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Sail Date: March 2007
We flew from Sydney to Auckland on 10th March & stayed at the Duxton Hotel which was excellent, & which we booked with lastminute.com On the Monday we got a taxi direct to Princes Wharf about noon & had no trouble with ... Read More
We flew from Sydney to Auckland on 10th March & stayed at the Duxton Hotel which was excellent, & which we booked with lastminute.com On the Monday we got a taxi direct to Princes Wharf about noon & had no trouble with embarkation as Allan is in a wheelchair & wheelchair assistance was offered from the taxi & bypassed the queues. An obstacle appeared when we found we'd been upgraded to an outside cabin which was NOT wheelchair accessible. Princess blamed our TA but we had no knowledge of an upgrade request. The ship was sailing full & after waiting anxiously for an hour or so, we finally got our original cabin back when a hotel services supervisor found its occupants were happy to swap for the upgrade (they were able bodied) We loved our inside cabin & found the whole ship to be immaculately clean. Allan is also a celiac so although we had anytime dining we opted to book the same restaurant each night (Pacific Moon) where the Head Waiter & Table supervisor gave Allan the next night's menu so that he could pre-order & they could ensure everything would be gluten free. This worked wonderfully & we received excellent service. The meals in the restaurant were fabulous & for breakfast & lunch eat day we ate at the buffet which we found had lots of variety & always something we enjoyed. We bought the coffee card ($24USD+15%) for 15 coffees as we really enjoy our espressos. We thought it was excellent value & preferred to get our coffees "to go" from the Calypso Bar on Lido Deck. We used room service for breakfast twice, & frequently for early & late cups of tea. They were always prompt. We never found the ship too crowded except in the Princess theatre at night & during formal nights when there was a LOT of congestion around the lifts (vital when you're in a wheelchair) & atrium due to Captain's cocktail party & people queuing for formal portraits. We are trivia buffs & found there was plenty of opportunity to indulge in trivia comps. Other entertainment was top class including a lecture on Houdini by the resident magician, & some extremely talented musicians. We opted to explore the shore destinations on our own & found there were plenty of options & lots of helpful directions from local tour operators & information centers. Cruising through fjordland was awesome & there was plenty of space on deck to get photos. Crossing the Tasman was rough but the ship's stabilizers ensured our comfort. The exchange rate for currency on the ship was a rip-off when converting NZ dollars to Aus dollars & it was inconvenient & expensive to change money into USD just to get enough quarters to operate the laundry machines. This was the only time we needed US cash & it would be better if you could swipe your card in the laundry like you can in the internet cafe. We enjoyed the Neptunes Reef pool which was the only one vaguely accessible for Allan, & we also loved soaking in the hot tubs. These were never crowded out. Disembarking in Sydney was fast but the queue for taxis made it a nightmare waiting for friends to pick us up. Maybe people with private arrangements could be picked up elsewhere than at the taxi rank. We felt that the smoking areas in the Explorer's Lounge & the Wheelhouse bar were not screened well enough & were too close to the non-smoking areas so that if the areas were crowded it was not uncommon to be seated very near smokers which was quite unpleasant. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise & thought the Sapphire Princess to be a magnificent ship. We met some lovely people & the service was impeccable apart from those members of crew on the Purser's Desk who on the whole seemed grumpy & irritated, an attitude which severely contrasted with that of all other crew members which was to just wait on us hand & foot. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2006
We left San Francisco for Auckland, through LA, on March 31 and arrived early morning April 2. We used Princess air and transportation, traveling Qantas to and from Auckland/Sydney, and American for the domestic portion of the trip. This ... Read More
We left San Francisco for Auckland, through LA, on March 31 and arrived early morning April 2. We used Princess air and transportation, traveling Qantas to and from Auckland/Sydney, and American for the domestic portion of the trip. This was my second Princess cruise and my husband's first. We have enjoyed cruising with Celebrity in the past. It was raining in Auckland when we arrived and were taken to a hospitality area at the Ellerslie Event Center to await transport to the port for embarkation starting around noon. Princess also offered a 3 hour city tour for $24 which would end at the port. I had read that it is easy to explore Auckland on your own by taking a taxi into the CBD from Ellerslie (about 10-15 minutes away) and using the trams, but because of the rain, I felt we would see more on the tour. We actually didn't see very much at all because the rain and cloud cover was so heavy the top of the Sky Tower wasn't visible, nor was the city skyline from Mt. Eden. From what we could see it was a pretty harbor side city and we were dry! Also, while on a short break off the bus, we unexpectedly stumbled on a Glengarry wine shop at Mission Bay to stock up on some wonderful New Zealand wine for the ship. We did get to the port after Noon, along with lots of others. After an hour of winding through the orderly line to board, we were able to settle in and begin our adventure. As others have reviewed the ship, cabins, dining and entertainment - I'll just mention some things that stood out to us. The practice of passing out hand disinfectant every time we came onto the ship and before every meal was a bit annoying - until I realized how much common touching of hand rails, buffet serving utensils, chairs, tables, doors, etc. took place. I also observed that people's hand washing practice after using the facilities varied, so I then became appreciative of regular and frequent use of the disinfectant. The crew on this ship seemed to always be in a good mood and happy to be there. Especially the cruise director and his staff. Dan and Frankie had a morning TV show on one of the ship channels called the Morning Zoo, that kept us all quite amused. They loved Tim Tam's and self-straining tea bags so much the dock side store in Melbourne sold out! The crew attitude really helped provide a family-like ambiance that made time on the ship feel very comfortable. The balconies on the Caribe deck (10) are 1/2 covered and 1/2 exposed, which made it OK to step outside, regardless of all but the worst weather. The naturalist on board had very interesting talks on the Fiordlands, Maori and Aboriginal culture, which helped provide perspective and appreciation for the native landscape. Theater was small, but the acoustics and sight lines to the stage were very good and seating was very comfortable. Communications and organization of situations requiring passengers participation/cooperation (going ashore, immigration, disembarkation, etc.) was done very well. Clear instructions and crew were always available. A specialty coffee card was available for $24... get 15 for the price of 12. Convenient if you like morning or afternoon espresso drinks. Also, our waiter in the main dining room had a strong pot of coffee waiting for us after dinner every evening, after mentioning that the regular coffee seemed weak. It was appreciated! We did all of the port stops on our own or with private tours. There were four of us traveling together and enjoyed having maximum flexibility and control of what we wanted to do and see. Overall, we spent less or the same as what Princess would have charged for similar activities. Tauranga - Arranged a private tour with Mount Classics Tours ( http://www.mctours.co.nz/cruise_ship_tours.html ) . Our guide Reece was very friendly and knowledgeable. His world travels and insight on NZ enhanced our experience greatly. Briefly, our day consisted of driving through Tauranga; admiring the scenery on the way to Rotorua and then on to Wai-O-Tapu thermal park. We watched the geyser erupt and spent a few hours walking all three loops, exploring the very colorful and mysterious landscape. Fascinating and beautiful area to explore. We then saw the sights in Rotorua and had lunch at a local pub for great fish and chips. Rainbow Springs was our next stop which allowed us to see some native plants, birds and animals including a kiwi, as well as huge rainbow trout. Walking along a self-guided path using a playback device worked well. They also had a new animal area we walked through which included many emu's, baby lambs and birds. We drove back to Tauranga via an alternate mountain route so we could see more of the beautiful and varied landscape. We enjoyed our time with Reece very much and would highly recommend Mount Classic Tours. Christchurch - Used Princess shuttle ($5 US/pp each way) to get to Cathedral Square. An open market was in full swing, so we took the time to browse and shop. We walked down the pedestrian mall to the Bridge of Remembrance, then along the Avon River. Very picturesque town and easy to get around. Walking from the square to the Arts Center and botanic gardens is doable, or you can use the tram. Dunedin - Arranged a private tour with Elm Wildlife Tours ( http://www.elmwildlifetours.co.nz/ ) . Brian was an excellent guide and took us all over the Otago area. Brian was extremely knowledgeable with native species, as well as the sites to see around Dunedin. We viewed wonderful stone buildings at the university and in town, and as San Francisco natives, we had to go up and down the steepest street in the world to judge for ourselves! We also had time to go to Larnach castle to walk around the grounds and later, indulged in some wonderful Bluff oysters at a local restaurant. The highlights of the day were to the Royal Albatross Center where we learned about these incredible birds, but unfortunately it was not windy enough to see any in flight . But we were able to view a 10 week old chick on the hill, waiting to be fed. Leaving the center, we also stopped at the beach below to see a few little blue penguins holed up in their dens - very cute. We then headed along lagoons and four-wheeled through sheep-filled pastures to arrive at Elm's private conservation area on an ocean beach, . This was phenomenal - we were able to observe NZ fur seals, hooker sea lions, sea birds and lots of rare yellow-eyed penguins. We were very close to the animals (except the penguins, which we watched from an enclosure) and were practically alone on the beach with them. We were even lucky enough to see a few penguins coming out of the ocean, even though it wasn't dusk. We had an amazing day and felt so fortunate to experience what we did. Brian and Elm Wildlife Tours were excellent - book them if you get the chance. Milford Sound - It was clear and beautiful as we entered Dusky Sound. Beautiful green mountains and waterfalls. The weather changed on us for Doubtful Sound..... rainy and gray, but the mountains and waterfalls were still visible and made for a mystical journey. The weather cleared up for Milford Sound and it was clear and bright as we headed in. Waterfalls were flowing freely because of the recent rain. On the way out, the weather changed again and the clouds moved in, so we weren't able to see the top of Miter Peak - but it was beautiful none the less and we were quite comfortable as we viewed Milford from our cabin balcony. And so began crossing the Tasman Sea. It was rough... the crew mentioned it was the roughest crossing they had all season. Some of them weren't looking too well and were to be commended as they had to keep working away. Walking down the corridor of our cabin deck, we could hear carts crashing against the inside walls. Plates and platters were sliding in the Horizon court and trays of plastic water glasses flew onto the floor. Shows in the Princess Theater were cancelled because of the movement, as were daytime dance classes. Quite a rolling ride... I'm not usually affected by movement, but wanting to be cautious, I went ahead with the Bonine. I think the gift shop was doing a lively business selling sea bands as witnessed by the many people who had them on their wrists. As sea conditions had not improved, our travel toward Hobart slowed considerably. It was decided on our second sea day outside of the fiordlands that we would bypass Hobart and head straight for Melbourne. We were disappointed to miss Tasmania, but were happy we were going to have extra time in Melbourne and spend the night in port. It was definitely strange sleeping in a non-stop creaking cabin for three nights with the intermittent feeling of an "earthquake" jolting the ship, but for what it's worth, we now have a benchmark on what rough seas can be. I should mention that we had a private tour set up in Hobart with Sefton at Rolls On Tour (http://www.rollsontour.com.au/day_tours.html). He and I communicated extensively on planning the day which I hoped to include Bonorong, the Hobart area and the Tahune forest along with whatever was in-between and was really looking forward to having him show us around. Perhaps he will be able to assist other cruisers. Melbourne - The seas finally settled down and after four days on board, everyone was anxious to see land and get off the boat! We tied up around 10-10:30 am. We all had to clear immigration first, so that delayed going ashore as we had to wait for our assigned numbers to be called. Timing was better than posted, so we were off the ship and ready to explore a little after noon. Since we missed the wildlife park in Hobart, I was hoping to get to the Healesville Sanctuary. As it turned out, it was about 90 minutes from Melbourne and not feasible for the afternoon. The very friendly advisors at the information desk suggested going to Melbourne Zoo instead. It was only 15 minutes away and very easy to get to via tram. As many have suggested, we purchased a day pass at the store at the end of the pier . We made our way to the zoo which had an excellent variety of birds and animals, with a special Australiana area where you can walk through the "bush" with emu, wallaby and kangaroo; see koalas sleeping in their trees, and stroll through an aviary with the most colorful birds and water fowl. Really well done. They also had a nice fairy (blue) penguin exhibit, so we got to see many more of those cuties, which we just had a glimpse of in NZ. Later in the evening, thanks to a hint from Dan and Frankie, we took the tram back out for a walk along the Yarra and the pedestrian promenade by the casino. It was a balmy evening and we joined many others out for a pleasant stroll . Every hour, there is a fire ball display along the river. Eight columns spew synchronized bursts of fire - like a big blow torch - that reflect beautifully on the water. You can actually feel a bit of heat as each burst takes place. Our "real" day in Melbourne was spent using the free Melbourne Greeter service (http://www.thatsmelbourne.com.au/info.cfm?top=264&pg=2318) , which I booked before we left home. Our excellent guide, Ken Miller, walked and trammed us through the highlights of the downtown area including Federation Square, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the State Library, lanes and arcades, historical buildings with their fantastic interiors, Telstra stadium - all the while providing history on the beginnings of Melbourne and insight on life in the city today. We really felt like we got to know Melbourne and were so lucky to have Ken with us. Sydney - Disembarkation was well organized although we were a bit concerned that it was scheduled from 6:45 to 10 am, and not sure if we would be caught eating breakfast while our tag color was called. We did have a Princess post-cruise package for 3 nights in Sydney and from reading other cruiser's posts and the schedule, felt it wouldn't be the earliest - but not the latest either. We took a chance thinking we wouldn't be called before 8am, so headed to the dining room at 7am with our overnight bags. We were done in about 30 minutes, just as they called Silver 1.... we were Silver 2. It was 7:45 when they got to us and we were out, found our luggage, on the bus and at the Four Seasons by 8:30 (the hotel was 2 blocks away). We did a lot during our 3 days - we used the red double decker hop on/hop off bus the first day ($30 and includes their "blue" route to Bondi), walked through Paddy's Market (indoor market - crowded, a bit stuffy and somewhat junky, with an occasional gem to be found - lots of clothes, souvenirs, shoes, etc. Interesting if you like that kind of thing - we lasted about 3 aisles), went to the Sydney Aquarium (very impressive, especially the underwater "shark" tank) and did the Bridge Climb (it was great - not scary or too strenuous; very well organized process and procedures, guides were lots of fun, outstanding views). We found a great Japanese noodle bar, Wagamama a few blocks from the Four Seasons for dinner (corner of Bridge and Loftus). The next day we explored the Rocks area. Found La Renaissance bakery on Argyle that had the best French pastries and coffee. The Rocks weekend market was in full swing as well. Much nicer than Paddy's - mostly higher quality products. After lunch, we took the ferry to Manly for views from the harbor and a stroll down the Corso to the beach. We had lucked out with the weather - all of our port stops, except arrival day in Auckland, were sunny and mild. Never too warm - i think the range was in the high 60's/low 70's, so perfect for strolling and sightseeing. We left the city on our last day and took the train to the Blue Mountains, using the Blue Mountain Explorer Link, which City Rail offers as a package including the round trip train ticket to Katoomba and the Blue Mountain hop on/off bus. On weekends, the train only leaves once an hour - so we made the one a little after 8am. We arrived in Katoomba at 10:30 and jumped on the red bus to start our adventure. Don't miss hiking down to the valley floor via the Furber Steps - you go through rain forest, pass by the Katoomba cascade and other falls. Great views all the way down. Not wanting to walk back up, we took the world's steepest railway, backwards (!), then proceeded to the Echo Point lookout - beautiful. Lots of other walks are outlined for you in the guide - we did a little more out to the Three Sisters and some of the cliff walk for more views before heading to the charming town of Leura to browse around that area. We were able to catch the train back to Sydney from Leura, so that was a convenient place to end our day in the mountains. It was nice to slow down the pace a bit seeing mountains and trees, since all we had seen of Australia thus far was big cities. We were back in Sydney by 5:30 and after resting a bit, took a taxi to Chinatown for a fabulous meal at Golden Century on Sussex. We've had Chinese food in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, New York and San Francisco..... Sydney is right up there with the best. Since it was such a pleasant evening, we walked back to the hotel along George Street and were pleasantly surprised that the Queen Victoria Building was open to wander around, even with the stores closed. From the mosaic floors to the ceiling domes and the exhibits in-between, we were very impressed with QVB and the way Australians restore, preserve and make use of their historic buildings. Princess's organization and planning shined through again with getting us to the airport. All weekend long, as people had departures scheduled on different days, the Princess staff at the hotel had kept the procedures updated and posted. We knew what time luggage was to be ready for pick up, time to check out, when and where to meet the bus, and departure time. We got to the airport rather quickly as there was no traffic (Monday, 4/17, was still part of the Easter holiday weekend. Good Friday was a major holiday, so some retail stores and restaurants were closed, but it didn't really interrupt any of our plans). Further airport and airline activities were (thankfully) uneventful, except that part of the airport check-in procedures included security asking whether or not we had any washing detergent or any toiletries in unmarked bottles in our checked luggage. When I said I had a small bottle of Woolite, we were pulled aside to have our luggage searched and had to give up the Woolite. We never got a good answer on what the issue was with detergent since it was in our checked luggage, but it wasn't a big deal. After all of the questions in port throughout the cruise, declaring what food, wood, and/or animal products we had, it was kind of funny that they took our soap! As you can tell by my lengthy write-up, it was a very memorable trip. We would not hesitate for a moment to cruise on Princess or to visit New Zealand or Australia again. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
My wife and I just completed our second Australia-New Zealand cruise with Princess. One year ago we sailed on the Sapphire and this year we just completed a cruise was on her sister ship the Diamond. I am in a wheelchair so my comments ... Read More
My wife and I just completed our second Australia-New Zealand cruise with Princess. One year ago we sailed on the Sapphire and this year we just completed a cruise was on her sister ship the Diamond. I am in a wheelchair so my comments will pertain in certain instances to the facilities on board that either contributed or failed [none!] to contribute to the pleasure of the voyage. Last year the embarkation was pretty much a "dog's breakfast" but this year we had no trouble during any of the embarkation formalities. All went smoothly and that perhaps was because we stayed several nights in Auckland before embarkation. Diane felt a little claustrophobic in our interior cabin last year, particularly when the Tasman Sea crossing became a little rough. This year's seas were placid and being able to look out onto the ocean as well as our arrival and departures from the various New Zealand ports made for a much improved situation. The Kiwi ports seem to be situated at the end of reasonably long fingers of water so it was a pleasure to see the territory that we passed through entering and leaving the ports. Diane and I were equally impressed with the Diamond's facilities and her crew as we were last year-if not more so! We encountered no crew member who was in any way negative; they knew what they were doing, they were extremely polite, they were extremely accommodating to me with my disability and we must congratulate Princess for preparing them so well. We ate every night in the Savoy Restaurant at virtually the same table. Because we took the option of Anytime Dining, Diane phoned every two or three days to reserve our table and was soon recognized by the receptionist, the maitre d' Francesco and his assistant, Romeo. They provided professional service as well as friendly attention. The menu in The Savoy was the same as in the Diamond's other restaurants and we both thought the quality was exceptional. We anticipated seeing the menu that Mario our waiter gave us each night and ordering a bottle of wine from the Savoy's good wine list that Catalin always presented. We would drink half and he would cork it for us to finish the following night. He did the same with a bottle of dessert wine but that lasted a few more nights. If you think we enjoyed our dining experience, you would be completely correct-we can't praise the service or the quality higher. Previous commentators always seem, even if they enjoyed the overall cruise experience, to take a swipe at the poor Horizon Court. This area at the top of the ship provided 24 hour buffet service and Diane and I used it for breakfast nearly every day. The selection of food and its preparation and display were excellent. My only comment, and this says more about its popularity than its design, was that it was crowded if you went at peak times and were trying to move around it a wheelchair. I know I was asking for trouble trying to do it but my excuse was I was simply attempting to see what was on offer and where those offerings were located. Anybody who is or has been temporarily or permanently in a chair knows that a hugely important factor is toilets and where they are located. The Diamond and her sister ship, the Sapphire, cannot be faulted on these points. Outside every restaurant, bar or public room was a handicapped toilet located near with the mainstream facilities. They were cleaned every two hours and were spotless-I know because I would have used nearly every one on board. They not only were spotlessly clean but were also designed well. They had grabrails in the right places and were also commodious with large easily handled entries-not a small consideration. The bars were excellent; they served a wide variety of strong, well mixed drinks served by exceedingly competent and pleasant staff. I spent much time in the writing area just off the foyer watching the ocean and reading. It was always a quiet and relaxing place on a vessel with roughly twenty-six hundred passengers. We both loved the cruise and anticipate, all things working out, our next cruise with Princess. For me, the ship is the destination and after two identical cruises to New Zealand a third cruise on either of the two ships is something I am looking forward to. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2006
We sailed on the Diamond princess from Auckland on 20/1/06 and she really lived up to her name. As we had been on the Sapphire princess in March the ship's layout was identical and had no problem locating everything on the ship within ... Read More
We sailed on the Diamond princess from Auckland on 20/1/06 and she really lived up to her name. As we had been on the Sapphire princess in March the ship's layout was identical and had no problem locating everything on the ship within 5 minutes. Embarkation was very easy as we stayed at the Hilton and just strolled out of the lobby and onto the ship. The ports of call in New Zealand were beautiful and well worth it and the highlight being Milford Sound, just magnificent. Dunedin was lovely with the Cadburys chocolate factory for us chocoholics and the beautiful countryside and lanarch castle. The stateroom was up to Princess normal standard and the balcony was nice and big (Baja 747 ) is a great stateroom as it has an angle balcony looking straight up from the stern of the boat along the side. The food was great and variable and the service was ok. I found that maybe the staff on this cruise were a bit less efficient than our last cruise but not really complainable. Crossing the great southern ocean was a bit rough but the big ship handled it well and the roll wasn't too bad (being on the back of the ship). Why does Princess put all of their large suites on the back of their ships and not midship? I don't get seasick but my partner had to lay down for a day due to the motion. Next stop Hobart, Tasmania, lovely town and nice for a stroll on land but I am sure there a more interesting places to visit. Bass strait was like a lake when we crossed it and made for a smooth crossing. Entertainment was a bit disappointing as we had the same shows on this ship as we had last March on the Sapphire Princess. Solo acts were good and the passenger talent quest was fantastic. Some of them should of been working in the entertainment program!!!!!! Shore excursion were a rip off still but very well orgainsed. The day trip to Rotorua was well worth it and the geysers were unreal. I would cruise again on princess but not on a cruise less than 14 days as we feel that we only start to unwind after 7 days. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
Sapphire Princess Cruise 6th - 18th January 2005 Review We have arrived home from our wonderful cruise. Yes ...  the Sapphire Princess cruise ship is a magnificent venue for the holiday or a lifetime. First of all price ... We paid for ... Read More
Sapphire Princess Cruise 6th - 18th January 2005 Review We have arrived home from our wonderful cruise. Yes ...  the Sapphire Princess cruise ship is a magnificent venue for the holiday or a lifetime. First of all price ... We paid for an inside cabin. When we got on board we found out we had been upgraded to a window cabin .... can you imagine how delighted we were! After checking our prices against the Princess smaller ship in the Pacific ... our cruise was the "special" of all specials. Embarkation: I don't want to remember this as it was not what I expected .... long lines of people standing in the rain ... just waiting for some movement. No cover! Auckland Port is not geared for a large ship like Sapphire. However ... I think by the time the Sapphire has to do this again, things will have improved because of all the complaints that would have been received. The Princess Sapphire: A beautiful and wonderful staffed cruise ship. Cleaning goes on around the clock so everything is spotless and polished. Our Cabin: We paid for an inside cabin and enjoyed a window cabin. We didn't know about the upgrade until we went looking for our cabin. Wow! ... I felt like a Queen. Our cabin steward, Victor, was great. We tipped him $20.00 as soon as we met him and during the cruise. My hubby and I were amused as to how he arranged my "nighty" each night. It was so pretty I didn't want to spoil his artistic efforts. As the weather wasn't the best in New Zealand a cabin with a balcony wasn't necessary. The chocolates on the pillow at night were appreciated. Dining: We choose early sitting in the Traditional Dining Room. We had a table of eight fun loving cruisers. Our waiter, Alex, and assistant waiter, Ceceileo, were the best. They joined in the fun and were always eager to please. Our table did get a name for having the most fun. We ate our breakfast and lunch in the Santa Fe, Pacific Moon or Horizon's Buffet. All the food was excellent. The steaks were the best I have ever eaten. Don't forget to go to the Horizon's Buffet between 3.30 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. for free ice cream. This is not advertised and a lot of people only find out about this when it is too late. Early dinner sitting fitted in with our early show times. Everything was timed to perfection. Entertainment: This is as good on the Sapphire as what you can find anywhere in the world. The four dance productions were amazing. My granddaughter just finished a university course so I have viewed some of the best along the way. The magicians and comedy entertainers were outstanding. One comedian DON WARE was the writer for the Cosby Show. Music by Julie Wallace in the Crooners Lounge was delightful Alastair Greener was our fabulous cruise director with Frankie his very funny fall guy. I could go on and on..... Ports of Call: Wellington: I could recommend Rover Tours $35.00 for two hours or all day (Hop on hop off). Get shuttle to town walk to Information Centre. We got the cable car back to the city. Shuttle to ship. Christchurch: The Antarctic Centre is a must. I rebooked the snowmobile ride (has another name). You must go into the Snow Storm Room. This is for real. Get the shuttle to town ... then a local bus to the Antarctic Centre. Dunedin: The Cadbury Chocolate Factory is in the town centre. You must have a booking if you want to do a tour. I did this by email. Hobart: We walked to the city center. A local bus will take you around the area for a small cost. Melbourne: We had family pick us up and take us to Geelong for the day. There is a free tram for the city tour. Anyone going on this cruise ship is assured of a wonderful time. Things like seasickness .... I had this for one night when the sea was very rough .... can be fixed by going to the desk and buying some Dramamine. I felt better in two hours. The SPANGLES: What a great group of people. These friendships were formed on the Cruise Critic ...Roll Call Board up to a year before the cruise. It was like going on a cruise with the family. In Finishing: We must thank all the staff onboard the Sapphire Princess for making this cruise a wonderful never-to-be-forgotten time for us. CLAP! CLAP! CLAP! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
Arrival -- My wife and I flew from Perth, Western Australia, to Auckland, New Zealand, to join the Sapphire Princess on her return trip to Sydney, Australia. I am in a wheelchair so my comments, although probably a little different from ... Read More
Arrival -- My wife and I flew from Perth, Western Australia, to Auckland, New Zealand, to join the Sapphire Princess on her return trip to Sydney, Australia. I am in a wheelchair so my comments, although probably a little different from those of able travelers, might give some useful clues to those readers and potential travelers who are disabled. My first recommendation to any voyager is to not do what we did -- don't try to make a same day connection between arriving flight and cruise departure. Diane and I have only done three cruises so we're new at cruising and that is one lesson we'll learn for the future. The flight from Perth was only six hours but for me the transition from arrival in he morning to departure in the afternoon was too stressful because I thought in my ignorance that it would make sense to arrive in the morning, have a leisurely breakfast at the airport and transfer to the port for embarkation. I won't do that again! My advice is to arrive several days early, get over jet lag, be rested, join the cruise and don't lose a day sleeping in your cabin because you're too tired to explore the ship. The Ship, the Glorious Ship -- The ship is big -- very big when compared to anything around it. The only time it seemed small on the entire cruise was when it was next to the sheer mountain sides of Milford Sound in New Zealand's south. Having said that, the ship was easy to live in; she was commodious without feeling too expansive. She felt intimate in those areas that could be sought out for a quiet read or a quiet drink. Public Areas -- Diane and I had an inside handicapped stateroom on Lido deck which is about the highest deck and the one with the pools and the Horizon Court, which is the buffet and breakfast restaurant. Although the New Zealand weather was not conducive to sunbaking or much swimming it was obvious that there was ample space if that is what you wanted. We used the many bars on the ship and they were all decorated well and had good musicians playing at different times throughout the ship. The bars had darkened areas if that was what you wanted, strong well made drinks with good booze and the waitstaff were attentive, friendly and knowledgeable. These bars were well placed around the ship for a libation either before or after or both should that be your pleasure. We availed ourselves of the reading room and the library on the reception deck and always found it to be relaxing and a convenient place to watch the sea from its low angle -- it was particularly interesting the first day in the crossing of the Tasman Sea to Tasmania because the white-capped seas were nearly to the top of the windows. Ah -- the restaurants -- how much can be said of them? I like food and am interested in all it's many forms. The Sapphire didn't disappoint me in any of its restaurants, sampling any of its varied menus. Diane and I chose "anytime dining" and we were completely satisfied with that choice. Of the four specialty restaurants, we could select from the small select menu [Southwest, Italian, Asian or Steakhouse] or you were also given a larger menu from the International Dining Room -- you could order from which ever menu suited your taste. We would just phone the concierge every couple of days and make reservations -- one small item to note, they only allowed reservations to be made before seven o'clock, I think, because after that the time was saved for "walkins." This, however, was a minor consideration and the system worked perfectly for us. From the first day, the concierge knew I was in a chair and I was always given a seat near the entrance and their continuing consideration was a credit to them personally as well as Princess cruises in general. After trying the specialties from the restaurants early in the cruise, we settled down to ordering from the International menu and what a cornucopia of delights it was. True to its name, the menu was international in creation, delicious in preparation and memorable in presentation. We could not fault any of the aspects of the food service on board. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
CHAOS and BEDLAM: that is what we were greeted with upon our arrival at the Auckland, NZ, terminal after 20 hours of flying from the East Coast of the USA to reach the new Sapphire Princess. The embarkation process was in total disarray ... Read More
CHAOS and BEDLAM: that is what we were greeted with upon our arrival at the Auckland, NZ, terminal after 20 hours of flying from the East Coast of the USA to reach the new Sapphire Princess. The embarkation process was in total disarray and it took us nearly 3 hours of standing in lines and walking up stairs to reach the gangway and ultimately our stateroom. The problem seemed to stem from too many passengers (2800 going on and 2800 coming off) and not adequate facilities, planning or supervision from both the Princess staff and the Port Security group. This was especially trying for handicapped persons and families traveling with small children or older relatives. Add to that chaos the fact that it was raining, it was cold and it was confusing and you end up with a nightmare start to what was expected by all to be a dream vacation. The ship is ultra modern, well appointed and during our cruise, handled some rough 60 knot winds and 25 foot seas quite well as it is equipped with stabilizers. Our stateroom was well appointed and included a balcony, which sadly was only used once due to the inclement weather along the way. The shower is small, too small for anyone over 6 ft. tall and 200 lbs. Food, beverage and entertainment services were handled very well and an A+ rating can be given to all. The shore excursions suffered once again due to the large number of passengers being herded through the ship to the gangways and then the security measures both on and off the ship and on and off the buses. It certainly diminished the enjoyment of the various ports of call. The feature called Anytime Dining is a nice addition and opens up a wide variety of choices for lunch and evening dining without the traditional early or late seatings. The Concierge Service was excellent and a good way to confirm a booking for the specific restaurant of your choice. With better weather, fewer passengers and a more efficient passenger embarkation/disembarkation process, this would be a most enjoyable cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
SAPPHIRE PRINCESS CRUISE NEW ZEALAND AND AUSTRALIA JANUARY 2005 Jean and Ralph Walker Email rwalker@internode.on.net Itinerary -- Caribe cabin 520 Deck 10 midships balcony cabin 06 January 2005 -- Departure from Auckland, NZ; 07 ... Read More
SAPPHIRE PRINCESS CRUISE NEW ZEALAND AND AUSTRALIA JANUARY 2005 Jean and Ralph Walker Email rwalker@internode.on.net Itinerary -- Caribe cabin 520 Deck 10 midships balcony cabin 06 January 2005 -- Departure from Auckland, NZ; 07 January -- At sea; 08 January -- Wellington, NZ; 09 January -- Christchurch, NZ; 10 January -- Dunedin, NZ; 11 January -- Fjiordland, NZ; 12 January -- At sea crossing the Tasman sea; 13 January -- At sea crossing the Tasman sea; 14 January -- Hobart, Tasmania; 15 January -- At sea; 16 January -- Melbourne, Australia; 17 January -- At sea; 18 January -- Sydney, Australia. We are Australian, married, a "Baby Boomer" couple still working. Our occupations are Coordinator of Travel courses at a Travel College and Registered Nurse. This was our sixth cruise in total 4th on P/O Princess. We will talk in this report about the cruising experience and briefly on some of the ports of call. Firstly may we say that it was great to see so many Americans and Canadians cruising in our part of the world. We hope you enjoyed the experience and would love to see you back again. We really enjoyed sharing experiences with you all. The report is split into 4 sections 1/Prior to the cruise, 2/The cruise experience, 3/Ports of call, 4/Conclusion. PRIOR TO CRUISE -- We arrived in Auckland 3 days prior to the cruise departure and stayed at Rydges Hotel which is about a 20 min walk to the shipping terminal. The streets are well paved so you can wheel your luggage easily. Rydges is a comfortable "no frills" hotel reasonably priced with an excellent restaurant adjacent. We really enjoyed our meal there. There is a lot to see in and around Auckland so several days prior to cruise start would be a good idea. A cruise on the harbour or a visit to one of the offshore islands, wine tastings, a ferry to Devonport across the harbour would be some of the things you may want to do. You can obtain discount voucher booklets for a range of attractions around Auckland and thus be able to save quite a bit of money. Viaduct Harbour is a great dining area near the Sapphire Princess berth where the America's Cup yachts were berthed during the races. There are quite a few excellent restaurants here for you to choose from. We liked V Grill, good food, service and not too expensive. As many people have stated in reports previously it is essential that you arrive at the cruise departure point at least the day prior. It is extremely dangerous to arrive on the day of departure as quite a few people found out on this cruise when their luggage failed to arrive before departure of the ship. You only need a flight delay and you have big problems. On our departure day 6th January at about 8.30 a.m. we walked to Sky Tower which is about 5 minutes walk from Rydges and took the elevator to the top and were rewarded with a magnificent view of Auckland and the Sapphire Princess at her Princes wharf berth. Sky Tower is about 80 stories high so the view is spectacular and a must when in Auckland. If you are lucky you may see people undertaking a bungy jump from almost the top of the tower. They allow a discount of 10% if you have one of the discount vouchers. THE CRUISE EXPERIENCE -- Embarkation -- We left our Hotel at about 10 a.m. and walked down to the ship. Embarkation on our tickets was scheduled to start at 12 noon but from previous experiences we have sometimes boarded early and we like to get onto the ship as early as possible. No information was provided with our tickets by Princess as to exactly where we had to go to check in. The Princess wharf area is quite large and there were a lot of people like us who were there early and as confused as us as to where to go. Luckily we walked alongside the ship and came to a gate where porters where collecting luggage from passengers. We were then told that you had to go and line up on the other side of the building just south of the main entrance to the Hilton hotel. That was fine and we joined the quite large queue ready for check in. By this time it was probably about 10.30 a.m. Princess must in future provide a little map with the tickets showing the procedure for dropping baggage off and then embarkation. They must also put up some clear signs as people are approaching the wharf telling them what to do with their luggage and where to go to join the queue. At this time there were quite a few people complaining about their attempts to find out where to go for checking in. Some of them had been dropped off in taxis at the queue with their baggage and they then had to take their baggage round to the gate where the porters were. You can imagine how happy they were and this is not a good way to start a cruise. The area where you had to queue had no seats and some of the older people were wanting to sit down and couldn't do so. Princess should look at some other method of embarking passengers rather than get everyone to queue up. Maybe passengers could be given an exact time to be there rather than have 1000 passengers trying to board at the same time. Apparently there had been some problems with the disembarkation process and there were still people coming off the ship at 11:45 a.m. We heard rumours of immigration computer problems but what ever it was we didn't start the boarding process till 12:15 p.m. What followed was a complete shambles and most of the passengers were extremely unhappy with Princess and New Zealand Immigration although we feel it was more Immigration's problem than Princess Cruises. They started to form a second queue as there were people blocking the entrance to the Hilton Hotel at about 11:30 p.m. At 12:15 p.m. we entered the terminal but the people in the second queue who had not been waiting nearly as long as those in the first queue started to move in at the same time as us. They should have held these people back as there were a lot of people in the first queue unhappy about this. Then the first major problem emerged. You all have to fill out immigration forms. Why couldn't these forms have been sent out with the tickets so people could have them ready? Why couldn't some laterally thinking person in New Zealand Immigration have given the people the forms outside so they could be filled in whilst the passengers where waiting for check in? That would have saved a lot of time and allowed the line to move much quicker and there would have been no agitated annoyed people. Take note NZ Immigration!! A lot of people who had been lined up for 2 hours stopped to fill out the forms and lost their place in the queue. Don't stop just keep moving and fill the form out as you go along. You have plenty of time to complete them before you get to Immigration. The procedure then to get onto the ship took about 1 1/2 hours. We know security has to be very tight these days but the procedure must be streamlined better. We think there are a lot of Princess passengers who will think long and hard about embarking in Auckland in the future unless things are improved. There were plenty of Princess staff to help with the Princess check in and I thought this part of the proceedings worked very well. Once we were on board the ship we dumped our hand luggage and did what we always do -- head to Horizon court on the 14th deck for the buffet lunch. If you like a nice cold drink then I suggest you purchase the Coke card which costs USD $30.00 and allows you unlimited soda and Coke drinks whilst on board the ship. You will save money this way over the whole cruise. The sticker is stuck to the front of your cruise security card. Previous reviewers have stated that the waiters were a little slow in providing the soda and coke drinks but we didn't find that on this cruise. Disembarkation  -- Getting off the ship at Sydney was very simple. Immigration had been completed in Hobart when we first arrived at an Australian port and in Sydney Customs were very efficient. Groups of people doing different things were colour coded. We were off the ship in 20 minutes and on our way to the airport for the short flight home. We would recommend the Princess Airport transfers in Sydney which only cost USD $24.00 per person and was quick and efficient. The taxis or shuttles are not that much cheaper. The ship in general -- Firstly we think the Sapphire Princess is a great ship and we certainly would like to cruise on it again. Some people aboard found the size of the ship a little overwhelming and they thought a smaller ship would be more to their liking. We can understand that but we like the larger ships with more people on board. Although there were approximately 2700 passengers on board we never felt crowded. We didn't get a chance to use the gym, lotus spa or the casino so can't comment on those. There was a shipboard orientation tour at 3 p.m. on the first day and as this was the first time on the Sapphire Princess we tagged along. It lasted for about 30 minutes and we would recommend it. Ralph took some shots of the ship which my travel students will get to see in due course. This was followed by the safety and security drill prior to departure from Auckland which all passengers have to attend unless they are doing back to back cruises on the same ship. This drill lasted for about 30 minutes. One of the first things you should do on day two of the cruise if you are not American, Canadian or British is to check and see if you have the right colour Princess cruise card. If you have completed more than one cruise and have been given a blue card you should see the Captains Circle membership officer to make sure she has you on her list for the Captain's Circle party and for what it's worth she will get your card colour changed. This cruise card acts as your room key and security card whilst on the ship. It is deactivated as soon as you leave the ship for the last time at the end of the cruise. For some reason only Americans, Canadians and British appear in the Princess database for Captains Circle. This problem should be immediately rectified by Princess as it is embarrassing for other nationalities. By the way there were approx 1300 Americans, 400 Australians, 300 New Zealanders and quite a few British together with a smattering of other nationalities on board. Princess cruises adds a USD $10.00 a day per person amount to your bill and that covers your tipping for the total cruise. This is done so that people employed on the ship who are not in direct contact with the ship can also receive something. If you don't like this idea you can negotiate with the Pursers office to have the amount reduced if you wish. We knew some people who did this as they had 2 small children who also were charged $10.00 and they thought this was not fair. We have no problems with this arrangement and in fact several people ie our room steward Jose and a Hungarian couple Judit and Balazcs waiters in the Sterling Restaurant who gave us exceptional service got a little bit extra. Jose was extremely efficient and everything in our cabin was perfect. We asked for several small jobs to be done in the afternoon and by dinnertime they were attended to. The self-service laundries were spacious with plenty of washing machines, dryers and ironing facilities. Change machines and laundry powder dispensers were available in each laundry. Cost of laundry -- USD $1.00 each per wash, per drier and for the washing powder dispenser. The machines accept US quarters 0.25c. Early morning or late at night or when the ship is in port and everyone is off the ship are the best times to do your washing. On sea days and between 4 - 6 p.m. on port days the laundries can get very busy. There also seems to be only two irons per laundry. If you are using several appliances in your cabin at the one time it might be an idea to bring an adaptor board, as there is only one general plug. This is a USA type plug so if you are coming from another country you will need to bring an adaptor. On sea days there is always plenty to do. In fact sometimes there is too much and you find yourselves having to choose between several things. One of the improvements that could be made on the ship is to the Princess Patter, which is the newsletter that you receive each evening after you have had dinner. We think the layout of the newsletter could be improved. Sometimes you have to really search to find the information you need. We think similar topics should be grouped together and maybe a tear off part with what's on for the day so that people can detach it and take it with them during the day or night rather than take the whole newsletter. Quite a few people were making the same comments. We were extremely impressed with Skywalkers, which is situated at the back of the ship. At nighttime it is a disco after 10:30 p.m. and during the daytime is a restful area for reading and just watching the sea. We had a rough day crossing the Tasman and it was great to sit on the side wing and look right down the left side of the ship to the Bridge and notice the pitching motion of the ship. The chairs in Skywalkers are extremely comfortable. During the daytime you can always get a seat there. The library has a very good selection of books and you can take a book out of the library now without checking it out. You just have to remember to return it. If you try and walk off the ship with the book you will get a rude shock as there is a security device implanted in all the books!! Ralph enjoys a jog and Jean enjoys walking. We both used the Promenade deck for our activities usually early in the morning as there were fewer people around. You will have to climb some stairs at the front side of the ship but they aren't a problem. The Internet cafe is very large with lots of computers. We never had to wait to get on a machine and the cost was extremely reasonable. On our last cruise the quality of the shows was a little variable. Not so on this cruise. We both thought all the shows were excellent particularly the comedian Bobby Dennis from Sydney. Absolutely fantastic don't miss him if he is on again. If you lose your way on the ship particularly early on in the cruise just look for the ship location map and that will help. After a few days most people were finding their way around without too much trouble. The carpets on the left/port corridors are in Blue and on the right/starboard side are red in case you are not sure what side of the ship you are on. It does happen occasionally!! Our biggest complaint about Princess cruises was that particularly in the restaurants when we ordered a bottle of wine we had to always ask for our receipt with the amount of the purchase shown clearly. In all other parts of the ship ie the bars, photo shop, etc., you always receive a receipt. Princess needs to immediately correct this so that for every purchase on the ship you have a receipt. The night before you disembark you will receive your final account and all of your purchases should be shown. We strongly recommend that you get a copy of your account every couple of days so you can keep a check on your spending as you go along because it is so easy to forget what you have spent. We keep a sequenced record of all receipts and cross them off on the account every couple of days. If you don't do this you might have a problem at the end trying to remember all your purchases and this is not a nice feeling at the end of the cruise. There is no designated card room on board so all the bridge enthusiasts on this cruise spread themselves out in all sorts of locations around the ship. We believe very strongly that their should be signs at various points around the ship and in the Princess Patter alerting passengers to the dangers of exposure to the sun. We have a particular problem with people getting skin cancers here in Australia. Passengers should be warned not to stay out in the sun for too long and to have plenty of protection whilst doing so. The cooking demonstration and tour of the galleys is usually done on the 2nd last day and is worthwhile doing. The Executive chef was also promoting its cookbook, personally signed by him. We bought a copy and it has some great recipes. They also had a tour backstage which again we found very interesting. We were introduced to some of the performers in the show. They were extremely helpful and everyone was congratulating them on their excellent performances. We had one very rough day crossing the Tasman with 16-20 foot waves and a few people were feeling a little unwell. Don't let this put you off doing a cruise because there are lots of things that can be done to take away that feeling such as patches, seasick tablets, etc. Dining -- The debate regarding 1st or second dining room sitting versus Anytime dining continues. We prefer Anytime Dining and what we try and do is make bookings for the next night the day before. As soon as we arrived in our cabin we rang the concierge desk and made bookings for the Sterling restaurant for the first night and for Vivaldi's the specialist Italian restaurant for the second night. We book for 8:15 p.m. but bookings can be made prior to 6:15 p.m. or after 8 p.m. for any of the 4 dining rooms catering for Anytime Dining. If you are on 1st or 2nd sitting dining you must dine in the International dining room although you can book into the 4 Anytime dining rooms if you wish for a change. If you are on anytime dining you can only go into the 4 specialist dining rooms not the International dining room. You can order anything off the International dining room menus for all 4 restaurants. These menus are available for all meal sittings. As well each of the special restaurants have their own special menus -- ie Sterling is a steak restaurant and so steak features prominently on their menu. This was Ralph's favourite place and he loved the Rib eye fillet and the New York Sirloin steak. Vivaldi's has an Italian theme and we thought also was very good. Both these restaurants are side by side on deck 5. Santa Fe has a Mexican theme and together with Pacific moon are side by side on deck 6. We dined in both of them but had the International menu. As we have been to Sabatini's specialty restaurant on several occasions previously we didn't dine there this cruise. There is a USD $20.00 cover charge per person. In all of the restaurants waiters always asked us if we were enjoying the meal. On one occasion there was a misunderstanding and two dishes Ralph had ordered were bought out at the same time. They offered to take the second dish straight back to the kitchen and replace it with another when I was ready. If you really can't decide between the Lobster and the Pheasant order both or if you like the Lobster so much then order another serve. It doesn't matter. You can do this at any time on the ship. Yes that did happen to me on several occasions. The buffet at Horizon Court on deck 14 was quite acceptable. Everything seemed fresh and we thought the food tasted fine. Many people go up to Horizon Court and pile their plates up with food and return to their cabin to eat. Particularly those with balcony cabins. The great advantage of Anytime Dining is that even though you have made a booking if you want to adjust the time you can without too many problems. It is possible not to have to make any bookings and you can line up to get in. Sometimes you might have a little wait so it is better to book even if you have to change the time. Many people want to dine in Sterling as their menu is very good so we strongly suggest booking there. We think in the past there have been problems with people lining up to get into this restaurant for a long time and this may be the reason why Sterling as well as the other 3 Anytime Dining restaurants have introduced a policy of no bookings between 6:15 p.m. and 8 p.m. so as to cater for walk up diners. We had a Hungarian couple Balazcs and Judit looking after us for about 6 meals. We liked them so much we asked for them when we first entered the restaurant. Look out for them if you are dining in the Sterling restaurant. The wine list in the restaurant is a great improvement on our last Princess cruise with much greater variety and reasonably well priced. We had all our breakfasts in either the Santa Fe or Pacific Moon restaurants as they are the only ones open. You only alternative is Horizon court, which is open 24 hours a day or you can have room service. We think the restaurants should be open a little longer for breakfast and lunch. They are open 7:30 - 9:30 .a.m for breakfast and 12 - 2 p.m. for lunch. Sometimes it is hard to get there because so much is happening on the ship. We think the ice cream stall where they charge extra could be eliminated as people can get free ice creams between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. in Horizon Court and different flavours of ice cream are always available at lunch or dinner in the restaurants. The open-air Trident grill and Pizza bar near Horizon Court were very popular and we enjoyed the hamburger and pizza that we had there. Afternoon tea between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. where you have cakes and tea or coffee is worth the experience. Overall the meals and service were excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner right through the cruise. We had no complaints at all. Our cabin -- We don't always have a balcony cabin it depends on the cruise. We went for a balcony on this one because it is summer time here and we thought we would be able to sit on the balcony a lot. As it turned out the weather was quite cold and wet and we didn't get onto the balcony as much as we wanted to. Also we were going into some great ports with spectacular views ie Sydney, Wellington and Hobart. We are thinking of going on a Trans Atlantic cruise later this year and will probably book an inside cabin on this one as the weather on the North Atlantic could be marginal at best. It depends where you are. One very important point to bear in mind with cabin selection -- Always keep away from stairs and try and get a cabin in the middle of the ship or toward the rear so as to avoid motion of the ship in a storm. We had some rough weather on the Tasman and at the front of the ship you noticed the forward motion of the ship quite a bit whereas in the middle of the ship there was really not a lot to worry about. On Dolphin deck 9 most of the outside balcony cabins are mini suites and have a large totally open to view from above balcony. Our balcony was half open but only half the size of the mini suite balconies on deck 9. We feel that you either get an inside cabin or a balcony cabin. A cabin with a porthole is more expensive than an inside cabin and we think a waste of money as you can't feel the fresh air or lean over the balcony. If you have an inside cabin you are only several minutes from the Promenade deck or the open decks above. Your security card gets you into your cabin. Make sure when leaving your cabin that your door is properly closed. On several occasions our door did not properly close. There wasn't any clock in our cabin, luckily we brought our own. The design of the cabin made good use of mirrors to enhance the feeling of light and maximise space. The open space wardrobes without doors provided plenty of hanging and storage space for our requirements. Our main cases fitted side by side quite comfortably. Bedside lights have dimmer switches. Soaps and towels were changed twice a day. There is a safe in every room and our cabin had a fridge as well as 2 chairs, 2 lollabouts and a table on the balcony. Outside your door on the side is a letterbox with your cabin number on it so that the any newsletters or other information can be left for you. If you wish to drink wines in your cabin Princess seems to have no problems with you purchasing wines or champagne and bringing them on board at embarkation or at the ports of call. I am not quite so sure about spirits though. We wanted to have some drinks on our balcony from time to time and Concierge brought up wine and champagne glasses for us to use for the entire cruise. You can take these wines into the dining room but you might be charged a USD $10.00 corkage fee. They charge for spring water in your cabin so we always take a water bottle with us and go up to Horizon Court and fill the bottle up with fresh water from there. PORTS OF CALL -- If you are like us and like to get up early to watch the arrival into the various ports we would suggest if the wind is not blowing too much you go to the observation point on top of the bridge at the front of the ship. If the wind is blowing then maybe deck 7 Promenade at the bow will give you some protection and nearly as good a view. Other options are deck 15 at the front where you are slightly protected with glass windows or Skywalkers at the rear of the ship but the views straight ahead are somewhat blocked by the funnel. We thought the best ports to sail into and ones you must get up early for are Wellington, Hobart, Melbourne and of course Sydney. Be careful sometimes the ship arrives early. It might show an arrival time in port of 8 a.m. and you might be docked at 6:30 a.m. That happened to us a couple of times so I always set the alarm earlier. On departure of the ship I think the above also applies. If you don't want to book any of the Princess cruises at all the ports you will have a choice of shuttles, limousines and local coach tours all vying for your business. Don't forget to get the best price. If there is a group of you a shuttle will work out to be a very economical way of getting around. Some people think the Princess tour prices are a little steep. That may be so but I know from previous tours that you generally get value for money on the tours and doing your own thing doesn't appeal to everyone. If you are travelling independently you need to make sure that you get back to the ship at least 30 minutes before sailing. The ship will not wait for you and I believe we left a few people behind in one of the ports. I can't remember which one now. If you are on an official Princess tour and the coach is late back the ship will wait for you. This happened on several occasions on this cruise. As we knew most of the ports very well we opted to do our own thing but I will pass on some thoughts to you, which may be of assistance. In every port the local tourist authorities had small tourism stands manned by local people with a wealth of knowledge of the area. They all had lots of brochures to hand out and I was most impressed with the way they all tried to help everyone. You will be asked to take photo ID and your Princess cruise card with you whenever you disembark the ship in any port. You will need to show both to get back on board the ship. WELLINGTON -- Arrival into Wellington is quite spectacular with the city appearing at the front of the ship as you sail in. As quite often happens in Wellington it was wet and we opted to have a look around the town. There is plenty to do there and I really don't think a tour there is necessary. You can get a free shuttle to the city centre or if you are feeling energetic you can undertake a 15-20 minute walk from the ship to the railway station where you can board the yellow circle city busses and tour around the city. These busses come along every 15 mins or so and you can get a timetable when you get on board. We did a complete city loop, which took about 20 minutes just to get our bearings. It will cost you NZD $6.00 for an all day hop on hop off pass which takes you past many of the important sights in Wellington such as the Te Papa and Maritime museums which are about 1 stop away from each other. Both these museums are excellent and require a few hours to enjoy. You can also get off at the major shopping area, the New Zealand Parliament House and the famous church near the railway station, which is worth a look. You must stop at the Mt Victoria rail car stop where you can take a 15 minute journey to the top of the mountain for a fantastic view of Wellington and the Harbour. Pray that the weather is good. We were lucky as the morning was very wet and murky and we waited till the afternoon when everything cleared away and we had a great view from the top. Spend some time wandering the park reserve at the top of the hill. It is quite beautiful. All of the above will keep you very busy in Wellington. To get back to the ship again a 15-20 minute walk and I seem to recall someone else in a past review giving a warning to people to make sure they cross over to the right hand side of the road before you reach the rail signals as there is a big bend in the road near the ship and if you stay on the left hand side you will have trouble crossing the road as it is extremely busy and you can't see what is coming. The cars come round the corner at high speed so it is rather dangerous. One gent was almost hit by a car, as he didn't move quickly enough across the road. CHRISTCHURCH -- You will arrive at the port of Lyttleton which is about a 30 minute coach transfer to the Christchurch city centre costing NZD $6.00 each way. There is plenty to keep you busy in the city of Christchurch without going on a tour to the countryside. If you look at the Princess tours you will see an all day train ride on the Trans Alpine Express which you can do from Christchurch. Indeed Christchurch is a beautiful city settled originally by the English and one of my favourites in this part of the world. This is a very difficult decision what to do. All I can say is maybe look at the city first time and do the train trip next time you are in Christchurch because I am sure you will be back again. If you decide to stay in Christchurch there is much to do. Here are some thoughts, which will take up the day. Look at the Cathedral on Cathedral Square right in the town centre where the coach will drop you off, do some shopping at the stores around the Square. Possum and merino lamb cardigans are a very good local buy and a lot of the shops don't mind knocking something off the price for you. Once you have looked at Cathedral Square go down and walk along the Avon River, which is quite beautiful scenery. You will think that you are walking along some of the beautiful rivers in England. You can even go for a punt ride on the river if the weather is acceptable. By now it probably will be time for a drink and we stopped at an English style pub called the Bard on Avon about a 5 minute walk from Cathedral Square. This pub had many English beers on tap as well as Irish Guinness and Murphy's stout. The meals there look excellent, big serves and there were lots of locals drinking there, always a good sign. Extremely friendly service. Next walk or get the circle city tram for a 5 minute tram ride west of the city to the Arts Museum and the General Museum and Botanical Gardens. Absolutely excellent all of them. You can get a pass on the circle city tram for the day if you don't want to walk around. If you have time you can get a local bus to the Antarctic centre, which is well worth a look. This museum is about 15 minutes from the city centre out toward the airport. On the way back to the ship if you have time it is possible to walk to the local bus depot about 5 minutes/2 streets south of Cathedral Square and get a local bus number 28 to the cable car ride on the top of the Lyttleton hills. This bus leaves about every 30 minutes and the trip takes about 30 minutes. We didn't do this as we ran out of time but will certainly do so next time we are in Christchurch as we were talking to people on the ship who said the view was spectacular looking back to Christchurch and toward the ship. Apparently once you finished the cable car ride they were providing busses to the Lyttleton bus depot and a free transfer from there back to the ship. The cable car ride each way takes about 10 minutes. DUNEDIN -- You will arrive at the port of Port Chalmers, which is about a 30 minute coach transfer to the Dunedin city centre costing NZD $6.00 each way. You will be dropped off at the Information centre right in the heart of the city at the Octagon. We purchased a city sights tour from the information office. It cost NZD $15.00 per person and lasted for one hour and we were taken around on a double decker bus with an excellent guide. We thought a very good introduction to Dunedin, which was first settled by the Scots. Once that tour was completed we booked another one out to Lanarch Castle and I think this is a very good tour to do because not only does it give you a good look at the castle and the gardens it affords some wonderful views as you travel along the coast on the way there. This tour takes about 2½ hours and drops you back at the Octagon. Shops are nearby with Lyle and Scot knitwear very good prices here. Back to the ship on the transfer. FJIORDLAND -- The Sapphire Princess, weather permitting, cruises through the most southerly sound known as Dusky Sound and then enters Doubtful Sound finally arriving at Milford Sound the best known of the Sounds. It rains and you have low cloud approximately 260 days of the year here so you need a good day weather wise. You can be lucky, sometimes we had a perfect day. You do not get off the ship but get a good vantage point and keep the camera clicking. A magnificent part of the world. HOBART -- Arrival in Hobart is at Constitution Dock about 10 minutes walk to the centre of town past the docks where the Sydney to Hobart yachts arrive. Again there are very good tours of the city for AUD $15.00 hop on hop off similar to Wellington. Tickets for these tours can be purchased from the information office one block past Constitution dock on the main street about 10 minutes walk from the ship. We decided to book at tour to the top of Mount Wellington, which left at 12 noon and cost AUD $22.00 per person. In the meantime we went for a walk past Salamanca Place, which is a mecca for shopping and very near the information centre. From there we walked through Battery Point through a couple of beautiful parks then back to do the tour. The weather was excellent and the view from the top of the mountain was superb. After the tour a quick walk around the city and then back to the ship. We like walking as much as possible because it helps to get rid of the bulge. You all know what I mean. Leaves a little bit of room for tea that night. MELBOURNE -- The ship docks at Station Pier the port for Melbourne, which is a little way out of town. Again you have a choice of doing your own thing or taking tours. If you want to travel around on your own there is plenty to do. We would suggest you get off the ship and walk to the end of the pier near where the tram stop is. Purchase a metro pass costing AUD $5.00 per person, which allows you unlimited travel on the busses, trams and trains around Melbourne for the whole day. It will take you about 20 minutes to travel into the centre of Melbourne on tram 109. On your return to ship look again for tram 109 to Port Melbourne. About 2 stops before reaching the Collins Street -- Elizabeth Street stop which is in the centre of the city you must get off the tram and go to the top of the Realto tower for a great orientation view of Melbourne. You then must visit the famous Victoria markets about 3 stops from the centre of the city. Melbourne is a city of Parks and Gardens so a walk through Fitzroy Gardens is a must. St Kilda to the south a busy cafe scene is worth a look as is Lygon Street to the north a mecca for restaurants and the cafe society. We are very familiar with Melbourne so walking around is fine for us but for someone new to Melbourne we might suggest a tour to the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong ranges where you can ride on the steam train "Puffing Billy." This is a great trip. CONCLUSION -- We thoroughly enjoyed the Sapphire Princess and are now thinking about our next cruises, possibly Baltic and Northern Trans Atlantic later this year. We will be looking for reports from other people who have done these cruises. Special praise for the Cruise Director Alistair Greener and his Assistant Frankie together with the rest of the staff who performed beyond expectations. Special praise also for all the people who keep the ship spotlessly clean. Cleaning goes on around the clock 24 hours a day. If anyone wants any other information please email me and we will do what we can to help. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
This was our 6th cruise on Princess and its sister line P&O cruises. Having flown from Sydney sunshine, Auckland was very wet and cold, as was to be the rest of New Zealand during our cruise, they have had no summer this year. ... Read More
This was our 6th cruise on Princess and its sister line P&O cruises. Having flown from Sydney sunshine, Auckland was very wet and cold, as was to be the rest of New Zealand during our cruise, they have had no summer this year. Embarkation -- This was probably for most passengers the worst part of the trip. Boarding was from twelve to four p.m. We arrived at 12 a.m. to find over 1500 passengers of the 2780 due to sail already there, plus a large amount of passengers from the previous cruise who were still trying to get taxis. The Princess representatives were like headless chooks so we dropped our luggage off and went and had a leisurely lunch in one of the restaurants on the wharf. Came back at 3 p.m. to find long lines of cold, wet disgruntled passengers so repaired to the adjacent Auckland Hilton for a drink, back at 4.30 p.m. and we were on board in less than five minutes, they had even removed all the security screening equipment. So in our case embarkation was the best I have ever had from all cruise lines!!!. I cannot speak for other passengers. THE SHIP -- What can you say, big, brand new in pristine condition,or so I thought until the seventh day of the voyage as the ship was traversing the Tasman Sea when a glass door 8 feet by 3.5 feet,weight about 200 pounds located midships on the Lido deck between the two main pools decided it was not happy swinging in the 14 to 20 foot swell on the Tasman decided to fall on me as I tried to pass through it. It hit me on the head and left shoulder knocking me to my knees, with it on top of me. With the help of another passenger and a deck boy we removed the recalcitrant door to a safe place. It would appear to me that there was a failure in the bracket holding the top pin of the door (metal fatigue). Strange in a ship so new, also very dangerous as there were young children and more elderly persons than I right behind me who could have been injured badly. I saw the ship's Doctor of course (Take 2 Tylenol and lie down), they didn't even charge me for the visit. The rest of the voyage, another 5 days I don't remember, believe it if you like. For the money paid, and that was not a lot, the ship was excellent, the food was better than other cruises, the staff good, though the dining room staff at our table needed some more training. Plenty of space to relax and read and not be disturbed, we even won the trivia twice (anyone want a Princess Luggage Tag or Princess ball pen?). Read Less
Sail Date: January 2005
The Sapphire Princess is a beautiful ship, one of the best-appearing we have seen in our past ten cruises. It is a newer vessel, having first sailed in mid-2004. The following is our critique of a twelve day cruise in New Zealand and ... Read More
The Sapphire Princess is a beautiful ship, one of the best-appearing we have seen in our past ten cruises. It is a newer vessel, having first sailed in mid-2004. The following is our critique of a twelve day cruise in New Zealand and Australia that began on January 30, 2005. Embarkation was smooth, well-organized, and was relatively fast, considering that more than 2,300 passengers were boarding with us. We were on the ship within about ½ hour of our arrival at the cruise terminal. Cabin service was excellent, and our cabin attendant was one of the best we have had. Service elsewhere on the ship, including dining room and buffet service was very good. Cruise cuisine was good, and included a large variety of foods. There were exceptions, as the prime-rib in the alternative restaurant Sterling Steak House was one of the toughest pieces of meat I have ever encountered. The Horizon Court buffet food was good and plentiful, but not outstanding. The ship's desserts were generally very good, but very few of them were outstanding. I would classify none of the food on board as being in the gourmet category. We did not eat in the alternative Sabbatinis restaurant for which there was an extra $20.00 per person surcharge. We were part of a group of 90 people. The cruise line required everyone in our group to be assigned to "anytime dining." That classification was a misnomer because we were assigned to eat at 5:30 p.m. each evening, changing dining rooms every evening. We were not allowed to eat in the main dining room, which does not serve breakfast or lunch. We did not even see it. We are not fans of anytime dining, and prefer fixed seating in the main dining room. On this ship you do not have an excellent chance of getting a fixed seating assignment in the main dining room. In the four other personal choice dining rooms you can also order from the main dining room menu, but you have no choice of waiters or where you sit. Passenger space was adequate, but certain areas are not large enough for the ship and its programs. The Princess Theater, where major entertainment takes place is much too small for the passenger load, and we frequently were not able to find seats if we did not get to the theater at least 45 minutes prior to a show. The Horizon Court buffet line is much too small and too crowded for the ship. We were constantly bumping into other passengers at meal times because there is no organization of buffet lines at the several food stations in the buffet areas. We have not experienced this kind of crowding in these areas on other ships. Ship entertainment was excellent, and included one of the best singing and dancing groups we have ever experienced on a cruise. The only problem was getting in to see the entertainment when you wanted to. The Cruise Director Chris, was outstanding and a very energetic, bright and enthusiastic person. Other ship activities were well-planned and scheduled. There are surcharges for some activities such as computer training and ceramics painting. Persons taking the tours seemed to be well-pleased with the itineraries and organization of the tours. Ports of call were excellent and gave us excellent experiences in New Zealand and Australia. We would recommend Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Fjordland National Park in New Zealand. We also were very impressed with Hobart, Tasmania, and Melbourne and Sydney in Australia. They were all excellent places to visit. Debarkation went smooth and was relatively speedy. We were impressed with the fact that we did not have to congregate into one specific area to debark. We could wait in any area of the ship until our number/color was announced. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
Auckland The equivalent of Sydney in Australia or New York in the United States, Auckland is the business capital of New Zealand. Staying at the Mercure Hotel, Auckland gave us picturesque views of Auckland Harbour, at a relatively cheap ... Read More
Auckland The equivalent of Sydney in Australia or New York in the United States, Auckland is the business capital of New Zealand. Staying at the Mercure Hotel, Auckland gave us picturesque views of Auckland Harbour, at a relatively cheap price, but more importantly the convenience of being able to walk to the dockside! The morning the ship arrived; she looked stunning as she turned heads once again. After a breaky at a cafe, we walked up to the ship and saw some passengers checking in their luggage at 10am already! After seeing this, we also decided to do so. Although the public is allowed almost an arms length away from the ship, it is only up to the bow where it says 'Star Princess', and thus is limited to such a small section. Since it is one of the longest ships to come to Auckland, I would imagine that for smaller ships, the public wouldn't even be able to reach the ship at all! I am probably being biased since I come from Sydney where at the Overseas Passenger Terminal; the public has their own observation deck higher than the gangway level, so that the public is able to see much more! Embarkation in Auckland -- Loading a ship with 2600 passengers (the purser's desk said that we are sailing at full and there are no upgrades available) requires lots of manpower, lots of consideration, and a tonne of patience by both passengers and attendants. The stupid thing is as soon as you enter the terminal building; you are given a departure card, but not told when to give it in. You walk straight up to the line, where there are no tables or pens provided at all, and when you get to the top of the line, you need to hand in these damn cards filled in! Where were the instructions? How are we supposed to fill them in?? It wasn't as hectic as I thought it was though...just require a lot of patience! Cabin -- Figuring that we only use the cabin for sleep and that's pretty much it, we opted for a 4 berth inside cabin on the Dolphin deck. The room was way too small for 2 adults and 2 teenagers! They should have a slightly larger room but without the window premium! It was nicely decorated, and had an adequate closet space for 4...but the amount of space between lavatory door and the closet space can only be described as enough for a dwarf! Whenever you open the door from the toilet, anyone standing in the closet space would either get a wack from the side, or would have to swerve quickly and as a result, run into something else. The in-house safe was a real benefit, though, and we used it throughout the entire cruise. Unfortunately, being an American ship, the electrical power points were only 115 volts. Unaware of this, my father brought a long his 220 volts Australian shaver, and thus sounded like a portable vacuum with about 0.0001% of battery power left. We had to purchase manual shavers at next port of call! Television -- A great feature, especially for the inside cabin is the bow cam which shows a live picture of the front of the ship. We found it beneficial in that when we woke up, we could tell whether we were moving or not! The next channel is the ship log channel, which tells us exactly where we are in the world via GPS, the air temperature, the location in longitude and latitude, air pressure, wind direction, expected sunrise and sunset (pretty much useless information), and all that other junk. What they should have done is split up the graphic GPS image into a separate channel, so I passengers don't have to wait 10 minutes to see a 5 second long image of where we are! The television shows were pretty much all American (Friends, the Simpson's, Everybody Loves Raymond, etc.) and pretty much all American movies (Catch Me If You Can, Chicago, etc.), which is a little biased! To compensate this bias, they put on the South Pacific ABC channel, which 50% of the time was out of service 'due to our position' and when it was in range, it was like watching some random images and bits of sound every 3 seconds. They also have a live feed of CNN and CNNfn, which is good, and a news channel that just has news in text. Cabin attendant -- Although we didn't see him much, our room attendant, Luis, kept our cabin in an immaculate condition. He would change towels and clear up the room during breakfast as well as after dinner, and made sure that anything that needed replacing was replaced! He kept shoving more and more shampoo and conditioners like it was a natural resource! Although we never used room service, it is available 24-hours everyday, and after passing crew delivering the room service food to their respective cabins, the meals looked very decent indeed! In addition to the normal towels provided for morning and evening showers, they also provide everyone with pool/gym towels to use and are refreshed (if necessary) just as often as the normal towels are, or upon request if the frequency was not enough! Breakfast at Portofino Dining Room and Horizon Court -- Breakfast was the biggest disappointment of the entire cruise. Not only was the menu pretty much the same everyday, not only was it pretty much the same in the Portofino Sit down Breakfast as in the Horizon Court buffet, but the quality of the food was awful! The hash browns were hard and only tasted of oil, the pancakes were dry and the syrup sort of dissolved into it and it was still dry, the eggs were yuck (all 4 types of it!) and the hash brown looks like something I best not describe! The cereal selection was extremely limited (they believe we all like ONLY oats or something!?!), with no coco-pops, not even corn flakes! The only think I enjoyed was the grapefruit, which still looked like it was cut the day before and had dehydrated on the outside. The orange juice was not chilled, and I think the only decent thing to eat was the cold meat, which isn't adequate for 14 breakfasts! Lunch at Portofino Dining Room -- Lunch in the Portofino was quite good (excellent compared to breaky!). There was a wide variety of foods, especially for the mains, where a large portion of salads to prime rib was served. The smaller courses, though, where somewhat limited and some lunches we went straight for the pasta and mains. Since we chose traditional dining for dinner, this type of meal is what I'd expect had I chosen anytime dining for dinner and I'd have to say after having experienced this anytime option, I'm glad to have chosen the fixed dining option! Some of the staff were sooooo slow, some were very lazy, while some were exciting and very helpful. I'd rather had the same good waiter for the entire trip. Dinner in the Amalfi Dining Room -- Star Princess, like most of the other Princess ships offer both Traditional Dining Choice, and Personal Choice 'Anytime' Dining, and Princess Cruises is conveniently the only cruise line to offer both at the same time. The Traditional dining is in the Amalfi Dining room, while the anytime dining option is in the Capri and Portofino Dining rooms. All three dining rooms are supposed to be exactly the same, but I did notice that Portofino and Capri Dining rooms had much more paintwork done to them than the Amalfi. We decided to choose the Traditional fixed seating (for those of you who don't know, its where you dine every night at a fixed time at a fixed table with the same waiters). Some of you might think this is pretty stupid to choose fixed when there is anytime dining, but we liked it because we were guaranteed a table, guaranteed no waiting for it, and we have the same waiters who got to know us and gave us a better dining experience. Anyway, the dinners onboard the Star Princess in my view was nothing short of spectacular. Even our waiter said that dinner is where everything is meant to be fabulous and perfect. On many occasions from the look on our faces after finishing a course, he offered to bring out another one (since that course was so yuck!). During the 14-night cruise, they served 2 types of caviar, 2 differently cooked lobster, king crab legs, escargot, frog legs, pretty much everything. Appetizers are followed by soup, salad, entrEe, then dessert (the entrEe is the main course size, I don't know why they call it entrEe!). Service at Amalfi Although the food was great, I'd have to say that the main reason I enjoyed the food was because of our waiter and his assistant, who were our waiters for every dinner throughout the 14 nights. After the first 2 nights, they knew pretty much everything about us in terms of meals. This is why I liked the Traditional fixed seating. When we arrived, 2 Cokes would already be waiting for us. There are no wine glasses (since my parents don't drink on a cruise), he doesn't even ask my sister what kind of salad she wants (its always Caesar!), he knows my father, sister and myself like French fries with the entrEe, and that my mother doesn't, and that I am the only one who likes ketchup. It is this personal approach that I could never get at anytime dining (since the waiter will always change!). Also, since all food is paid for, the waiters actually recommend what actually takes good and not just the most expensive thing on the menu! Only available on a cruise ship! Food at Horizon Court -- Apart from breakfast, the food in the Horizon Court was of a good standard. Lunch was always something to look forward to on days which the ship was at port, and I liked the fact that it is open 24-hours a day. The thing I'd hate the most without a 24-hour buffet is coming back from port at 3pm starving and finding that no food place is open! There was always lots of space to sit (apart from breakfast time), and it is good to be able to take your food anywhere in the ship, including outdoors after, or nearby the Calyso and Neptunes pool areas. There is also a water and ice dispenser (great for filling up water bottles, but be careful...some nozzles are funny and squirt water everywhere as I found out!), coffee, hot water, decaf, and even an ice tea tap. HINT: before taking any meal, if you are unsure of where the toilets are, find them! This ship has oddly placed toilets and when you need to go, it's a long way to go looking! Service at Horizon Court -- Apart from the Bartenders, the waitpersons at the Horizon Court are awful! Their face expressions look as though they're going to fall asleep, they don't say anything to you, regardless if you say thank you or not, and some just stand there and stroll around, almost pretending to work. This is very surprising, considering that I recognised some of them as waiters from the Amalfi Dining Room, and how their attitudes and manners can change so dramatically! Service at Bars -- The worst crew onboard had to be the bartenders, both male and female. Whichever bar you go to, be it the Calyso bar, the Promenade lounge bar, whatever, they look like their pretending to wipe down the sinks (wiping sinks is not a 24-hour job!), and when they serve you, they just give it to you and walk away. They make you wait for ages, some of them making you wait while they finish their conversation with a fellow bartender, and then frowning at your request. Absolutely unfitting to an otherwise attentive and charming fleet of crew. Toilets -- Although a little weird, I must comment on the public toilets. The stateroom toilets can be rather small, and especially when both inside cabins and outside window cabins have no fresh air! (to put it as politely as possible). But when people usually think public toilets they think dirty, smelly, non-private area. Not on this ship! Every single toilet open to passengers with the exception of stateroom toilets are at the standard of 5 star hotels! Marble (or what looks like marble) bench tops, bright lights and proper hand wipe dispensers always filled. But the best feature is the fully enclosed cubicle, unlike normal ones where there is still gaps through the lower sides and the ceiling. A great feature! Off Limits -- Being almost 17 years old, I was rather looking forward to going to the Off Limits area for activities with other new friends, but when I looked at the activity sheet: Scrabble, Matchmaking, Hot tubs, teens dance club, PS2? Do I really pay all that money to play PS2? Does that really interest a teenager!?! One PS@ to share between 35 teenagers? 35 people playing a game of scrabble? A dance party with 35 people!?! I only registered, looked at the space (very small if you ask me!) and pretty much never returned. Not even my sister who is nearly 13 found it amusing. So I decided to go along to an even, the battle of the sexes to try it out. When I got there, there was the attendant playing cards with someone, and one girl watching the TV. Battle of the Sexes?? So I ended up playing Scrabble with my sister before leaving and vowing never to return. Pool Areas -- There are 4 public pools and one crew pool area opened 24-hours a day onboard Star Princess. Being a teenager, I only had access to 3 since one was an adult's only pool. They are all of reasonable size, and one of them has a retractable glass roof, making it an indoor/outdoor pool. This itinerary, however, was quite cold and the roof was never ever opened (thank god!). This was the most frequently used pool by most passengers including myself, as it was so damn cold! I did, however use the swim against the lap pool, and I must say that the pressure of the current it produced can make anyone tired! It did, however, get very windy up there and when you get out of the pool... Princess Links -- This ship features a 9-hole putt-putt course that was rarely used by anyone! Of the 4 times I went there, we were the only ones there! Now try playing putt-putt in the middle of the ocean on a ship and you'll notice that it is not as easy as it sounds! Most of the time, in fact, people hit too hard and the ball goes flying, not to mention the frustration from the sound of the wind and the air! The ship also features a cyber golf area, where passengers can drive on some of the world's most well known golf courses, virtually. Paying $US20 for half an hour, you can select a ball and slam it into a screen where it calculated movement and all that stuff and shows you, virtually, where it has landed. A bit expensive for a half hour though! Shopping -- Since the ship travels internationally, all shops on board are Duty and Tax free (yes, including alcohol and stuff that you smoke!). Everyday, the shops have some kind of sale on, including jewellery, watches, souvenirs, etc. Seeing it as a bargain, we picked up some Seiko watches for over 50% off! But I must ask the question, and I saw it on a previous cruise as well: why on earth do they sell gold and silver by the metre!?! I mean small bracelets and stuff I can understand but in the metre!?! Its not carpet!! And you don't go on a ship to buy this! It's quite beyond me. Day-time Entertainment -- There is an infinite amount of organised activities to do during the day. Some include Trivia Quizzes, Bingo, Horse betting (lots of fun!), pottery making, culinary demos, aqua golf (a cheap version), battle of the sexes, etc. on top of the daily activities such as swimming, gambling, music, relaxing, listening, eating, etc. If you get bored at daytime, there must be something wrong with you! Night-time Entertainment -- The two main show rooms are the Princess Theatre (the largest room in the ship which seats a considerable amount of people on 2 levels in a pillar less space) and the Vista Showroom (ironically, these 2 spaces are placed on opposite sides of the ship!). The Star Princess Dancers are the main group of entertainment and star in the major production shows such as Dance!, Da Beat, Music and Words, and Give My Regards, and boy do they do a great job! Although it is a little disturbing to see males dance so well as females, the majority of passengers are 60+ and I guess they aren't so concerned! Furthermore, they also had Australian and international celebrity guests (non of which I had heard of!) who did stand up comedy, impersonations, singing (this one lady...oh my god seeing such an old hag get very energetic!), and played music. All up, entertainment was good and enjoyable, and my sister got so concerned about how the dancers could change so fast! The Vista lounge, however, had some pillars in the room (its odd how a 2 storey bigger space could have no pillars and a single storey smaller space has so many!), which meant getting there early. Might I suggest about half an hour for both Princess Theatre and Vista Showroom, before it starts. In addition to these show, they also had Karaoke just about every night (apparently very entertaining), live band, pianists, very talented string quartets and of course themed disco nights at the Skywalkers Nightclub (that thing suspended 150 feet above the ocean which makes the ship look like a shopping cart). I didn't go to any of these events as they didn't interest me (dancing with 60+ year olds to 50's music!?!), and anyway you have to be over 21 years old (alcohol). Writing Room, Full House, Library -- These 3 rooms are situated at the bottom of the ships 3 deck high atrium, right next to each other. Since the atrium becomes a focal gathering point sometimes, it's not a very good location to put rooms that require pretty much silence, especially the writing room; the there is no wall in-between! When the piano player was playing on some evenings, I found it extremely rude that some passengers were pulling chairs out of all 3 rooms and shifting them to the atrium area! People are playing cards here!! We had them first, so go away! Skywalkers nightclub -- It's a pity that this room isn't used as best as it could be. During the daytime, it serves as a lounge area (which most people aren't aware of). The area is very narrow, and has a dEcor which doesn't meet the crowd (a modern, sleek, metro look for 60+ grannies to dance with!?!). The windows were also very dirty, so even the view was distorted by dirty droplets of water! Atrium -- For those of you who don't know, an atrium is like a big whole spanning a couple of deck in a ship. Picture an apple and an apple corer. This ships atrium is only 3 deck tall, which is unusual since most ships have them spanning 8 or 9 decks tall. Nevertheless, it was the place to be when the champagne fountain was poured, upon embarkation, where most people took their formal pictures at, and where most of the music was coming from. It is beautifully finished with a gigantic light/chandelier thingo from the roof and a pleasant mosaic on the floor. Shore Excursions -- I absolutely hate the Shore Excursions the cruise lines offer. They are the biggest rip off I have ever seen. For example, a Wellington sightseeing trip took passengers to Te Papa Museum, the city Cable car and the shopping mall. Surprise, surprise, we walked to the station, caught the bus for $NZ5 each, all of the shore excursion stops were stops on the day hopper bus, the Te Papa Museum was free to enter, the shopping mall was free to enter, and the cable car only cost $NZ5 as well!! For the $US30 fee, I saved a lot and still saw more of Wellington had I chosen the shore excursion! Wellington -- The capital city of New Zealand, and home to some of the scenes of the Lord of the Rings. All of the New Zealand ports of call are blessed with natural beauty; even right in the middle of the city, and this was no exception. But beware; the only thing I didn't like was the wind! I experience some of the strongest winds I've ever seen while walking back to the ship! Just a short walk from the ship is the Railway station, where you can buy an all day hopper pass for only $NZ5 per adult and $NZ2 per child. What a bargain! You should also go to the cable car ride to the top of the mountain for picturesque views of Wellington (one of the stops or the hopper bus). Christchurch -- This time we needed to catch a bus to the city centre, and wow Christchurch is a very nice place to go to. It is probably the cheapest of the 3 New Zealand cities, plenty of shops and things to do. If you get the time (we didn't), visit the Antarctic Centre, as this award winning centre gives you a first hand look at the white continent (apparently so). By the way, we tried to buy some New Zealand crisps in a box here and were told the nearest supermarket was a 20-minute walk...so don't bother trying to find one! Dunedin -- The Scottish part of New Zealand, this smaller city is home to the Worlds steepest road. You will need to catch a bus from the ship to the octagon in the city centre, and a good place to visit is the Cadbury factory, whether you are a fan of chocolate or not. There are many shops in the nearby area, and don't forget to take the 1 hour double-decker bus tour that departs from the tourism centre. Fjordland National Park -- Star Princess arrived on the wrong day! It was raining and foggy! We couldn't see anything until about 2pm when it finally cleared! It was supposed to be very beautiful from 8am-about 4pm. Instead all we saw was white and could barely figure out mountain shapes! But when we did enter Milford sound, we were very close to the lush natural beauty, and could see mini waterfalls trickle down the cliff sides almost like liquid paper. What a shame. Apparently it is meant to be some of New Zealand's most beautiful offerings, and if it's better than Wellington, damn I missed out on a lot! Hobart -- After a very rough 2 days at sea, most passengers were happy to just get off the ship!! But as soon as we did, immigration! Imagine trying to do 2600 in 3 hours. It was just like embarkation all over again! Anyway, Hobart was the first port since Wellington where the ship is near town. They still offered a free shuttle bus to the city centre though, and surprise, surprise it was Sunday at 9am, and everyone was closed. So what do 2600 do? I have no idea. We just waited I guess. I did try the best fresh lobster though, for only $NZ26 each! Adelaide -- A very long train ride into the city, Adelaide was not as exciting as I thought it was. I did see a sign saying 'Remove Moles or Blackspots from $20', "Wong Kee Daily Yum Cha' and a supposed Sky City Casino at the back of a railway station?? They did, however, provide a free city hopper bus service and has good looking public buildings (such as in my opinion the best State parliament house building - have you seen the one in Sydney!?!). Melbourne -- The second largest city in Australia, the city of Melbourne was a 25 minute tram ride away from the ship, and at $AUD5.80 for an all day tripper pass on any tram, train or bus, transport was a bargain. The city also features a 1938 to 1958 built free city circle tram (as noisy and as old as it is, it is in very good condition for a piece of machinery older than most people on the ship!), which allowed us to travel from Federation Square right round to the Telstra Dome and Queen Victoria Markets. Disembarkation in Sydney -- As most cruise lines do, Princess Cruises disembarks passengers according to coloured baggage tags and numbers to prevent 2600 people from trying to push though and get off the ship. They don't, however, tell you the time that your colour disembarks which makes it very difficult to arrange your own transfers! You have no idea if you will disembark at 6am or 10am. You think a relative will wait up to 4 hours in a car!?! But getting through customs and quarantine was relatively painless. Improvements - The Amalfi Dining Room is all the way aft. It's a pity that there is absolutely no toilets nearby till about 1/3 the way down the Promenade Deck one level up! - The fixed sitting starts at 6pm and 8:15pm, which makes it difficult to stuff 6 courses down in less than 1.5 hours to watch the shows at 8pm and 10pm! - Clean the windows more regularly at the Skywalkers Nightclub! A daytime lounge space with views through dirty is not desirable for even a teenager, let alone a 60+ year old granny with high expectations! - Offer much better activities and bigger spaces at the teens club areas! - Make the Neptune's Pool indoor/outdoor as well. It was rarely used in Australia/New Zealand. Imagine Alaska! Who Goes? On this cruise, I think it was 75% Americans and 80% over 50 years old. Considering that on a ship with 2600 passengers, there were only 35 teenagers, the demography is obvious. It does have the advantage, however, of more pool space for me, and most people went to sleep at about 10pm, so no Yahooing down the corridors at 3am like on other ships I've been on! Read Less
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