sightseeing tour for much less cost. Disembarkation: As we had been cleared by customs at Honolulu everything went smoothly and on time leaving the ship. There was the usual line waiting for taxis but this was well organised. Conclusion: P&O UK proves that you get what you pay for. In our opinion the service and entertainment are excellent whereas the food was generally disappointing. There is certainly no heavy selling while on this ship. Generally we would recommend them as long as you remember these are British ships. While onboard we didn't take advantage of P&O UK's Future Cruise Credits scheme as it was too restrictive but would consider cruising with them again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2012
I want to express our experience to you about P&O Aurora World Cruise 2012 as follows. Besides that I also have to mention that the crew and especially the cleaning staff, waiters and assistance at reception did extraordinary jobs. ... Read More
I want to express our experience to you about P&O Aurora World Cruise 2012 as follows. Besides that I also have to mention that the crew and especially the cleaning staff, waiters and assistance at reception did extraordinary jobs. The cruise started for us with asking P&O office for assistance or at least the right information in case of a lacking India Visa. We were told by P&O office that without the Indian Visa we are not allowed to enter the ship which later on at the departure date turned out as not being the correct information that was given to us. Because of that we needed to change flight schedules for several hundred's of dollars and phone calls for over a 100,00 Euros because of being forwarded from one department to the other without not getting helpful information. Finally the result was that all these expenses were not necessary but because of non sufficient information given from P&O office and Visa department in Southampton. An employee from P&O at Southampton Port allowed us to enter the ship but informed us that if we didn't have this Visa we would be unable to board but would have to disembark in a port prior to India. So I would say there is a lack of information from one office to another with P&O employees. At the same time we received the information that the port in Acapulco/Mexico was canceled because of safety issues without replacement nor any compensation. Shortly after we got announced that also Cochin as the second Indian port was canceled, but later on replaced with Muscat/Oman. We were told because of problems with landing slot's in Cochin!? The day as we entered the ship we were told that the so called "Noro virus" (vomiting and diarrhea) was on the ship. The rumors in between the passengers was that the virus was already on board before embarkation. Aurora's captain told it was brought by the passengers. From the first day we were bothered with several daily announcements about this issue and got "forced" to hand sanitizing around every corner of the ship until the rest of the cruise even that it was told later the situation was solved before the port of San Francisco. The next change was made in Colombo/Sri Lanka (regular scheduled inbetween 6 am. and 16:30 h) because of the tide in Mumbai. The stay at this port of call from finally 8 am. To 12:30 h was reduced by another 5 1/2 hours. After Madeira the ship started leaking in certain sections through broken and corroded water pipes. There were buckets placed all over the ship so that later on officials made jokes "that is for providing drinking water to the drug sniffing dogs". Towards the end of the cruise more buckets got added because the problem got worse. I am talking about having buckets on the ship, in the theatre, hallways and staircases over more than 90 days! We were just lucky that we did not sit down in the "Curzon" theater as a pipe broke there and caused lots of damage and flooded the place that there was no entertainment for almost 2 weeks available. There was a drug bust starting in San Francisco which caused inconvenience for lots of passengers including us who were not even involved. Drugs were found on the ship which is of course not a problem of P&O but to keep going with their standards and comforts as well as the promised itinerary for us passengers I will count P&O cruise line responsible for it. We were just lucky that our cabin (might!) not have been searched by officials getting under common suspicion and having drug dogs sniffing through our personal stuff. The next complication out of that was another cancellation of the port of call in "Yorkey's knob" Australia without replacement nor compensation. This because of demands from the authorities having again drug searching facilities available on the landing site. Because the new allocated landing spot was too far to reach by the tender boats the port was canceled entirely with the single replacement of another 5 hours in Abu Dabi. Further on at least on 23 ports of call (including Singapore) we had no proper cruise terminal. It was either a container port or tender boat operation for disembarkation within all it's inconvenience that it takes. I know that the landing fee's for those proper cruise ports are probably high 5 digit if not 6 digits amounts for those like Singapore and Sydney! Because of "security issues" the stay in the port of Istanbul was also reduced by approx. 12 hours not allowing us to leave the ship again at night on the first day and on the second day like the itinerary stated. Then early in the morning at 6:45 am a short term announcement was made that the ship will leave at 7:00 am. We were expecting to have a breakfast and coffee outside the port at the same day and having had left some Turkish currency for that reason besides the general inconvenience being involved in another change or reduction while expecting the presence of the scheduled itinerary until 11 am. for the 4 th of april. Passengers were not allowed to leave the ship anymore after 10:30 pm the 3rd of April. As the ship was leaving the port of Istanbul another big cruise liner came in and it was looking like we were almost "pushed out" of the pier. The above mentioned problems I would call general organization and maintenance matters as well as not taking care or not feeling responsible for advertised itineraries like promoted prior to booking. Now I want to mention the following situation on our stateroom on C-deck. The cabin was making noise all day and night due to the location above the engine section. The subdivision and ceiling panels of the cabin were vibrating on a high frequency so that I needed to get up almost every night to press or shake the panels to just interrupt it for a while. After complaining we were told that there is a ventilation unit behind the cabin and offered to move to another cabin. Because the shown cabin was far from the convenient aft deck and was also making noise we decided to stay in our crackling cabin. The toilet flush in our cabin was malfunctioning at least once every other week so that sometimes bad smelling sewage was drafting back from the entire system because we were the last cabin on this deck. Sometimes the bad smell remained for hours in the cabin because of that problem. And it was a repeating problem. Also one night the bathroom was flooded by water back drafting out of the toilet. Of course it is P&O's decision to do major maintenance on railings during a 3 month world cruise but I have never seen before that the entire wooden railings got taken off step by step and got sanded and varnished and replaced during regular cruise business as well as paint jobs. For more than 2 month there were signs "wet varnish" sticking on the railings and floors upfront one after the other day telling you not to touch them. Those inconvenient procedures were nor mentioned nor expected when booking the cruise and they seem to be very strange to us. By the way we believe it's wise to mention in P&O world cruise advertisement that the promenade deck will be shut from 6 pm until 6 am. because of probable piracy attacks. The promenade deck including illumination was shut down for approx. 2 weeks of the cruise and not available at these times inbetween Mumbai and Port Suez. Of course all this in consideration of safety concerns!? During several tender boat operations the engines broke down at least 3 times as far as we know and caused huge delays for all passengers besides our booked Cairo excursion at 3:30 am that day as they started fueling the tender boat before we could get on board. We were sitting 45 min. in the boat because of an actually 10 min. boat ride that morning as the engine of a tender boat broke down in front of us. The peak of it all was our "wake up call" at 1:30 am on the 9th of April as a waterfall caused by a corroded pipe was running down the cabin door and started pouring in our room. The water was pouring in huge amounts for almost an hour and flooded inside the cabin as well. To minimize damage we had to put towels in front of the door and lift up certain things and gather personnel items at 2:30 in the morning before getting relocated to another cabin on deck 10 with a tooth brush, wet jeans and flip flops. Putting our impression and experience of this P&O world cruise together even though comparing an average daily price we paid for this trip towards former cruises we have taken in the past by receiving higher quality standards regarding the ship itself and level of entertainment to a way lower average rate for instance with Cunard, Holland America and Celebrity. We must say that we were far from our own expectation and far from P&O promised and advertised standards which made it an unforgetable experience of vacation which of course it was but in the opposite way. We were also far from almost every scheduled itinerary and the amount of ports of call which was an important fact for booking this cruise on the Aurora. P&O never responded to any complaint If I put it together in one short term: forget about P&O! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2011
OVERVIEW:Both cruises were excellent, and we would have no hesitation in recommending this line to anyone considering a keenly priced alternative to some of the 6 star ships, or for anyone on a higher cabin grade/cost on 3-5 star lines... ... Read More
OVERVIEW:Both cruises were excellent, and we would have no hesitation in recommending this line to anyone considering a keenly priced alternative to some of the 6 star ships, or for anyone on a higher cabin grade/cost on 3-5 star lines... With all the inclusions offerred (wine, gratuities, port shuttles, coffee and soft drinks) plus the fact that cabins are well appointed, laid out for max use of space, plenty of storage and well soundproofed, that excursions were fairly priced around the $80-150 mark, its a VERY good deal. Cuisine was well above average, with the finest ingredients, varied international menus and probably the best breakfasts we have seen at sea. A high standard of cuisine overall with some reservations as to SOME items - see details in section below.Add to this the excellent and friendly staff, bridge, engine and galley tours, smart casual attire and you have a product that offers a lot more value for money than we have found anywhere else. On top of this, the pretty well intelligent, professional and laid back passenger profile (UK, US, Canada, Aussies with some Euro pax), with age of pax around 38-55 means mid-agers will love it also for the lack of kids, no overdone formality or familiarity for that matter - just a friendly mix. It's a goodie !In a nutshell, for the rapid reader, here are our observations of the pros and cons, for more detail please read on after...! PROS + CONS:PROS: Company integrity and fair treatment after changes to itinerary; Overnight stays in port: pricing spot-on and included generous offerings of good wine and sodas; Staff, top service; well appointed cabins with quality toiletries and accessories, variety of entertainment, reasonably priced and well chosen excursions, shuttle buses. High degree of safety and security is a company priority. In the 'pirate-zone' special measures with costly diversions were made to protect the ship. Most of our small shipboard concerns and enquiries were acted upon and fixed almost immediately.CONS: Website a bit flaky; Some matters required referal to head office and the subsequent delay in reply from Miami meant some issues that should have been handled on board could not; Food quality superb though expertise in preparation was at times below the high standards elewhere; No AV "in" available on the LCD TV in the cabin to reveiw fotos/videos, lack of movie playing times in the onboard daily news; deck cleaning often in very late evening which made them slippery at times.ABOUT US: We are a well travelled, 50's same-sex couple of 29 years, who have a enjoyed a good few cruises, hotels, itineraries , destinations and voyages on 5 continents under our well-travelled belts. After 30 years in the travel industry and semi-retired, we now travel on FULL fares and costs are an important consideration. We chose our first trip on Azamara because prices were comparable to a one-way business class fare (very $$$ ex Australia to Europe). On reesearching, Azamara was also chosen because the cabin facilities and grade were above average, the published fares were almost all-inclusive - with fare inclusive of gratuities, complimenatry wine at meals, and soft drinks offered throughout on an itinerary with port overnights. In short - the Singapore-Dubai and Dubai Athens b2b cruises on AZAMARA ticked our boxes for a leisurely trip to Athens.Many of the other current reviews on sectors of the Azamara 2011 Asia cruises reflect the current layout, facilities and staff/service on the Quest very well, so won't repeat here, rather would like to truly review the excellent, good and 'almost good' of our Azamara experience....OUR CONCERNS BEFORE SAILING:Firstly, it was to be a long trip - all in all over 3 1/2 weeks on board for the 2 cruises. Secondly we had sailed Crystal as a premium product before, as well as cruising on 'value' lines such as NCL, so were prepared to experience, something in the middle with Azamara. Thirdly, as a same-sex couple, one of us a smoker and with this length of time at sea plus Azamara's tight smoking policy, there were some reservations as to smoking and acceptance of our discreet but alternative lifestyle. We need not have worried on any account...AZAMARA CRUISES THE COMPANY (PLEASE READ ALL !) :Having been in Management with airline, hotel and group & Consular travel services companies for over 30 years, the first consideration for a traveller should always be the company with whom you are making a transaction. Azamara was an unknown to us and when we first booked with our agent, we found the response from RCI agency in Sydney to be below par in coming back with some of the info we needed.Assuming this to be the fault of our agent, I tried myself to call. In short, it took a lot of time, yielded poor responses, often lacking in knowledge , and most especially - in the all important matter of showing empathy with your client. Turning to the website was not much better and the fact that the layout and user access to important matters was somtimes a bit "hit and miss" did not add to our initial impression.**(IF the resident Cruise Critic blogger for Azamara Club Cruises happens to read this review, I would be most grateful for a private message so that I may discuss further this review on a professional level...)**That said, our ACTUAL experience was that Azamara Cruises are an extremely fair and customer conscious corporation:-We were advised in a timely manner, nearly 80 days before sailing that due to security concerns with the Mideast situation, our port call was being substituted from Alexandria to Santorini. The company not only advised early (unlike our upcoming Oceania cruise with about 17 days notice of changes), but Azamara also offered a very generous onboard credit to each guest as a goodwill gesture. Apologies were again given onboard. This is putting the customer first - well done Azamara !The company also suffered misfortune with bad fuel being supplied in Mumbai, but prudent fuelling and navigation planning ensured we were not "running low" and despite having to dock elsewhere this did not affect schedule. In fact the planning was such that the poor fuel was carried on board all the way to Athens for eco-friendly defuelling there - I am sure at great cost, but with full respect for the environment. The ship also faced the breakdown of our escort-ship from Dubai through the 'pirate-zone' off the horn of Africa. Consequently, Azamara went to great expense in loading our security team aboard in Dubai and then to dock again at Muscat to load their armaments. Again at great cost, but with schedule unaffected as the Captain kept full speed on for a week to meet schedules. The concern for safety. security and sticking to schedule could not receive high enough acclaim. Truly professional.THE SHIP. PASSENGERS, CABIN : The Quest was the first trip for us aboard any of the R Class ships. Quest was well apointed, nicely maintained and well laid out. She rode well and provided a feel of a good upscale hotel at sea with warm and traditional "club" decor. We prefer the more intimate and low key voyages offered on such ships. However if passengers, crew or services are 'off the mark'on such ships it can make for a stressed experience. Not so on board the Quest - it was a wonderful balance on all sides. Great fellow passengers, most of a semi-professional background, middle aged, well travelled and of a pleasant and entertaining nature. Passengers mingled well , without over-familiarity and the atmosphere was indeed that of the members at a friendly club. The cruise encompassed many "at sea" days - 9 in fact between Dubai and Suez but with a varied and diverse program on board, there was rarely any time that could not have been filled should you have wished. On board program covered everything from cuisine to dance - enrichment lectures - ships tours to galley, bridge and engine control room - games - spa, gym and excellent fitness instruction. A well rounded programmed indeed. even with nearly a month at sea, we did not grow weary of our journey and were sad to leave the vessel in Athens, (with still so much that we could have done !). Our cabin - 1B Veranda - was about 10% smaller than that on Crystal but well planned in layout. It offered great space and storage and despite reading of the 'shower curtain' issue, this was NOT an issue, the curtain is well designed, locked at one end and does not "flap out and cling" from the well designed shower stall. Storage again is plentiful in the bathroom. cabin service was almost immediate with several fellow passwengers remarking on the fact that the magical 'clean-team' would literally tidy up as one left the room. Cleaning was done thoroughly, all valet services efficiently and with a smile, a professional team here.SMOKING AND OUR 'ALTERNATIVE' LIFESTYLE :As a smoker, I was initially upset on boarding to having been 'relegated' to one upstairs zone to smoke, and not being able to do so on my cabin veranda. I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. As I and my (non-smoking) partner discovered the benefit of a single smoking area on the ship - In effect an outdoor, weather protected veranda on the pool deck. Here, we mingled with others (who were also, more often than not, one smoker with a non-smoking partner !). The result was a group on board that met socially as they stopped by "for a fix" whilst not inflicting their bad habits on other passenegrs. The area actually became a social venue and many friendships have developed as a result of the friendly gathering that eventuated. On the issue of our lifetyle, the ship provided a discreet meeting time each day for people of same-sex orientation and again, friends were made on board. Crew and all staff were most accepting and kind in their dealings with us. Well done Azamara ... Good policy = good outcome for all. ENTERTAINMENT: Excellent for a small ship. The shows were well chosen and varied each night. Many guest artists joined at each port giving refreshment to the evening programme. In paricular, we should mention :Johnathan Johnston, an outstanding Flautist (and certainly a virtuoso on the flute) performed to standing ovations on the 12 day Dubai-Athens leg. Even the non-classical were blown away by this incredibly talented guy. The resident Raconteur/Pianist Donald (Jim) Badger was witty, incisive and brilliant in this difficult position on any ship. Filling a lounge or cabaret with a polished and varied act nearly every day. With a lot of B2B cruisers this is not easy, but his repertoire and humourin parrying with the audience in a playful manner made him a true gem of the offering.Azamara's keen eye for the small touches such as ; - CD of crickets chirping playing on pool deck area at night ! - A special memorial service for servicemen on Australia's ANZAC Day which was held on deck at dawn by the Captain and Senior Crew for Australian, New Zealand and other guests. - A Special "Gala" day for the British Royal wedding, with live coverage and catering.Kudos to all for a well selected and varied line up. 99 % well above average and very often just brilliant.CUISINE:Serving staff were faultless, bordering on brilliant. Nothing but the highest praise for their efficient, friendly and courteous service. all done without familiarity or cheesiness. These guys were well chosen, love their work and it shows. In all venues and without individual exception they were superb.The only SMALL downside for us was some small matters regarding cuisine. To set the scene - we are NOT "foodies" , nor do we eat out in 5 star restaurants weekly back home. We are of the old-school, 'eat what is provided for you' upbringing and certainly are not menu-snobs or wannabe Chefs... We also understand catering to 100's or 1000's of guests in varied restaurants over the course of a day and at sea is never easy.What WAS provided on Quest was excellent choices. International meant just that, asian, indian, greek, itlaian, mexican, french, spanish etc. Three included dining areas and two speciality restaurants were available each day as was room service from the in-room or restaurant menu of the day. This, by the way was very well done, offering a fast and friendly delivery of hot food and most importantly, all the condiments - never had to ask for sauce or spices, they were on the tray along with generous cutlery settings. Important when you have had the experience of having to ring again for the missing items !! Azamara had room service completely and efficiently taken care of - bravo ! Service, Variety and choice were never an issue.The ingredients, provisions meats and variety of fruits and vegetables was of the very best quality. The company has spent a lot of time and money here and it should show...However, although all ingredients were of excellent quality, esp. the never-ending lobster and steaks, both well cooked and presented, the Executive Chef for the main restaurants on AZ QUEST was, to our mind, lacking in his supervision and preparation of SOME dishes. I honestly believe that the preparation is more under par than admitted to... leading to a few dishes and menu items going out to tables that shouldnt have - I will not nit-pick , but for example (soggy batter on prawns, steak 'surf and turf' served but lobster forgotten (!) in Specialty restaurant, in particular we disliked the soups, often they were over-salted or over-sweetened with poor stock bases, and some weird menu items like chocolate or strawberry soup in the savoury part of the menu, that really have no place on any menu. A good stock/soup chef and deletion of some over-fancy bizarre cuisine ideas on some of the main Discoveries restaurant menus. Buffet overall was well above average and on many occassions superior to the food received in main restaurants of other ships.That said we ate and drank very well (The complimentary wines at lunch 11.30-2.30 and dinner from 18.00-21.30 , free flowing by the way, are all bottled vintages from around the world - very good too!). So please don't regard this as an indictment on the beautiful food and quality ingredients offered. We ate well - Azamara could just lift the supervision in preparation at times.We have expressed this to Quest's Hotel Director, Ryszard onboard and understand that they will review. IMPORTANT: To be fair, this is our only real issue, and on this voyage, there may have been some kitchen complications or absent staff. But, with the rest of the ship scoring near-perfect in our book, this, to US, if fixed, would put Azamara up close there with other 6 * ships on nearly every front.THE SUM UP As two value conscious travellers, in our early 50s, we are experienced of over 100 destinations over 30 years and look keenly at quality/price/value for our trips. We travel from 3-5 star on land/sea/air and can state that that this is a very, very good product which has come a long way since their initial poor start (we understand from early CC reviews in 2007). We travelled on Azamara's regular published fares and while this review may seem too glowing it is not, it's exactly the way we saw things. We review through our other compared experiences for price quality and value. All in all we would have no hesitation in recommending Azamara Quest, we will put this company on our preferred shopping list for future itineraries. ALL of our close shipmates concurred and are also very likely to choose Azamara again. So, go for it - its a good sail and these people delivered well ! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
This was a very good cruise for us, I'll rate it a 4.5 out of 5.0, as I intend to be 'Fair&Balanced', but Hey!! we had a Tsunami and a helicopter medical evacuation as extra entertainment..so maybe a 4.75 would be more ... Read More
This was a very good cruise for us, I'll rate it a 4.5 out of 5.0, as I intend to be 'Fair&Balanced', but Hey!! we had a Tsunami and a helicopter medical evacuation as extra entertainment..so maybe a 4.75 would be more appropriate. It would probably take a Seabourn or Oceania to rate a 5+ by me, so consider my critique with that in mind. Some people grumble..we don't. We are 'active'. We hiked, snorkeled, and rented 4WD Land-rovers,Jeeps etc. I say that right off because we did NOT go on 'organized' HAL tours; as we were NOT in need of mobility aides etc. However...we seemed to bump into fellow cruisers in all sorts of places!! So, fear not, we saw most of what everyone else saw..and perhaps more than most. Also, age-wise we're on the 'younger' end of the passenger list intentionally so, as we enjoy the company of experienced cruisers; we just walk a lot faster and maybe sleep less.My REVIEW will be chronological later, I will add those details later in the ports-of-call section. Embarkation at SanDiego went very smooth; especially so because we stay the night prior at the HolidayInn across the St. from the pier. I highly recommend doing similar for anyone worried about Air connections etc. Door-to-Stateroom Luggage Service was too $expensive$ for us ($975 bucks) but it's the way to go methinks if one is a bit 'gimped up' or money isn't a concern.The ROTTERDAM seemed to be ship-shape. It's not new. We like that. It's classy..not glitzy. Just the right size vessel for us means less than 2000 pax and more than 500. Is it comparable to OCEANIA's newest Uber-classe cruiser? Probably not...but it was a good $$value$$ for the fare spent.Clientele/Fellow Passengers: We didn't meet anyone who had NOT cruised before. We are entering our early retirement years and we were nearly the youngest except for 2 honeymooners. No teens at all. Most passengers have their money working for them by now; not the other way around. Did anyone grumble? Yep. No different than any other cruise. The same people I avoid back home I avoid on a cruise. Generally a sedate, yet interesting mix of people aboard from US, Canada, Germany, UK, Sweden, OZ and Japan. Few from elsewhere. Stateroom: We were on Deck #3 near the front, with large window looking onto the teak Promenade, our favorite area. Our Neighbors had a 'Lanai' Rm. which allows for walking directly onto the deck. A decided advantage if handicapped. PLUS, Lanai's get their own deck lounger-chairs!! A source of irritation to certain passengers who felt slighted. Hmmm. (Deck #9 Skydeck loungers were usually nearly empty all day). You make the call on THAT one..I'm too diplomatic.Public Rooms: Very good. Clean, clean, clean. Any lapses noted by others as regards upkeep or tidiness was unfounded in our experience; and trust me, we CARE about such stuff. Housekeeping? Excellent. The ambiance of the foyer, library, etc was sedate, and appointed in quite good taste, with a nod to wonderful Oriental antiquities in display cases and a superb array of Nautical framed pictures and plaques etc all thru the ship. Nice. Again, classy..not glitzy...yet not dowdy by any means. Library and Internet Cafe were BUSY!!Casino: Busy with the regulars. A solid crowd for the popular Poker Table most all the time. A smoker's hangout. We don't do casinos. Pools and Lounging Areas: It was Hot and Sunny nearly every day, lounge chairs were at a premium poolside around the main pool (which has a retractable roof). The Rear/Aft splash pool was where the cigarette smokers hung out. Way up top Deck #9 was wide open for Sun-worshippers...no Pool. Deck #3Promenade was nearly filled with readers and nappers every day. Lots of book readers on this cruise. Few swimmers. Non-swimming pool-side chair-hogs? Yep, like always. Dining: We went with OPEN-SEATING on Level 4...with a twist. We clicked with some great fellow cruisers. So how did we do it? We all asked to be seated together at the same time and same table each night. Presto!! Instant fun table every night. We 'thanked' the Dining Rm. Steward beforehand. The food was great. We took Lunch at the Lido every day, and accepted a gracious invitation to join another couple one evening at the Pinnacle Grille on one occasion. Wow!! Nuff said.Bars and Drinking: The Ocean Bar served up nice cocktails before Din-din and adjoined the dance floor; with the Neptunes trio providing Smooth Jazz music. The MIX Lounge had PianoMan and a 'NameThatTune' ambiance. The Crow's Nest DJ (the loneliest man on the ship)...Located Wa-aay up top, was sparsely (none)attended due to the demographics of the clientele EXCEPT on one of the last nites...The Black&White Ball!!! When certain of the crew got to 'let their hair down' a bit til the wee hours. It was a light drinking crowd overall. No bubbas jumping in the Pools. No CountryWestern, no Heavy Metal...and surprisingly, no Lawrence Welk. Floor Shows/Entertainment: Good. Great musicians, I 'got' the risque jokes of the comedians, and the singers were all A-OK. My wife loved every minute of every show. And as a neat surprise, the smooth Soul sounds ala Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke were performed by my fave, Jackie Wilson's son.Lectures/Education: I took in Frank's Microsoft/Computer classes. Very good fella and I learned a LOT!! We didn't do Cooking or Health things. Dunno.Cruise Director and Officers: STEVE the Cruise Director was more than up to the task; and LISA the Shore Guide/Guru was just peachie-keen and knowledgable about everything. The Officers handled EVERYTHING in such a professional way. Hospitable and just fine in all ways.Tendering and 'Days at Sea': Because this cruise involved a LOT of sea days AND many tenderings to small islands I must say WE had no problems whatsoever. Some pax got a little 'stir-crazy' and some were barely physically able to manage getting in and out of the Lifeboat Tenders very well. My advice? Call it a Life when such things get to be too much. When one's cruising days are over...they're over. My day will come as well. Nuff said.Now, on to the Islands. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
Just back from above. Had a really nice time. Met some lovely people. The itinery was very good. Jordan (Petra) and Dubai were really interesting. Positives first:       Ship very easy to get around. I never got lost once in three ... Read More
Just back from above. Had a really nice time. Met some lovely people. The itinery was very good. Jordan (Petra) and Dubai were really interesting. Positives first:       Ship very easy to get around. I never got lost once in three weeks!   Balconies fairly large compared to some other cruises weve been on.   Food quality in the Britannia good to very good on most nights.   Daily dancing classes were fun.       Negatives:       Flaws in the basic design of the ship (IMHO). The aft desk area with pool just seems unfinished. There is a small pool with a massive area for loungers but its totally soulless.       Flooding occurred quite regularly on various floors and in public places (table tennis table was constantly soaking!)       Rooms were fairly large but again the dEcor meant they seemed totally bare and emotionless places.       The aircon was a major complaint from everyone we met; Out of our group of about 16 people at least half came down with respiratory problems within the three weeks. We had engineers to switch down ours to no avail. We ended up sleeping on the floor beside the open balcony door one night! The pursers office refused to do anything but move our bed to the balcony end (which helped a bit). There was a but going about and it was spreading in the aircon. It needs to be investigated urgently (we sent a letter in the last few days to Tanya (Guest relations) stating that).       Staff were a lot more 'aloof' than on any other cruise line. Our stateroom attendant hardly spoke to us the whole time on board. Apart from perhaps one or two bar staff and Gemma and the rest of the Spa, the rest were totally stand offish. I realise that this is perhaps how Cunard train their staff but to have to run after them to try and get a drink after sitting in the bar for half an hour is excessive.       Food in Lido average at best. We have cruised with Celebrity on four occasions in last two years and they are miles ahead in their buffet service.       Big negative was Entertainment. In 20 nights there were two major shows. The rest were either average comics, instrumentalists or tribute acts (Beatles/El Divo). This is not acceptable and was clearly down to 'penny pinching' by Cunard. In their defence the two shows (especially La Danza) were fantastic.       In conclusion we wont be going with Cunard again (certainly not the Elizabeth anyway). If we had paid full price (not booked two weeks before sailing) we would have been a lot more critical. It is not 5 star. The hotel we stayed in Dubai was. Overall we ghave rated it 4 and this is mostly for the fun we had with new friends (not the actual cruise ship!)Celebrity remains our choice of lines and I look forward to August on Equinox!! 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: September 2010
Background This was our 10th cruise, 2nd with Princess. Our previous Princess cruise was on Sun Princess (sister ship) in the Mexican Riviera. Back then the Sun & Dawn Princesses were run as American ships but as they now sail ... Read More
Background This was our 10th cruise, 2nd with Princess. Our previous Princess cruise was on Sun Princess (sister ship) in the Mexican Riviera. Back then the Sun & Dawn Princesses were run as American ships but as they now sail full time from Australia they have been adapted to Australian tastes both in food & entertainment. Embarkation Very slow. We arrived about 1pm hoping to get onboard for lunch but when we arrived they were still disembarking passengers. Inside the makeshift terminal (we embarked at Barangaroo) it was a big mess. Very crowded with too few seats & the check in process was running pretty slow. We had to wait a long time for our number to be called before we could even line up to checked in & then we had to wait again for the number to be called to embark the ship. Ship The ship is still in pretty good condition. In looks she is pretty much the same as the Sun Princess. A bit awkward to get around as the aft lifts only go down to deck 7 & the glass lifts in the centre only go between deck 5 & 8. So going to dinner from our cabins aft on deck 10 we had to take the lift to deck 7, walk through to the glass lifts in the centre & go down another 2 floors to get to our dining room, which is located in the area between the aft & glass lifts. Cabin Had an inside JJ cabin. A bit small (no sofa like RCCL cabins) but fine as I had the room to myself & there was plenty of space in the closets. The bathroom was a good size overall but the shower stall was tiny and a strange half diamond shape so a bit hard to move without coming in contact with the shower curtain. Fellow passengers All the passengers we met on the ship were very nice. Many were elderly (someone said the average age was 70) but there were also a few children on this cruise. Also unlike all our previous cruises the majority were Australian. A few people we met had done the around the world cruise & this around Australia cruise as a B2B so were spending 132 days onboard. Way too long for me. Dining We thought the food in the MDR was good for lunch & dinner however some soups were over salted (didn't enjoy breakfast in MDR, which is normally a treat for us). They were a bit disorganised with the seating & we were only 2 on a table for 8, so we asked to be moved. We ate dinner & lunch several times in the pizzeria where the food was also good & for the first time we also ate dinner several times in the buffet which was a bit hit & miss. Entertainment & activities The entertainment was good overall. Liked the MUTS with free popcorn in the evenings & during the day there were lots of trivia & game shows like family feud. Especially liked a horseracing game during the day called Dicey Dicey Wooden Horses where they threw dice to move horses along a grid on the floor & you could place bets for $3 per horse. There was lots of hilarity, cheering etc. The casino was very small with mostly pokies that we see in Australian casinos. Ports Brisbane - On our own. We went around Brisbane on the HOHO bus, which made it very easy. The Roma Street Parklands are a must. Port Douglas - Unfortunately mum was ill so I only wondered around for a very short time on my own. Port Douglas is very small so you can easily walk to & from town/pier, although there was a bus available for a fee. Darwin -Ships shore excursion. We took a short drive around Darwin & down to the marina, visited the Darwin museum where they have an interesting exhibit on Cyclone Tracy & then visited the Military museum. Broome - Ships shore excursion. We took a short drive around town & over to Gantheaume Point to see the dinosaur footprints & amazing rock formations. Then went to Matsos Brewery where we tasted some amazing mango beer. Bali - We couldn't face the 45 minute tender each way so we stayed onboard. Fremantle/Perth - On our own. There was a short 7-10 minute walk from the dock in Fremantle to the train station where we took a train direct to Perth. Once in Perth we used the HOHO bus to get around easily. Bunbury - Ships shore excursion. We went on a dolphin watching boat tour which was fantastic. Stayed out for about 2 hours & saw so many dolphins (a bit luck of the draw as the tour after ours saw none).Then went to the Dolphin Discovery Centre. Albany - On our own. We took the ships shuttle into town. Wondered around the small town & had a look at a pretty church. At a kiosk in the park we booked a trip out to Whale World, which was interesting if a bit gruesome. Adelaide - Ships shore excursion. We opted for a shore excursion which took us into the city & then out to Glenelg. Unfortunately the drive around the city did not show many things & the stop at the rundle mall was very short (by the time everyone got off the coach we barely had 20 minutes). Glenelg was a pretty seaside suburb but not much to do there in a short time other than shop. Melbourne - On our own. We were able to buy tram tickets at a counter inside the cruise terminal & the tram stop is at the end of the pier across the road so very easy to travel into Melbourne. We went to the Fitzroy Gardens where we saw Captain Cooks Cottage & a conservatory full of beautiful flowers. The tram also has a stop of the casino. Burnie - Due to very strong winds the captain was unable to dock in Burnie so we had an extra day at sea. Hobart - On our own. We were overnight in Hobart & had been there previously so on the 1st day we took the ships shuttle into town & then a bus to the Wrest Point casino. The second day we again took the shuttle into town & just spent the day shopping. It had snowed on Mt Wellington so we felt it was too cold for any outdoor activities. Summary We had a great cruise. It was good to see places in Australia that we would otherwise probably never have seen. We are still partial to RCCL & "American" cruises but we really enjoyed this cruise & loved the ease of departing from our home port rather than having to fly overseas to emberk the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2010
Summary: Overall the ship, service and staff (everyone who you meet would always say hello or a greeting) are top notch and we enjoyed this experience on being on an Ocean liner rather than being on a Cruise ship while crossing the ... Read More
Summary: Overall the ship, service and staff (everyone who you meet would always say hello or a greeting) are top notch and we enjoyed this experience on being on an Ocean liner rather than being on a Cruise ship while crossing the Atlantic. On the whole, the transatlantic cruise was an enjoyable experience, but I would most likely not repeat this itinerary in the near future, based on a couple of reasons. The first point is that I prefer to have the opportunity to visit a few port of calls during our time onboard. The second reason is that as the Cunard cruise line is very traditional and too formal (i.e., the need to be in a business suit for the duration of the cruise during dinner time) for my liking as I personally like a little less formality when cruising (if it is just a couple nights I actually look forward in dressing up, but every night, it becomes a chore). Passengers: We were a party of six, consisting of myself, DW, DD's (ages 6 and 3, respectively), DFIL, and DMIL. There was a promotion when we booked that third and fourth passenger under 17 years old could sail for free on this itinerary. As the result we noticed that there was a fair number of kids on the cruise. Pre-boarding: We flew to London a week before to see the city before boarding the ship on August 28. During our stay in London, we were able to take in a few attractions (London Eye, Themes river cruise, and Legoland in Windsor), historical landmarks (Buckingham Place and Hampton Court Palaces) and some shopping (Harrods). Embarkation: As DFIL and DMIL are Cunard Diamond World Club members, we were able to check-in via the priority line and were able to get processed, photographed and issued our ship ID cards within 15 minutes. We then passed through the security screening before being allowed to step onboard the QM2. As it was past noon time we were able to go to our cabins before heading to Kings Court for lunch. As we arrived later (approximately around 1:30 PM), it seems that there were no issues with large groups of cruise passengers waiting to be processed. At 4 PM we went to the Spa on deck 7 for the required reporting to the muster stations, wearing of the life vests and safety review. Twenty minutes later we finished and returned back to the cabin to store the life vests and walked the back of the ship to watch the sail away. We actually left the port 10 minutes early at 4:50 PM, just behind and ahead of a couple of P&O ships and the RCI Liberty of the Seas who were also in Southampton. Cabin: We had a Portside Oceanview cabin #6016 on deck 6 that sleeps four. The cabin was situated near the front of the ship just ahead of stairway A. It was configured as two beds on the bottom and two dropping down from the ceiling. I ended up sleeping on the upper bunk for most of the cruise with my older DD and DW sleeping on the other upper bunk. The younger DD always slept on the bottom bed. Whereas the upper bunk beds were firm and comfortable, we found that the lower beds were a little lumpy and showing signs that they needed to be replaced. We found that the beds on the HAL ships that we sailed most recently on werethe most comfortable in comparison to the QM2 beds. Our cabin steward was Ireneo and he was very good in keeping the cabin clean and making the beds and the daily night turndown service (loved the chocolates). It seemed that Ireneo was always working, when we would go to the cabin. Given that he seems to have a lot of cabins to upkeep, I was not surprised that we didn't get any towel animals. The In-laws had an Aft Portside Inside cabin #4202 on deck 4 (that also can sleep four) which was just behind stairway D. Food/Dinner Service: We were assigned to table #99 (seating for six) in the lower Britannia Main Dining Room (MDR) deck 2 for first seating at 6 PM. Our waiter was John and his assistant Randy. John would handle to meal orders and were able to accommodate the kids' needs and wants. Randy served the desserts and the after dinner beverages. The kid's menu did not change, but given the number of choices available on the menu, the kids were able to find something to eat. On most nights I ordered the beef courses while my DFIL ordered the fish dishes. DW tried the Spa menu selections and found them not to be too much different from the selections on the regular menu. The meals in general were good but not inspiring in comparison to other cruise lines. The desserts I found were ok, but not very exciting. For our 10th anniversary, we were given small cake that was made on the day of and it was very good. Other than going to the MDR, we spent most of our lunches and breakfasts at the Kings Court buffet on deck 7. The Kings Court is composed of four serving areas: Carvary, Lotus (Asian), Italian, and a Grill station. During breakfast the Carvary and Italian stations would serve selections that would make a full English breakfast, while the Asian would have some similar selections with the addition of fried rice or Congee (rice porridge). The Grill would serve made to order omelets & eggs, pancakes, and waffles. The selections for breakfast did not change throughout the cruise. For Lunch, the Carvary would have a daily selection of meat that would be craved on demand. The Italian station would have various pizzas available along with different type of meats and veggies prepared in a Mediterranean style. The Asian selection would have a soup and noodles and some veggie stir-fry. The Grill would serve sandwiches and burgers (always had a line-up during the lunch hour). We also went to eat at the Lion Pub as it had a pub menu that they served from noon to 3 PM everyday. We also went of afternoon tea on most days (3:30 to 4:30 PM), where brewed tea, various finger sandwiches, desserts and scones (with butter and jam) would be served with live entertainment in the form of a string quartette, a harpist twice and a dance band. One day we also tried the self-serve tea which was located Entertainment: During the first couple of days, DFIL was able to get hold of some tickets to watch a couple of shows in the Planetarium (Illusions Theater). It was an interesting experience to be able to watch shows on the creation of the universe and the exploration of life on other planets in the middle of the ocean. At night time the Illusions would then show regular movies. I was able to catch Sherlock Homes at 10:30 PM on the last night before we arrived in New York. I was able to attend a couple of the song and dance presentations, listened to a theater show singer and take in a play performed by RADA. I missed the first day's entertainment and skipped the Violinist. Laundry: It was a welcome surprise that on QM2 there are several self-serve laundry facilities located throughout the ship on several decks and fore and aft of the ship. The ship even provides complementary laundry detergent in self-dissolving single use packets. At each laundry station there are usually three pairs of washers and dryers along with a couple of irons and boards. They are opened from 7:30 AM to 9:00 PM everyday. Since the kids were always waking up early, I was able to get to the laundry stations first thing in the morning (during the three times I washed our clothes) and didn't have to wait for a machine to be available. On the second last day of the cruise, there was an offer for laundry service by the ship for $30 and up to 30 items of clothing, so long as it fit into the laundry bag. Given that self-serve was free and on previous cruises the cost was $20 for a bag of laundry, we didn't bother taking up on the offer. Children's Program: On the first day, we signed up both kids for the children's program and the older DD attended the program for a couple of days before deciding that she wanted to follow us instead. The younger DD did not attend the program as she was not interested in any of the activities that were being offered. In all, the program was not very well organized as there were only two age groups - Ages 1 to 5 and 6 to 17. Being that older DD just only turned 6, she was the youngest in the group and as such not a lot of activities were geared towards her age or interest (in DD opinion it was to much boys oriented stuff). Disembarkation: As the ship time was being adjusted almost every night throughout the cruise, my kids who were still on London time was waking up earlier and earlier. On the morning when we were to arrive into New York, they woke up at 4:45 AM (ship time) and luckily were able to see the statue of Liberty as we sailed by the monument at around 5 AM. Leaving the ship was a very easy process, as we followed the In-laws and were able to leave immediately shortly after the 8:30 AM (when we needed to leave the cabins). After giving back our ship ID cards to security to scan, we then left the ship to pick up our luggage and clear US immigration at the Brooklyn port. We then took a cab into Manhattan were we stayed for two additional days before taking a short flight back home from LaGuardia. Additional Notes: As Transatlantic cruises go, this one was uneventful other than some rain during the first couple of days out from Southampton. Before this cruise, QM2 was in Hamburg, Germany and as such during the noon time announcements there were German and French announcements in addition to the Commodores updates. Due to weather fronts, the QM2 would need to skip a port on her next cruise destination (New England and Canada) and stay overnight in New York before heading directly to Boston, MA. Even being a full ship, it didn't feel crowded and in fact that the indoor covered pool (deck 12) was never full was a bonus as DD and I were able to swim a couple of times without bumping into people all the time. During the formal night dinners, I noticed that almost 90% of men were in Tuxes and women in proper dresses. This is the first time I have seen the dress code being followed so closely. The staff was not very pushy about getting drinks, taking pictures or going for art auctions and this made the cruising experience much most pleasant. As I stated previously, all the ship's staff were very kind and courteous and would also greet you as they passed by in the corridors. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
We left Montreal 2 days prior to our cruise from July 13 -31 2010. Jet blue was our choice as it was the most inexpensive to New York out of Burlington Vermont .WE nearly missed our flight arrived 20 minutes before departure but although ... Read More
We left Montreal 2 days prior to our cruise from July 13 -31 2010. Jet blue was our choice as it was the most inexpensive to New York out of Burlington Vermont .WE nearly missed our flight arrived 20 minutes before departure but although hectic we did make it . New York was wonderful. We stayed in Midtown in a lovely art dec hotel the BELVEDERE which I got on Hotwire .It was perfectly located for our visits ,right near Times Square and fun.WE took the hop -on hop-off bus and revisited all.Lots of craziness in New York for the soccer finals .It was hot and muggy but fine.We carried water in a cooler type carrier on the bus ,HOHO is a great way to see New york if you are pressed for time.We walked everywhere and LOVE New York.We also did a boat tour included with HOHO. Because we were near 9th avenue lots of restaurants around Food was fine everywhere On Tuesday under pouring rain we headed for Brooklyn and Ocean Princess ./no line ups we were very quickly on board without problems.Loved our upgrade to a balcony cabin.THANK YOU PRINCESS!!!!WE were near elevators and LAUNDRY ROOM best place to meet people After emptying our carry-ons we had lunch at the buffet and went exploring Ocean is a SMALL ship with about 600 pax tops .Visiting the whole ship rather quickly is not difficult The public rooms feel like large living rooms ..cozy comfy where we met with friends to chit chat. After muster we sailed away a little late because we were waiting for pax who never made it because of the weather Johan the head waiter came the first evening to deal with my food allergies and took care of all meals thereafter.He was very professional and kept a watchful eye on his staff....nothing escaped him and he kept them on their toes!!!  The next day we had our Meet& Greet and we met the loveliest people who made this cruise special.Susan and Arthur organized tours we shared and my heartfelt thanks for wonderful experiences everywhere.I really enjoyed our tours in Iceland ,Scotland Our first excursion was with a former Montrealer in southern Nova Scotia to Peggy;s Cove with other CC members Adele,Michael Sandy and Les.WE had a GLORIOUS day .I had been to Peggy;s Cove a long time ago and really wanted Jeremy to see it. It was as wonderful as I remembered Our guide bought us all kinds of berries to munch on as Nova Scotia was famous for them .A nice touch Very much appreciated We did stop at a lobster pound where I purchased a DELICIOUS NOVA SCOTIA lobster to enjoy later that day ...YUMMY I loved the lakes and rivers we crossed and their proximity to the sea .It was UNIQUE .Everywhere we went was SUPERclean and lovely .We walked in Lunenberg saw Bluenose and drove in lovely elegant towns All in all a wonderful tour I think Halifax and region is a GREAT choice to retire in About the Ocean ...do not waste your $$$ at the Casino very few machines and one very rude attendant whom I had to literally tell to shut up because her comments were unappreciated .Every time she saw me she made comments ..so I HAD to put a stop to it I also did not return 10 machines does Not a Casino make ..way too small.IMO either make a bigger one or scrap it altogether It really was a joke Entertainment at best on Ocean was MEDIOCRE .Some of the acts offered were downright PITIFUL ...anyone remember the ventriloquist ...SAD >>>SAD>>>SAD >>> Other then the Dance Production shows the rest were not that good .The Piano needed tuning .I felt bad for the professional musician who gave the piano recital ...those sour notes really spoiled his performance At Times our CD chose to put shows before dinner ...BAD CHOICE as there was nothing to do except chit chat in the foyer around the shops .For my Young man there was nothing to do and he found the ship VERY boring ...I have to agree They had a Naturalist Jules we got to know and felt bad his VERY interesting lectures got cut off regularly NOT FAIR He had lectures prepared he never got a chance to present on Icebergs etc Knowing what is going on now in Greenland with the huge iceberg break up it would have been very pertinentto hear that lecture Food on Ocean was as good as on any Princess ship ...not necessarily better .There is only the buffet available and Dining room /At night Bistro and Sabatin;s WE did enjoy our evening at Sabatinis as we crossed the ARCTIC circle under the midnight sun Our companions Anne and Nick made this dinnere memorable Thanks to our Captain for taking the detour and making us official bluenoses ...certificate in hand !!!GOOD JOB CAPTAIN SERVILLO My biggest thrill was seing ICEBERGS in Greenland ..Susan and Anne can attest to my joy at seing the first one .I saw one going by as I was sleeping I jumped up got dressed and ran to the top deck to film and photograph .I actually got a pic of one with a ship and speedboat in front of it WOW it was HUGE Our Captain could not anchor and needed to keep an eye on all the icebergs floating around.I got a pic of one right in front of the ship which I gave the Captain!!!The weather in Greenland was terrific and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit .Princess even organized the town to present a dance show,choir and Kayak demonstration .Some people even got to taste seal.All in all Greenland and its people were wonderful. Iceland on our tours was UNIQUE with its lava formations,wild horses,sulfur and hot springs and mineral baths .WE sure enjoyed the 2 swims we took in mineral baths THEY FELT SO GOOD .On all these visits we were in CONGENIAL company .Truly memorable days In Norway we spent a lot of time walking around and goofing off with Anne and Nick ...GREAT FUN .Norway was charming in every way...but be advised it is VERY expensive!!! All in all a great cruise where we met some very special people who made it that more memorable To all I tip my hat to you I would love to retravel with you I enjoyed all the time we spent together Ocean Princess is truly a MUCH smaller ship ...Yes it was lovely but why is it SO expensive compared to other ships ?I really do not see why Neither food nor entertainment was Superior yet is is so much more $$$$ However I would definitely go on a small ship again were the itinerary and price reasonable We really enjoyed our cruise The places we visited were awesome so I do recommend this journey   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

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