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5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2016
As a frequent cruiser with Princess I have noted a number of changes from my last cruise. On this cruise two thirds of the passengers were on their first cruise with Princess. The average age group was much lower than other cruises I ... Read More
As a frequent cruiser with Princess I have noted a number of changes from my last cruise. On this cruise two thirds of the passengers were on their first cruise with Princess. The average age group was much lower than other cruises I have been on. The price of shore excursions was excessive. The Captain's Circle party now only invites Platinum and Elite Members and while the invitation indicated the party would be from 7:00 pm to 7:45 pm the drinks were stopped at 7:15 pm when the Captain stated talking and the party had finished by 7:30 pm. an obvious method of reducing costs. It was very difficult to get a seat in the theatre for the first performance after about 30 minutes before the show started. Entertainment overall was very good Embarkation and disembarkation was very well organised. Service onboard was excellent. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2015
After cruising the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska and Tahiti, our next "bucket list" location was to visit Australia and New Zealand. We booked our cruise on the Diamond Princess which cruised from Auckland to Sydney with scenic ... Read More
After cruising the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska and Tahiti, our next "bucket list" location was to visit Australia and New Zealand. We booked our cruise on the Diamond Princess which cruised from Auckland to Sydney with scenic cruising thru Fiordland National Park. We booked a balcony cabin (Caribe 335) with the larger balcony (which was used extensively). We had enough frequent flyer miles to fly business class - but this would have required an additional 10 hours of flight time and switching airlines at least twice. Instead we flew thru LAX to SYD in free economy class seats which we upgraded to "Economy Plus," and loved the additional leg room. Note - we did purchase a day pass at the Delta Club at LAX, and used their shower facilities before boarding our 15 hour flight to Sydney. After arriving in Sydney, we caught the last of our four flights to Auckland. Clearing Customs and Immigration we met our driver from Corporate Cabs to take us to our hotel. This worked out beautifully as our driver was waiting for us as soon as we exited the terminal. With a pre-arranged price of $85 (NZ) there wasn't a surprise charge due to rush-hour traffic delays when we arrived at our hotel. We stayed at the Hilton in Auckland which is right next to the wharf. The room was clean and included a small refrigerator (but no microwave). The staff was helpful, courteous and arranged two tourist activities before we arrived. However, the first thing we needed to do was find a grocery store to pick-up some items for the cruise which we didn't want to pack due to already full suitcases. We found a 24 hours "Countdown" about a 5 min walk from the Hilton with only 1 turn required. A simple and safe walk even after traveling for almost 2 days. The next morning we took a 3 hour city tour of Auckland. It was perfect in length and with only 2 other couples on the mini-bus it was the perfect tour size as well. After dropping us back at the hotel we walked around the wharf area (2 min walk) and had lunch at one of the many restaurants in the area (we counted 12+ to select from). We then walked the area around the wharf to get some fresh air and stretch our legs. There happened to be a fire/rescue demonstration that afternoon which was simply fun to walk around. For dinner we arranged thru the Hilton, a sunset dinner harbor cruise. There are several dinner cruises - so be careful which one you select. Some of the cruises are on large catamarans with 100+ people. We selected a sailing cruise with a total of 14 passengers and 2 crew. Dinner was pre-ordered and prepared by a local restaurant. After "motoring" to a different area of the marina, we stopped and ate dinner in a sheltered area. The crew (for good reason) didn't want to serve dinner while under sail -- the dishes tend to slide on the table too much for most customers. After dessert we raised the sails and we were under way for about 45 - 60 minutes sailing around the harbor. Anyone who wanted to assist the crew was encouraged to do so - it was a great way to end our first day (and Valentine's Day) in Auckland. When we returned to the Hilton, there was a note in our room advising us that the Dawn Princess will be arriving the next morning, and to ensure our privacy we should draw our curtains. This is well documented on most message boards that while the Hilton is located right at the wharf, some guests are surprised to see ships docked there, and then find their views restricted. I can confirm that when a large cruise ship is berthed alongside of the hotel, your views will be blocked. I was surprised how close the ship is actually to the hotel ...we could pass drinks to each other. There was no reason to hail a cab to the other berth to board the Diamond Princess. We simply rolled our suitcases for 5 minutes to board the Diamond Princess (there were a total of 3 ships in port that day). From the time we left the Hilton, until we were in our cabin was perhaps 30 minutes (to include stops for pictures). Below is a review with the following categories - the ship, the food and shore excursions ... each with my subjective letter grade. While we are "Platinum" members with Princess, we have also cruised twice on Oceania, once with Celebrity and once with Royal Caribbean. The ship: "B" The Diamond Princess is certainly beautiful and looks/feels like other Princess ships. The Dawn Princess which pulled up next to the hotel - at least from the outside - is in need of a new paint job. Obviously, I couldn't see the inside - but would have been embarrassed if I had recommended the Dawn Princess to friends. The recent dry-dock updates to the Diamond Princess are evident throughout the ship. A couple of nit-picking items: There is no International Cafe or Vines - we missed both. The carpet has been replaced with a new color scheme in many areas of the ship- but not in all areas. Odd. Our stateroom had the new large flat screen TV, the bed was very comfortable (no need for the old egg crate covers). Laundry - you can now use your cruise card to purchase tokens right in the Laundry rooms. Four washers and dryers on our floor, $3 per wash and $3 per dry. Wash time approximately 35 minutes, and dry time about 55 minutes. The food: "B" We had pizza several days - but without the Caribbean sun it just didn't taste as good eating in the NZ fog. We used traditional dining - while the menus are familiar there were slight tweaks. We tried both the Sterling Steakhouse and Sabatini's. Both dinners were good, service was very attentive. However, we just didn't feel we received additional value of $25/person. Again a good dinner - just didn't find the value. Our waiter in the International dining room - Kumar was OUTSTANDING! Shore excursions - all booked with Princess. Tauranga - Wai-o-tapu Valley & Rainbow Springs - C+ This was a nine-hour excursion where we viewed a geothermal area (think Yellowstone) with paths which ranged from 30 - 90 minutes. We then boarded a steam paddle boat for lunch while we cruised around a lake. Lastly, we visited Rainbow springs where we saw native trees, a stocked trout pond and viewed a handful of Kiwi's. Our tour was perfectly timed - but the thermal springs area was very crowded as we were leaving. Since there are many groups doing this tour - the order varies with different buses. Some of the buses did the lunch/cruise last which was after 2PM. Akaroa - Tranz Alpine & Arthur's Pass - C Another 9 hour day of which 6+ hours are on a bus. You journey across the Canterbury Plains, stop at a farm for tea and snacks and end at Arthur's Pass. You then board a train for a 2 hour train ride back down the mountain where you meet the bus for the ride back to the ship. There is a box lunch on board (no indication what you were eating - a concern with those with food allergies). Lots of sitting this day with little "activity." Note" our rail car had a distinct mold odor - which drove the use of an inhaler within 2 minutes of boarding. Dunedin - Nature's Wonders and Otago Peninsula - C (Argo part A) The drive to Nature's Wonders was scheduled to be 75 minutes. It was an easy 90 minutes as our bus didn't have a 1st gear which made it difficult for driver. We arrived at Nature's Wonders and boarded an 8 wheel Argo (think ATV). There were 6 passengers to each Argo plus their driver. We visited a seal rookery, and then we observed penguins from a distance. This was all about protecting the environment and the animals. Very nice. We then boarded the bus back to Dunedin. Total time observing the animals - maybe an hour out of the 5 hour excursion. There is an opportunity to stop in the center of town and take a $10 shuttle back to the ship. We didn't do that. We did walk around Port Chalmers where the ship was berthed instead … which was a mistake. Hobart - Russell Falls, Meadowbank & Wildlife - B+ Another full day excursion. We boarded a bus and visited Russell Falls. This was a nice 30-45 minute walk in a forest where you ended at the falls. Very nice. We did observe "tree kangaroos," and other wild life along the path. We then went to a winery for a quick tasting followed by lunch. Again, all very nice. After lunch we saw a sheepdog herding demonstration and shearing. Watch your step - and make sure you clean your shoes before boarding the bus to the Bonoring Wildlife Park. At Bonoring (a wildlife sanctuary) you see koalas, Tasmanian devils and there must be 100 kangaroos you can interact with. While all other animals are protected in the sanctuary - the kangaroos have free range. You are encouraged to feed them (using the feed found in numerous buckets throughout the park) Melbourne - River Cruise, Healesville Sanctuary & Wine Tasting - B+ A full day in Melbourne. It started with a 2 hour (?) bus ride to Healesville Sanctuary. The extended bus ride was due to early morning rush-hour traffic. This sanctuary was much larger and nicer than Bonoring. Many more types of animals, and exhibits. They had volunteers at every turn in the path to assist you or answer any questions. We then went to a winery for a tasting and fabulous lunch. Too bad they don't ship back to the US. Our final stop for the day was a quick river cruise along the Yarra River in the central business district. The excursion would have been rated an "A" - the river cruise dropped it to a B+. Sydney - we pre-arranged our own day with Real Sydney Tours. A+ (would like to go higher) Disembarkation was a breeze, although we were 15 minutes late getting off the ship. We had exchanged cell phone numbers with our guide (Naomi) prior to leaving for the cruise, and called her as soon as we exited customs and immigration. She picked us up in a Mercedes Sprinter (?), and we were off to explore Sydney. After a quick history lesson about Sydney, we were crossing the harbor bridge and off to the Featherdale Wildlife Park. The ride to the park was an opportunity to get to know each other, and Naomi ensured all 4 of us were engaged in the dialogue. Arriving at the park we found the parking lot full. No worries! Naomi found a spot for our van, quickly obtained our tickets and we were off to explore the park with our own “zoologist.” We bypassed the 5 busloads of tourists at the first exhibit, as Naomi knew the 2nd exhibit was the star attraction. There we found koalas waiting for us to take pictures with them. Guides were there to ensure everyone had a chance to take a few pictures but kept the line moving. Then we were off to feed the kangaroos. Our personal “zoologist” made sure we understood the differences between the species, and took amazing pictures of the tour that would later be sent to us by Real Sydney Tours. The Park was amazing and so was Naomi. After that we visited the Olympic village, and then headed to a ferry stop to catch a ride back to the famous Opera house. Naomi timed our arrival to within 5 minutes of the next ferry - ensured we had tickets, handed us a basket of snacks and drinks and provide directions of where to meet after the ride was over. As we ended the ride Naomi texted us directions, to include a map of where to meet. Then out of the city to the suburbs with amazing views of the city, and lunch. A perfect stop was planned with quick service, reasonable prices and a view of a local beach. After lunch we visited Bondi Beach for some after lunch "eye candy," and then off to Centennial Park. A quick snack at a picnic table wrapped up our day. Nothing rushed, activities timed to perfection with an engaging guide. The BEST “excursion” of the cruise. Naomi then dropped us at our hotel - the Sydney Hilton right in the central business district (CBD). The staff was helpful, the hotel clean and the room cool. Shopping and restaurants were all within walking distance. We also arranged a car to the airport which arrived right on time the next morning. For us, the hotel was in the right location, with the amenities we needed for an evening stay. Would definitely stay here again if we were looking for a room in the CBD. Overall a good vacation. We definitely will continue to cruise with Princess based on itineraries, and if we were cruising as part of a multi-generational family vacation. However, we will continue to also cruise with Oceania when looking for a completely different cruise experience.   Read Less
Sail Date: February 2015
Diamond Princess: February 15, 2015 Auckland to Sydney. Mini Suite D522. Ages 65 and 72. Much research and decision making went into arranging the details for this marvelous trip. For us the priority on a cruise is the port experiences ... Read More
Diamond Princess: February 15, 2015 Auckland to Sydney. Mini Suite D522. Ages 65 and 72. Much research and decision making went into arranging the details for this marvelous trip. For us the priority on a cruise is the port experiences and the comfort of the ship. Pre-cruise: One early decision we made was to take a lunch time flight from our local airport to Los Angeles and stay overnight near LAX before taking a 9 pm flight on Air New Zealand to Auckland. Our choice was the Embassy Suites North LAX that has a very efficient free shuttle to and from the airport. On the morning of our Air NZ flight we took advantage of the nearby Ocean Express Trolley to go to Manhattan Beach. We extended our stay at the hotel until 5 pm that allowed us to have an afternoon nap and shower. We flew to Auckland in Economy class on Air NZ and after a glitch, on their part, in the booking we ended up in bulkhead seats. The seats were extremely narrow! I took a sleeping pill (after consulting with my doctor) and slept for about 6 hrs. Our requested low-fat meals were delicious and lots of water and juice was available. On arrival in Auckland there was lots of walking to get through immigration and customs to the Super Shuttle that took us to our bed and breakfast. Auckland: Sunderland House bed and breakfast was fabulous! It is in the Herne Bay area of Auckland and a 5-minute walk to the outer link bus system and several close-by restaurants. I was expecting Auckland to be on a flat coastal plain – the big surprise was how hilly it was with quite steep streets. We certainly found muscles that had not been used for a while. Our first afternoon was spent at the Auckland Zoo that has free flight aviaries showing the native birds of NZ ecosystems. Lunch at the zoo cafe included the first of many NZ meat pies and ginger beers (non-alcoholic). The following day we went via ferry to Waiheke Island and ended up on a Sculpture Walk http://sculptureonthegulf.co.nz that is held every two years. The walking track was beautiful with amazing views of Auckland and other islands but very rigorous for those of us who are not used to hilly terrain. (I quickly learned that we needed to allow double the time if we ever asked how long it would take to get somewhere). We were most glad to see the wine and food tent at the end of the trail. Our last full day in Auckland took us to the War Museum for the Maori exhibits and an afternoon sailing at the Maritime Museum on the schooner “Ted Ashby”. As it was Valentines Day we ate at Andiamo, a lovely Italian restaurant in Herne Bay. The following morning we walked down to the beach at Herne Bay and then headed to the cruise terminal. Cruise: Embarkation was well organized and flowed well. It took no more than 30 minutes from dropping off luggage to being on board. The Diamond was a new ship for us and we had a port side mini-suite instead of our usual starboard so it took us a while to get oriented. (The port cabin was to allow us views of the opera house when we entered Sydney Harbor.) The mini-suites on the Diamond have bidets that we grew to appreciate. We were in the Vivaldi dining room on a table for two. Every evening the head-waiter gave us the menu for the next day and the chef prepared lovely low-sodium meals based on our choices. 40+ folks attended our Cruise Critic meet and greet that was on our first sea day. I like to have a cup of coffee mid-morning so if I host a meet and greet I provide (at my cost) tea/coffee service for the group. Three senior officers attended as well as the dynamic cruise director. The hour flew by quickly as faces were put to names and new friends were made. One of my favorite places onboard was the Japanese Bath. During the day swimsuits are required with the more traditional no-clothing approach in the late afternoon and evening. We went to a few shows on sea days but mostly watched movies in our cabin after a long day in port. Hubby tried the gym but found the machines too complicated. (At home he goes to a gym 3x a week). Excursions: We prefer small group excursions so primarily use independent vendors. Tauranga: As recommended on Cruise Critic we had an excellent Jim Archer tour that took us to a beautiful beach viewpoint where we saw fishermen at work, a Kiwi farm where we sampled fruit and drank juice, and a Maori cultural center at Rotorua. Jim was a fount of knowledge. Extended description http://www.archertours.co.nz/Tours-NZ/Cruise-Ship-Shore-Excursions Akaroa: This is a tender port so we decided on an easy day and went on the two hour Cityline/ French connection tour. It took us in and out of bays, stopped at Barry’s cheese factory where I purchased cheese for pre-dinner snacks, and up high on the coastal road to a bar/restaurant with tremendous views and time for a quick lunch. Dunedin: As I’m a biologist I had to go on a tour to see the Royal Albatross and Otago Peninsula wildlife. We were in a group of 12 folks with Elm Wildlife. What a fabulous day but did we ache afterwards! Extended description http://www.elmwildlifetours.co.nz/our-tours/cruise-ship-shore-excursion Scenic cruising Fiordland: Fortunately the seas were calm, the sun was shining, and we were able to enter all the beautiful fjords. Milford Sound is stunning. Sea Day: The Australian immigration folks did individual checks of everybody’s paperwork by appointment in one of the dining rooms. It took about 10 minutes to wait in line then be checked. Customs is done when exiting the ship in Sydney. Hobart, Tasmania: This excursion was arranged for by a Cruise Critic roll call member so most of us knew each other. It was our only drizzly day. First we went to Mt Field national park for a walk (downhill) on the magnificent Tall Trees trail with huge gum trees and an understory of tree ferns. We disturbed a type of kangaroo that lives in the forest and he/she took off into the underbrush. The trail ended at Horseshoe Falls with a short walk to Russell Falls and then along a stream to the car park. It felt like a scene from Jurassic Park. Our last stop was at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and a lovely picnic lunch. Bonorong is a special place where you can get up close with the animals. They had guides at each area to explain the needs of each animal group. A volunteer was feeding baby wombats while we were there. Extended description: http://www.eyeseetasmania.com.au/bonorong-wildlife-sanctuary-and-mt-field.html Melbourne: Princess excursion Yarra River Cruise, Gardens, and City Tour. After a drive into the city we went on the Yarra River cruise; Coffee and tea was served. The commentary on the cruise could not be heard well; thankfully our excellent guide filled us in afterwards. We then had an enjoyable time at the Fitzroy Garden and Conservatory. The Shrine of Remembrance was most poignant. My grandfather fought with the British Forces in Gallipoli so this was a special place for me to visit. . At our request the tour bus dropped us off before the pier and we walked along the beach for a while before returning to the ship. Sydney: I woke up at about 5:00 am to see where we were and to my amazement we were about to sail by the opera house –wow! After the photo-op we went back to bed for a while then a 7:00 am breakfast in the dining room before a 9:00 am disembarkation. Customs was fairly speedy and we then wheeled the luggage to our hotel –the Park Hyatt—that is next to the Cruise Terminal. (We stayed here due to getting a Chase Hyatt card.) It is a beautiful hotel with impeccable service. After a walk around the Rocks, and lunch in a harbor café, we had a nap before our evening at the opera. “Madama Butterfly” was a dream come true….. Afterwards, with all the city and harbor lights twinkling, we strolled back around the harbor to our hotel that sits under the end of the harbor bridge. It was a memorable end to our cruise experience. Post Cruise: When I booked our return airline tickets I was able to get Premium Economy tickets on Air New Zealand for $200 each above the cost of economy. The same glitch that occurred on the outbound flight placed us in regular not preferred seats on the Sydney to Auckland leg of the journey but as it was a short-ish flight that was okay. For the Auckland to LAX leg we were in Premium Economy and what a difference that made! We had wide adjustable seats with lots of legroom. Service was definitely a step up from Economy and very enjoyable. We both slept well. Again we spent the night at the same hotel near LAX but our bodies did not seem to know what time of day it was so we did not sleep well at all. The next morning we repacked our bags and sent everything through as checked baggage on our next flights (Southwest). Thankfully we had arranged for a car to pick us up at our local airport and we were back home for dinner. It has taken me about four days to get over the worst of the jetlag and from experience I know it will be about two weeks before I’m totally readjusted to the altitude we live at. Would I recommend this cruise – absolutely! Our only regret is not being able to spend more time in New Zealand before the cruise began.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
One of my favourite cruises is around NZ plus a port or two in Australia. So as to round off a rather problematic year with personal family problems I decided, for the third time, to do this cruise again. My fourth with Princess and my ... Read More
One of my favourite cruises is around NZ plus a port or two in Australia. So as to round off a rather problematic year with personal family problems I decided, for the third time, to do this cruise again. My fourth with Princess and my first with Sun. I found Sun Princess, by comparison with many other ships I have been on, rather difficult to get around. I never did find two on the Loungers on very upper decks. Of the lounges I found they were just ordinary and quite boring. The overall decor I found drab - there was a lack of colour throughout the ship. My balcony stateroom on Caribe (Grade BD) suited me excellently. (I had sole occupancy of a 2 bedded stateroom). I was extremley glad that I did not have to share with anyone becuase if I had have it would have been hell! It would not accomodate two persons comfortably - but as I said ideal and perfect for one. My stateroom steward was fine but little niceties like pen and notepad were absent until I asked for them. My morning Room Service steward was one of the most courteous fellows I have come across and commended him for it. As a foodie I really enjoyed myself. Having Room Service Breakfast every morning and either Lunch at the Pizzeria or (when available) in the Dining Room. I hate buffet style venues. My only quibble with the food was the steaks. Not ggod at all. Perhaps that is why the Sterling Steakhouse was popular. I intended using the venue but somehow it's location did not appeal to me. It seemed to be part of Horizon which put me off. I guess the reason for at least one Japanese appetiser and main on the menu each meal was leading up to when the ship would be based up in Japan. They made a nice chainge. Enteratinment was so-so. I find the behaviour of many attendees at the shows disgusting. If they want to talk why don't they stay out of the room is just one example. The staff on the Purser's Desk were fairly lack lustre. One girl in particular was just plain arrogant. To summarise - an enjoyable cruise but a little disappointed in the Ship. Overall it just wasn't up to the usual Princess standards. Perhaps it was catering for a different market to what I am used to.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
Beautiful weather and calm seas made for a lovely cruise. Auckland - Stunning weather - All shops close by, Overnight accomodation 1 min away, Embarkation - Local Security staff do not understand what preferred check in means, it was only ... Read More
Beautiful weather and calm seas made for a lovely cruise. Auckland - Stunning weather - All shops close by, Overnight accomodation 1 min away, Embarkation - Local Security staff do not understand what preferred check in means, it was only the intervention of a Princess Cruise Line Staff member that saw us being about to enter this area. Tauranga - Another lovely day - easy walk to downtown Mt Maunganui. It was a hard slog walking to the top of the Mount but worth the challenge. Good information area on your way out of the port supplied by the locals. Napier - Free buses put on to take you downtown returning every 10 mins. There are lots of interesting sights along Marine Parade so its worth a walk down. This Port could be a full day as there is a lot to take in just in the local environment. Wellington - Not such a nice day and it felt a bit of an effort to get down to the shopping areas if you are on foot. However if you do get around the Waterfront on a nice day - it is simply charming to walk around to The Museum of New Zealand. Akaroa - just a little harbourside village really. Worth a look if you haven't been there before. Dunedin - We had Good Company on our TOUR - which we organised privately Fiordland - It was really raining but that made the waterfalls all the more spectacular ! Sydney - Generally one of our favourite stops - however we sat in the Terminal (after being told we HAD to leave the boat - NO REASON REALLY) for THREE HOURS. Princess Staff avoided eye contact and were not forthcoming with reasons why we had to sit there. This was made all the harder by the fact that people were coming off the ship for TWO hours after we had been made to leave. Next time - I would stay in my cabin and let them find me . Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
Embarkation and disembarkation was very easy. We arrived early 11am for 1pm and were allowed on at 11:45. Luggage arrived promptly. Disappointed in the buffet so never went back there. Ate all our meals in the dining room and enjoyed the ... Read More
Embarkation and disembarkation was very easy. We arrived early 11am for 1pm and were allowed on at 11:45. Luggage arrived promptly. Disappointed in the buffet so never went back there. Ate all our meals in the dining room and enjoyed the food. Friendly staff and good service.The only problem was finding the dining room. Very strange layout on this ship. Afternoon tea was delightful. No wine package for white wines. Itinerary was good. Only did one tour at Tauranga. Very enjoyable despite pouring with rain all day. Entertainment mixed. Crowded venues for some of the entertainment which was in one of the bars. Disappointed in the fact they had no lecture series. Disappointed in the way people dressed on formal nights and in general. Inconsistent temperatures around the ship. Some places were like an ice box. Now for the big negative. Our bed was terrible. So hard we couldn't sleep the first night. The worst bed we have ever slept on on a cruise ship or anywhere else for that matter.After complaining they put on a cheesy cheap mattress topper which had not been aired and therefore gave us a second sleepless night because of the smell. In the end they brought us old ones and 2 of them. We finally slept. Could not watch TV in bed because the TV was adjacent to the bed. You could only watch by lying crosswise on the bed. How ridiculous is that. I took my own hairdryer because I read someone complain about the one in the room on cruise critic. I was glad I did because the one they provided was useless for styling short hair. It had a rectangular outlet 2"X5"! We also took along an adapter with 3 outlets(2 provided in the room) Read that on cruise critic. If only Princess had got the bed right from the start what a difference it would have made. It has made me wary of sailing with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
We had a group of 40 seniors from Florida who stayed 3 days in Auckland and then took the Diamond Princess to Sydney. The ship is very clean and comfortable. I would rate the food as the best I have had in 10 cruises on different lines. ... Read More
We had a group of 40 seniors from Florida who stayed 3 days in Auckland and then took the Diamond Princess to Sydney. The ship is very clean and comfortable. I would rate the food as the best I have had in 10 cruises on different lines. The ports were decent - Tauranga, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hobart, Melborne. Be aware that these ports are very much like being in the US as most AU/NZ cities have the look and feel of American cities. My only complaints on the ship were the VERY small theater and limited gym. Since we were usually some of the last done with early seating dinner, 3 nights we could not get a seat for the 8:15 show when we got there at 7:55. That was a disappointment. Also, if you want a tradmill, you will have to wait in line nearly any time of day. They did have more free fitness classes than most lines, but sorely limited equipment. The staff was wonderful....particularly food service. Lots to do on sea days.We had 30-foot waves on our crossing to Tasmania, but the captain kept us informed and the crew was very helpful. We did not try the 'anytime' dining, but some did and felt it was nice. My husband has a food allergy and the head waiter was really great about helping him and getting him the right foods. Shore excursions were quite expensive (but everything there is expensive) and ranged from mediocre to very good. Worst was Puffing Billy in Melborne. Absolutely not worth the money. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
We boarded the ship late because of an emergency and it went downward from there.First, I must say that the service on this ship for the most part is excellent, except for the passenger service and captains circle desks. Their systems to ... Read More
We boarded the ship late because of an emergency and it went downward from there.First, I must say that the service on this ship for the most part is excellent, except for the passenger service and captains circle desks. Their systems to not communicate. We are past passengers and my husband has the top loyalty status, Elite. We have sailed on the Aurora (P&O UK), Canberra, Pacific Sun (once, no more) Sun Princess and Diamond Princess. I have enough loyalty points to have Platinum status. We have accumulated this in the past three years, so you can see we have been on these ships regularly, 2-3 times a year and a lot of days. From reading reviews I, too, can see the Carnival influence. Big company, impersonal. We boarded the ship late and it went downward from there. After a couple of days we sent to passenger services to check our account. Lo and behold, our on board credit was not there, along with the fact that my husband has free laundry and they were charging us for it because it was charged to my account. After three more frustrating days of going to passenger services and captain's circle desk, we were told we would not get the on board credit due from a previous cruise, because we had an Australian letter and had booked with a travel agent on line in America. It appears from discussing this with others and a travel agent, that this line is trying to force Australian residents to book through Australian travel agents, although they are not competitive. Another item I want to discuss is the discretionary hotel charge. Australian residents are against tipping and until a few years ago, cruises included tipping. Princess automatically adds $10.50 per person per day to your account unless you go to passenger services and sign a paper rejecting it. We prefer to tip the persons we see. Princess pays their staff a small salary and they depend on the rest from tipping which is the way most American businesses do it where tipping is involved. A great number of passengers do not know this and discover it when they get their statements, which is frustrating. It took us three trips to the passenger services desk to get this corrected. Because we did not embark at the original port, they were not prepared to process us as normal and we had to go later to set up method of payment. Now, after all of this, you might expect I could be totally negative about the rest of the offerings. Not so, because we totally enjoyed some of the entertainment including a singer from near where we live who was entertaining also. A second male singer who sang Tom Jones songs was also very entertaining. There were others who were not what you would expect on a ship this size and status. A 60 yr old female singer from America. She must have been good once, but has passed her "use by date". An American so called comedian, Ugh! told jokes I heard 50 years ago. Then you would expect some new production shows, but after the third time of Piano Man, it gets a bit dull. The selection of a person who gave port talks on AU and NZ was an American who lived in Hawaii and a great number of passengers on this trip were AU and NZ. Many got up and left his lecture. I have lived in AU for five years now and I knew more than he did. As far as the art auctions go, they are getting a bit old. Princess supports mainly the same artists that we have seen in the past three years, Why no some new ones? I am noticing that more and more passengers are setting up private tours. Could this be that the tours from the ship are on the expensive side? On board services can be expected to cost nearly twice what they would be on land. More and more people are rejecting having their pictures taken. The cost of pics is also very expensive. Because of our status, we get some free minutes on the internet, but their equipment is old and I suspect their systems are also limited because of the speeds. They say this is because of satellite communications, but in port, it is the same. Food is heavily laden with salt, which is not healthy. We had better food on this cruise than the last one, but still get overcooked food. The staff is encouraged to put out food just because some people will just accept it. Don't ask how I know, I just started to ask questions of other passengers and such. On our cruise in Feb/Mar 2009, we complained about the overcooked food and thereafter the staff just hovered over us, like they were frightened. These ships depend on people from countries that need jobs and basically they are treated with fear and intimidation. If the staff complains in any way, contracts are canceled or they are sent home for many months up to a year. You may say that this is their choice, but not all cruise lines do this. I will continue to search out cruises for the best price and where we want to go. The on board credit will not affect my decision, it is not worth that much. It was just a big disappointment when we did not get it when we expected we had done our part. After this, Princess may or may not get my repeat business. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2009
My wife and I started talking about a trip to Australia/New Zealand 43 years ago when we first married! Careers and 4 children delayed this trip for 43 years. The ship (Diamond Princess) was excellent and our experience on-board was very ... Read More
My wife and I started talking about a trip to Australia/New Zealand 43 years ago when we first married! Careers and 4 children delayed this trip for 43 years. The ship (Diamond Princess) was excellent and our experience on-board was very nice. We also purchased hotel transfers and extra days in Auckland and Sydney. The transfers were excellent and both hotels were 5 star. The ports, with the exception of Phillip Island, were great! We had excursions at each port and most were worth the price. The average cost per excursion was around $150-$200 per person. Fjordland National Park New Zealand was the most beautiful spot for photography with spectacular scenery. Melbourne, Australia was of favorite port because of the wonderful diversity in architecture and pristine countryside. The entire cruise/tour experience was fantastic and worth the 43 year wait. The only negative aspect of the trip was the air travel we attempted to book through Princess. Our air fare was part of the package until shortly before sailing when we were notified by Princess that the airfares previously quoted and paid were no longer available. This forced us to book air travel ourselves at twice the original price! I advice you to be careful when booking air fares through Princess. If you have the opportunity to travel to Australia/New Zealand, go, for sure! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2007
As first time cruisers we were pleasantly greeted at the Auckland airport by Princess's transfer to the hotel, the Langham. The hotel was clean and the staff very accommodating. Took the half day tour of the city and dined at the ... Read More
As first time cruisers we were pleasantly greeted at the Auckland airport by Princess's transfer to the hotel, the Langham. The hotel was clean and the staff very accommodating. Took the half day tour of the city and dined at the Orbit restaurant in the Sky Tower. Embarkation was easy and went very quickly given the number of passengers, 2600 on this trip. Food & Dining experience: The buffet's were adequate with a lot of variety. We ate breakfasts & most lunches there. However, I wish we would have eaten more of the breakfasts and lunches in the International dining room for better service and quality reasons. Dinner's were good but I would not rate them as outstanding except for the lobster and some of the beef dishes we had. Appetizers and salads as well as desserts I found to be above average and I recommend the souffle's. Service was always good. Activities: The ship has many daily activities that you can pick from so there is always something to do on sea days and at night. Shows were good and not too long. Shore excursions: Although we booked shore excursions before we left for this trip we ended up canceling them all with the exception of the White water rafting trip my husband took, which he enjoyed. The reason we cancelled these trips was that I was fortunate enough to have met another couple on this same trip through Cruise Critic's member Boards. We shared cabs and toured the cities/ports on our own. I am so grateful that they included us on their excursions. We really enjoyed their company and good humor. I believe that we saw more sites and the day was not regimented as it would have been had we taken the tour bus. We sampled the local foods and walked through the towns and we certainly had a better time than on a tour bus. Disembarkation: This was ok getting of in Sydney. The transfer of the luggage to the airport was really not organized. A number of people missed flights or ended up leaving without their luggage due to the poor handling of the luggage and getting it to the passengers at the airport. Of course there were a few upset people because of this. There has to be a better system. So in conclusion, try the dining rooms for breakfast, lunch and dinners. Don't forget the afternoon tea. Try and meet someone or couple to go off on your own and see the sites on your own. All in all we will be taking another cruise as the events that may not have been wonderful you have to take the good and bad given the amount of people and day to day things that happen and really focus on what we saw and places we would not otherwise would have been able to do. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2007
This was my 18th cruise, 5th on Princess departing Jan 23, 2007 from Auckland. We flew from LAX to Auckland on Qantas the day before the sailing and stayed at the Stamford Plaza which let us check in at 8am and was within walking distance ... Read More
This was my 18th cruise, 5th on Princess departing Jan 23, 2007 from Auckland. We flew from LAX to Auckland on Qantas the day before the sailing and stayed at the Stamford Plaza which let us check in at 8am and was within walking distance to everything we wanted to see and to the port. Or rate included breakfast which was a very good buffet. We managed to arrive with enough energy to walk around town all day. We ate dinner at the Skytower which had great views. We also took a bus to see the sights. We found everything expensive but we did go to Foodmart to get some wine for the cruise. The next day my daughter arrived and used our room to shower, stow her luggage while she and her friend explored the city before boarding the ship. We decided to walk to the port which was about 3 blocks away (fortunately downhill). Embarkation was about one and a half hours--very slow. They just don't have enough of a facility to deal with a large cruise ship. When we arrived on the ship, our luggage was waiting. We had staterooms on Plaza deck which were small insides. Compared to Carnival they are on the small side. We had Anytime dining and made reservations as soon as we could call for them. We tried out the 4 different dining rooms--they were all similar. We went to eat at Horizon buffet which I found to be very small for the size of the ship. The food was adequate though, but beverages are limited. There is no lemonade for example or hot chocolate in the morning. As for the ship itself, it is just beautiful. The staff is always cleaning everything. There are 2 aft pools and an adult pool near the spa as well as 2 larger pools, one covered. The gym had lots of treadmills and other equipment and there is a sauna and steam room in the women's locker room. I did have one facial on a port day for $60. As for the entertainment, I have seen these shows before. The Princess theater is too small--it was standing room only for the shows. Other entertainers were pretty poor and the average age of the passengers was about 65--the oldest crowd I've ever sailed with. This did not make for much night life. There were very few children on this sailing. The activities were the usual, the Cruise Director was pretty poor though. There was a lack on information on the upcoming ports--no port talks at all. Our cruisecritic group met at sailaway as well as at tea the first sea day. The ship organized a little meeting for us as well to "talk." The food in the dining room was good as was the service. We ate in Sabatini's one evening which was great. Now for the excitement--we had not so great weather and terrible seas crossing the Tasman. I was glad to be on Plaza deck as others who were higher up had stories to tell of waves crashing on Deck 14, the water from the indoor pool crashing the rafters, TVs falling, wine bottles flying, etc. There were people sleeping in the common areas the next day as they did not get any sleep the night previous. The captain announced we encountered seas from 30-55 ft. and we were late to Hobart by 6 hours. Also the seas going from Dunedin to Fiordland were quite rough as well. It was very cloudy and windy in 2 of the 3 sounds. If you are doing this itinerary come prepared with sea sick remedies, I never did get sick and the buffet was always crowded no matter what. It also gets COLD and WINDY. Now for the ports. In Tauranga we went with some cruisecritic members to Rotorua with Elite tours. It was a long day with a lot of walking but we got to see all we wanted. In Christchurch we walked around the town, it was a rainy day. There is lots of shopping. In Dunedin we grouped with some other people for the day to go to Penguin Place and the Albatross colony. We also saw Lanarch castle and parts of the the city itself. We used Arthur's tours. In Hobart we prearranged a cruise ship excursion but it was cancelled so we rebooked to go to Bonorong where we got to see and feed kangaroos and pet a koala. In Melbourne, we walked around the city--this was a very hot day. The city is very doable on your own. We stayed 3 days post cruise in Sydney and toured the Blue Mountains. We just loved Sydney and could have stayed longer. We stayed at the Four Seasons which is an excellent location. We had wonderful tour guides there--saw Bondi and Manly beach, went up to the Skytower,etc. All in all, we enjoyed Australia best. Maybe because the weather in NZ wasn't the best. The ship itself is beautiful but has a subdued atmosphere and lacks any passenger information. Given this itinerary, I would recommend a land tour over a cruise--and I love to cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2006
Princess Cruise  Diamond Princess Auckland to Sydney Feb. 13-25, 2006. This is our 14th cruise and third with Princess. Getting there: We took the direct flight from L.A. to Auckland. We had never flown Qantas before. The check in ... Read More
Princess Cruise  Diamond Princess Auckland to Sydney Feb. 13-25, 2006. This is our 14th cruise and third with Princess. Getting there: We took the direct flight from L.A. to Auckland. We had never flown Qantas before. The check in was a bit slow and they should use business and first class desk personnel to help with coach, especially when they are standing around waiting for people to show up. The flight was full and overall their service for coach was very good and we managed to get caught up on the most recent movies that were up for academy awards. The crew was pleasant and the food is what you expect for a coach flight: OK but not great. However we did not go hungry. We also took Qantas from Sydney to Cairns and even their domestic 2:45 minute flight had a hot meal and ice cream dessert. Remember when US airlines did that? We are lucky that we do live in the L.A. area and have direct flights to NZ and AU. If you do live on the West Coast it takes about the same amount of time as going to Europe, or just slightly longer  not too bad really. Embarkation: We decided to get to the ship a couple of hours after the initial check in time. As some of you may have experienced, checking in 2650 passengers (the ship was full), is no easy task. Even at that time there was some waiting and a slight delay in getting on board. I wish they would STOP trying to take pictures upon boarding, especially since it slowed the line down. The Ship: This is our first time on a ship of this size. As you can probably guess, it does have its pros and cons. Pro: Since they can be much more efficient on such a large ship, it does reflect in the price and value for such an itinerary. We paid a great price for a mini-suite with a walk-in closet, full bath, two section rooms, and a comfortable larger balcony. The only complaints about the room were the drawer space. Most of the drawers are open face and below the TV in the bedroom section. The two TVs are a good touch. The bathroom does have a bathtub which is a bit high to step into. We had no problems with getting in and out of the shower, but I can see some elderly people or people with limited mobility having a problem; if not being a bit dangerous for them. There was fridge and our cabin attendant did a good job keeping everything clean and the ice stocked. There was a safe and plenty of room to store you luggage. The public spaces are fine and the overall dEcor and feel is that of a good hotel. There are plenty of areas to go hang out throughout the ship, although some can be a bit crowded. The ship staff is very friendly and the service was great. No complaints about the food either. They managed to accommodate our party of 10 upon boarding the ship and the waiters, dining room management, and their assistants were very attentive to our needs. The food was good quality: great pastas, meats, fish OK, and the overall selection was very good. We had cold water lobsters four times during our trip. Our dining included one night at Sabatinis  one of their specialty restaurants. We do recommend that you try this restaurant at least once during a cruise. Sabatinis is an Italian theme as you may guess from the name. The food was absolutely great: the desserts excellent. the service fantastic, and overall it is well worth the small extra charge you pay. When traveling on such large ships you need to set you expectations accordingly and you will not be disappointed. We have been on Silversea cruises in the past, and you cannot compare a 350 passenger ship with an almost one to one ship/passenger ratio, to a mega-ship of 2650 and a 3:1 ratio. You will not get the quality and service that will on a larger ship in comparison to the smaller and much more expensive ships such as Silversea, Seabourn, or Radisson, for example. One thing that seems annoying at first, is the constant hand washing liquid you are forced to use before going into any dinning area. Once I thought about it, and having a microbiology background, I totally agree with this practice. It is at least one more safety precaution against unsanitary practices by passengers, especially since I noticed some people going to the public bathroom and not washing their hands before exiting. I think this is a very proactive practice and hope all ships are following this measure. The golf putting course is a waste of time and space. I am not sure why they have one. It would be best to use that space for something else. The activities on board are typical of big ships: mostly money making events for the cruise line. We have been a few cruises and the shows start to look pretty much alike at times, so we only went to see a couple of more unique ones. The first few shows of this trip were extremely crowed as well and it was hard to find a seat. The ship does have a fair number of layout areas and pools, which is fine for this trip since most of this crowd is not the laying out type. Besides, the air temperatures, even in the summer, for NZ are not too high. AU is a bit better, so more people did venture out. The average passenger age is a bit higher, as it is for all longer cruises and places like the Alaska. No problems there other than the lingering in the dining public areas that made it hard to find a seat. We do enjoy people of all nationalities and ages, that is what makes travel more fun anyway. Con: As we mentioned, the embarkation was a bit of a problem with that many passengers, especially slowing the line down for pictures. Dining in public areas (buffets) is a definite problem. The food is good and the choices are fine. The main complaint, especially the days at sea with so many people, is that people linger in the dining areas and it is hard to find a table. Often you will need to ask to share a table, or people will ask you if you are lucky enough to find one. We even had someone sit our table without asking at one point; a bit rude. We solved this issue by going to the sit down breakfast when were able to make it, and the sit down lunches. That way you are given a table and served. With a full ship you always had many people in most public areas and it does seem a bit crowded at times. The shopping on board is fine, but typical of most cruise ships. The prices are OK, but we found some better prices on-line when we got home on a Mens watch that we were going to purchase at their shop. It helps to know your prices, but generally you can find better prices on the internet when you get home. Liquor prices are OK, but not worth the couple of bucks you save (sometimes) to lug all that stuff around on your flight back. Shopping in NZ and AU is not great. We can get better quality and better prices at home for most things. Tours: We visited the following ports: Auckland, Rotorura, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hobart, Melbourne, and Sydney. Since we have been on a few cruises and usually travel with a group, we tend to mix some ship tours and our own private tours  lately more private tours. We found that most ports have private tour operators that you can set-up prior to getting there. These are much better since you always pay less, do not have to be cattle carted onto buses and meetings in public areas prior to departure which cause you to loose time, but they are also more flexible than ship tours and often you have time to see more sights. Most operators will offer the same itineraries as the cruise ship if you want to follow the same routes. Dont let the ship scare you into thinking that if anything happens during a self-booked tour you are responsible to get back to the ship on time and that they will not make exceptions for you. That is true, but you always have enough time to get back should you have any delays, private tour operators use very new vehicles, and we have never experienced any problems. Just do you homework on-line, read the reviews and recommendations on private tour operators from personal experiences, and you should be fine. Auckland: We did our own tour with Wine Trail Tours. Phone: 64-9-630-1540 or www.winetrailtours.co.nz or contact john@winetrailtours.co.nz It was a combined sightseeing tour and winery tour. We paid $150 NZ, or about $110 US for this tour. This was a great way to see the local sights and taste some good NZ wines. I recommend the NZ white wines. I think their climate is too cold for good reds. In Tauranga/Rotorura we also booked a private trip with EliteAdventures. Phone: 64-7-347-8282 or EliteAdventures@xtra.co.nz. They were great. Kim and her husband run this operation. They are from Rotorua (Kim is from the US originally), and they pretty much followed the ships tour itinerary that we wanted to do. The best thing is that the avoided the bus loads of people from the cruise and we were able to see the sights at a much easier pace and see more than they do on the ship tours. This was probably the most interesting tour we did on this itinerary. The landscape and sights were wonderful and unique. Their vans are comfortable and an exceptional value for the party of 10 that had on this one. Even though you pay the entrance fees to the parks and your own lunch at local places, you end up having more choices and we paid much less than the ship tours, again, without the hassles of larger buses, and with more time to do things. In Hobart we did our own trip to the Bonorong Wildlife Park and a city tour. As you get off the ship there is a bus operation about three or four block walk, where you can book just about any tour the ship offers. We had a van take us to the park and back in plenty of time for a city tour. Again this saves you money and is more flexible. Dunedin we did take the ships Tairi Gorge Train ride. They fully book the train for the day, but it is worth it. The scenery is great and the train ride in the classic old rail cars is a good experience. They provide drinks, lunch, and snacks with the trip. In Christchurch three of us guys decided to do the Jet Boat Safari offered by the ship. These are the boats that travel at high speeds through on one of the larger scenic rivers (the name which escapes me at the moment) and only needs three inches of water to operate. The guide was great and this is a good experience with a bit of a thrill ride. That particular area is where some films have been made. A good experience all the way around. In Melbourne we also booked a private van tour to the Yarra Valley for wine tasting and a tour of the city on the way back. This was through Victoria Winery Tours. Phone: 54-28-8500 or www.winetours.com.au Two people in our group had pre-booked the ships tour to this area and they did not do a much as we did. We had a group of eight and had a great time in Yarra Valley tasting some good wines. The best place we went to was the Chandon winery. They make excellent sparkling and other wines. Our trip included a choice of lunches at one of the wineries and we only paid $100 AD each (about $75 US) for this trip. The ships trip did not include a choice of lunch, and they only visited one winery. We went to five wineries and also had a great city tour with a great guide. Sydney was our final destination and we had been there before. I suggest at least a couple of extra days there to enjoy this wonderful city if you have never visited this city before. We went on to Cairns to visit some friends. That is probably not the best time to be there: it is humid and hot, and can be very rainy. Otherwise, it is also a great place to see some great things. Disembarkation: This was a real problem. First, it took almost three hours to get us off the ship. We had four bags and two of the tags were lost. The lost bags did eventually show up at the waiting area, but not in good shape. When they have probably 5000-7000 bags to deal with, dont expect care in dealing with your luggage. The process for us almost took four hours! To boot, they did not have enough private transportation for people to take into the city, so the lines were extremely long and people were getting very uptight and short-tempered waiting in the line. I guess if you only need to go to the airport do book the ships transfer. We were lucky to have gotten a big van, only because we sent someone out to make the arrangement before we got our bags and exited the port building. Overall, we think everyone should experience that part of the world at least once. The people are friendly and easy-going, and it is like no other place on earth. We will definitely go back at some point. We will probably opt for a smaller ship on our next cruise next year to the Orient. Read Less
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