* Prices may differ from that shown
I sailed on the Golden Princess in December 2010 and the experience was wonderful! The on board staff were absolutely outstanding, first class service all the way, the food was brilliant, our stateroom was well prepared and our stateroom steward was extremely attentive. Entertainment was provided throughout the cruise to a very high standard. The journey was hassle free from start to finish and boarding and disembarking was effortless. Sailing at this time of year to Hawaii can have its disadvantages though as the sea was quite rough particularly when leaving LA and the crew said that this was quite a regular occurrence in that water. At one point it reached a force 9. That said we were both OK and they stabilise the ship. The ship has a general relaxed feeling about it, and there were only 3 formal nights out of 14 which was about right. In the day people were in casual attire and even on formal night a tux is not essential and many people just were wearing smart suits. I would definitely book another cruise with princess.
My parents are celebrating their 70th Birthdays this year and I wanted to do something really special for them. Neither of them has travelled abroad before so I decided that a cruise would be an ideal way to introduce them to the world of travel and from previous cruise experience I knew that the organisational pressure for me would be greatly reduced by this sort of holiday as everything is done for you. Unfortunately my husband had no spare annual leave and my daughter was studying for her GCSEs so in the end the travelling party would be my parents, myself and my 12 year old son. For the four of us the total was £2500 which includes all food and entertainment on board for one week. After searching the websites of the main cruise companies I settled on Princess Cruises on board the Grand Princess departing from Southampton over the late May Bank holiday weekend. My mum won't fly so I had to opt for Southampton and since I didn't think either of them would cope with very hot weather June seemed an ideal time. I booked over the internet and it was all very straightforward. ===Arrivals=== A rainy Saturday saw us driving into Southampton and it wasn't long before we could see the enormous Grand Princess berthed at the port. It is hard to describe how huge these boats look when they are in port, they seem to dwarf everything and my parents were quite shocked at the size. I had opted for a valet parking service so we simply drove up to the boat, a porter took our luggage straight to the ship, I handed over the keys and walked into the departure hall for passport checks etc. This was all very quick and before we knew it we were boarding this colossal vessel. We were handed a guide to the ship and having studied the plans of the boat on the internet (I am a bit of an anorak!) I was quickly able to find our stateroom (the posh name for cabin!). ===Our Stateroom=== I had booked a mini-suite to accommodate all four of us and we were immediately greeted by our room steward who had already put our cases on the bed ready for unpacking. There was a glass of chilled champagne each and our steward explained various features about the cruise such as how to contact him and the Princess Patter which is a daily information paper delivered to your room. Initial impressions of the room were good. It was very clean with a large area for hanging clothes and a tall cupboard with shelves and a safe, there were only a few drawers by the sides of the bed. There was an enormous double bed and then the other beds were a single sofa bed and a bunk that came out of the ceiling. I was pleased about this as I had presumed it would be a double sofa-bed and I was going to have to share with my wriggly son! The beds all turned out to be very comfortable. There were two large flat-screen televisions, a fridge with water, cans and ice (the price list was on the door), a chair and coffee table as well as a dressing table with huge mirror and American style electric sockets so an adapter is needed. The bathroom was showing signs of age. It was very clean but the green floor tiles were dated and some of the sealant around the bath looked like it could do with replacing. However there was a plentiful supply of hot water and a very powerful shower although after a week I was still unable to alter the temperature of the shower, I think I must have been doing something wrong! There were loads of white towels and I also requested robes which appeared remarkably quickly. There was also a constant supply of shampoo, soap and shower gel. I had opted for a suite with a balcony as I love just watching the sea and I also thought it would give us some extra space. The balcony was much larger than I expected with four chairs and a table and a glass barrier so the views weren't obstructed. The Grand Princess is unusual in design and the balconies are all stepped out so they are not covered by the floor above, this meant plenty of sunshine but wouldn't do if you like your privacy as you can be seen by all the balconies above you. ===First Impressions Of The Ship=== The lowest deck frequented by passengers is Deck 4 where the medical centre is positioned and the top deck is Deck 16 which has all the sports facilities so you can immediately get an idea of how large this ship is. At over 900ft in length, 118ft wide and carrying over 2500 passengers and 1150 crew it certainly takes a little while to get your bearings. However at the end of the day you can't get lost as you will always be able to ask a crew member the way, it isn't like getting lost in a town. Walking around the ship you get a feeling of extravagance, all the polished metal and wood and subtle lighting makes you feel special and the glass lifts and open stairways in the main atrium give the internal areas a feeling of light and space. ===Dining Experience=== The one thing that really put me off cruising was the idea of all the formality regarding dining. I didn't want to be told at what time I had to eat and I certainly didn't want to be made to sit with dinner companions that I may not even like. I also didn't have the sort of wardrobe that allowed me to wear a formal dress every night either. I believe there are still cruise companies that cater for the clientele that prefer the formality but like many companies Princess have altered their dining. If you like a set meal time and table then you can choose that and in this ship it is in the Botticelli Dining Room. However if you prefer to select your own time and dining companions then the Da Vinci and Michelangelo restaurants can cater for you but still with wonderfully attentive waiter service and exotic choice of food. WE tend to like to eat early and so never had any trouble getting a table as soon as we went to the dining rooms, however by about 7.30 people did have to queue. We found out that you can actually reserve a table in either restaurant by phoning from your cabin so that is certainly worth doing. We often had the same waiter and he was brilliant at making my son feel welcome and also remembered personal preferences to do with our meals which were very nice. The service was always efficient without feeling rushed and we never felt we were being harassed to leave our table. The ship does run two formal nights per week where people dress in their finery but it is not compulsory and many people just go to the buffet in their jeans instead. All the Dining rooms opened for dinner and only one opened for breakfast and lunch. The other main option for eating was the Horizon Buffet restaurant on Deck 14. This had food on offer 24 hours a day. The majority of the food we ate here was delicious but I was always careful to select food from the back of the plates hoping no-one had already touched them as I am a bit particular about hygiene and buffets. The breakfasts were lovely with plenty of choice of cereals, pastries, continental meats and cheeses, cooked items and some of the nicest fresh fruit I have ever eaten. Getting a seat could sometimes be tricky, especially at busy times but if you walked around to the side that the buffet was closed on (they rotated the food sides) there were often tables. Otherwise we found that most people were accommodating if they had spare seats and we had some lovely conversations with new people (unlike the formal dining if you didn't get on with them you would probably never see them again!). Tea and coffee to make you was available in the Horizon Buffet but unfortunately there were no tea-making facilities in the cabins. As someone who can't function in the morning without a "cuppa" I found that a bit of a nuisance as my cabin was on Deck9 but luckily at least I was the same end of the boat as the buffet. If you prefer a snack then you can head out to the pools on Deck 14 and grab a Pizza or hotdog from the takeaways there. In the afternoon there were also free ice-creams too. ===Things To Do=== The top couple of decks of the ship are devoted to recreational activities. With four swimming pools, shuffleboard, table tennis tables (sheltered from the wind!), pitch and putt, sports courts a spa and a gym there is plenty to keep everyone amused or you can just sit back in one of the plentiful sun beds and watch the world go by. I liked the fact that each pool area had its own atmosphere; one had a huge screen over it that played music videos all day and seemed very noisy and manic but the next one had a glass atrium and felt calm and relaxing. There was an adults only area near the front of the ship which I imagine was also peaceful but I didn't venture there. We didn't have any trouble finding seats on the decks but we did notice the usual thing of people putting belongings on sun beds and then not being seen for hours which is so irritating. There isn't a huge amount of shade on the decks when the sun is very hot and those spots do get taken quickly. During the day the entertainment team run various activities throughout the ship including dance lessons, quizzes, lectures, computer classes, films and sports tournaments. Before I went I had been told that all the announcements were intrusive and you couldn't avoid all these things and it was like a holiday camp. This is certainly not true, I didn't notice many announcements at all and you had to go and find the activities, you weren't forced in! My mum and I do enjoy quizzes and so we often participated in those and most of the entertainment staff were good fun and you also got to know fellow passengers. Many of the bars were open in the day and there is a lot of seating around the inside of the ship where you could relax and there is a library on board if you had forgotten your book. In the evening seating can become more of an issue as there are not enough lounge seats for people who would just like to relax with a drink and a comfortable seat when everybody is back on board. There was a casino on board but its opening is restricted by which waters it is in. I walked through it once when it was shut and it did not seem to be particularly large but it is not my field of expertise so it may be the normal size. The evening entertainment is mainly concentrated around the Promenade Deck 7. The main arena is the Princess Theatre at the front of the boat. This seats about 1000 people in luxurious seating with great visibility and plenty of legroom. There is even a little retractable table for your drinks and the wine waiters take your orders whilst you are seated. Shows here are played twice a night but you need to arrive about half an hour before the performance to grab a good seat. The standard of the performances we saw varied a lot; the singing and dancing shows were excellent and I always enjoy that sort of thing, one lady comedian was brilliant but the other comedians were dire, one was dying so badly on stage it was embarrassing. At the other end of the ship is another show venue, the Vista lounge which was also very comfortable but visibility wasn't so good. Here there were also comedians and quieter music and occasionally films. The other bars held their own entertainment depending on their genre, the romantic venue had background music whilst the Explorers usually had the resident band (who were very good) performing a particular style for a themed evening. The worst events by far were the entertainment crew doing the 50s night and the country night, embarrassing behaviour involving dragging people to the dance floor which made me leave as it is not my sort of thing. If you didn't fancy being inside you could head up to the Movies Under The Stars. My son loved this and went several times with his granddad. The huge cinema screen over the middle pool is used to show the movie. The sun beds have special comfortable mattresses with pillows put on them and then on cool nights you are also given blankets, they then bring you popcorn when ever you like, my son's idea of heaven! The only problem with this was the poor selection of films, they were all new releases but there were not any films suitable for a younger audience, they all seemed to be 12s or above. My dad informed me that the mattresses were not terribly comfortable after lying there through the whole of Avatar! I did find the selection of evening films a bit restrictive, one night they were showing The Hurt Locker in one venue and Invictus in another then Avatar and Sherlock Holmes, I really feel a wider selection would have been sensible. They did show some children's films but that was in the day when the pool area was noisy anyway. The week we were on board there were 500 children between the ages of 3 and 17. Princess caters for this with their variety of Kids clubs. During the first sea-day my son spent several hours there and thoroughly enjoyed it but he preferred to spend his evenings with us so he didn't go again. Children are able to stay on the ship whilst the parents visit the ports but they have to be booked in and cannot leave without a parent's signature. I am sure some people find this useful but experiencing new places is why I take my children abroad so I wouldn't be happy leaving them behind. ===In Port=== When arriving in port you can leave the ship to explore. It is often cheaper to make your own way around but when in an unfamiliar area and when you only have a few hours it can be easier to take one of the ships tours. These are run very efficiently and allow you to get a good look at the place you have arrived in and gives you an idea of whether you would like to return (never want to see Vigo again but can't wait to return to Lisbon!). These tours are expensive but you get the details a long time before you travel so you can budget for the ones you really want to do and then explore on foot elsewhere. The advantage of taking the organised tour is that the boat won't leave without you but if you are on your own and you miss departure then getting on to the next port is your responsibility. In most ports you can simply walk off the gamgway but occasionally you have to anchor outside the port and use the tender (lifeboat) to get in which is quite exciting but does require a long wait for a tender ticket. ===Extras=== I very rarely drink alcohol so I purchased a soft drinks pass for myself and my son which cost me about $4.50 each a day and that provided unlimited drinks for us which were good value compared to the onboard prices. The drinks all looked very expensive to me and you also get 15% tip added automatically on to all bar bills which is quite cheeky. Tips are added automatically on to your room bill, because we had a mini-suite that was $11 each per day, including my son which came to over $350, I did know about it before we went but I think it is excessive, some companies are still only charging $6 a day. You can have the tips taken off your bill by visiting the purser's office and then paying the people directly which I may do next time. Everything you buy on board is paid for by your passkey which you register your creditcard against before you board the ship. This makes life easy as there is no need to carry money but if you drink a lot or use the casino I imagine it is easy to lose track of what you have spent as you don't get the bill until the early hours of the morning before you leave. There were a lot of people on board using wheelchairs so I presume the facilities for disabled guest must be good. There are certainly large lifts to all floors and plenty of disabled toilets and the staff are always willing to help. Most areas of the ship seem easy to navigate but trying to get along the promenade deck when the photographs of the cruise are all on display is tricky as it gets so busy and I imagine it is hard work with a wheelchair. ===Final Thoughts=== Before going on this cruise the Grand Princess had been in the local media as it had been the subject of several outbreaks of the Norovirus which does tend to plague cruise ships. I was so worried I almost cancelled but since I would have lost all my money I just bought lots of anti-viral handcleansers and decided to brave it. I am so glad I did. The ship was beautiful, it is 10 years old and I had heard that it was tatty which really wasn't true. There were some areas where it showed its age such as the bathroom and the strangely uncomfortable seats in the Explorers bar but otherwise it was fine. Almost all the staff we encountered were friendly and helpful and most spoke good English. For a holiday that would suit three generations of one family this proved to be perfect and I would certainly cruise on the Grand Princess again. We were never bored, we always had a pristine cabin to return to, there was always delicious food available and every morning we opened our curtains to watch the sunrise over a new destination, what could be better?
===Introduction=== As I am currently drafting reviews of some of the locations and trips we visited on our Honeymoon, I thought it would be better to try and post them in some sort of order. To that end I am now going to review the actual Cruise first. I will then review some of the locations we visited. I have already reviewed what I consider to be our best trip, Pompeii, which you can find in my reviews. ===Background=== We booked a cruise for our Honeymoon at Crown Travel in Liverpool. We (as is standard) flipped through several travel brouches before eventually deciding on Princess Cruises that their Grand Mediterranean Cruise, this is 13 day cruise. ===Booking the Cruise=== As mentioned above, we booked at our (then) local Travel Agents, Crown Travel in Liverpool. We were dealt with by an extremely friendly and very helpful representative. We were greatly helped by the fact that me wife's family have used that agent many times and are on first name terms. The service we recieved was brilliant, initially when we booked we were told that we would be flying from Manchester Airport to Venice Marco Polo. We were informed a few days later that a mistake had been made and that there were no flight available from Manchester direct to Venice Marco Polo and we would have to fly from Gatwick. As a result we would have to make our own way to Gatwick at our own cost! However step in Crown Travel, they paid for flights to Gatwick the night before our departure date and the hotel at Gatwick! They also provided Champagne and Chocolate Covered Strawberries in our room on our first week anniversary! We were not expecting that it was a great surprise to come back from a day out and find that and a nice card from our travel agent. '''Excellent service.''' ===Transport=== '''Flights''' All in all we had three flights during our holiday. The main flights are flights specifically for Princess Cruises. You are looked after exremely well and they do go the extra mile for you. One particular nicety was the fact that we gave our luggage in at Gatwick, the next time we saw it, it was delivered to our room on the ship!! Manchester - Gatwick Gatwick - Venice, Marco Polo Barcelona to Manchester ===Reception=== On arrival at Venice Marco Airport we were collected and bused to a reception area before boarding the ship. The reception was huge, there were at least 25 check in desks this was a good start as it shows they are clearly customer focused. You complete all registration paperwork including, passports checks, next of kin etc, you also register your credit card as they dont usually take cash on the ship. This then gives you a shipboard account which you charge to. This of course makes it easier to purchase things on the ship, however the issue I have with this is that you dont physically see what you are spending. I will come onto my thoughts about this process later in my review. They also provide you with a comprehensive information pack. This lists all the activities and facilities on the ship. It also lists the ports we will dock at and the local attractions, customs and even a shopping guide! It really is a complete package. On leaving the reception we believed that we had ample information to prepare us for the cruise. ===Our Ship Star Princess=== We then had a short walk over a gangway, as we arrived at the dock side we saw our ship. I was completely tacken aback. I was prepared for a big vessel but the Star Princess is massive! The sheer size of it blows you away. It has over 700 balcony state-rooms. It also has an entire deck of mini-suites. It has a gym, pools, bars, shops, casino, multiple restaraunts, theatre, library and much more. To look at the ship is stunning, it gleaming white and immaculately presented. '''Ship Layout''' Once you have passed through the security (more detail later in the review) you enter into a world of grandeur. The ship is stunning its decour, fixtures and fittings are of the finest quality and its spotless throughout. Its hard to put into words how the ship looks. The public areas/rooms are ornate, lavish, warm and inviting. The grand staircase is a sight to behold, it covers several decks and is the focal point on the ship. It is surrounded by the majority of the boutiques and the main shopping area. Each deck is visually fantastic, and to a degree virtually self sufficient, there are bars, restaraunts and public areas on each deck, also there are laundry and ironing facilities on every other deck. The only downside is that the ship/decks are somewhat difficult to navigate, it is rather confusing, this however is offset by maps on each deck. The pool area has the more "fast food" style eateries. There is a pizza/burger bar, this is the first place we ate when we arrived on the ship. The standard was very good indeed and its all you can eat! The pools are a good size with spa's on each side, there is also a pool which is resereved for adults. I will give a cpmprehensive list of facilities on board below . I will also list the different types of rooms available, and I will give a personal opinion regarding our room. ===Our Room L306=== '''Oceanview Double With Balcony''' On entering our room we were extremely impressed. It was a good size for a start, it was very well furnished with quality items and spotless clean! There is ample room to move about the room without any fuss. The balcony was a good size, we could comfortably sit outside and enjoy the views. The bathroom was again spotless, and the fixtures and fittings were of a very high quality. The shower was like a rain storm possessed! We had a large TV, fitted wardrobes and a good sized refrigerator. There was Champagne and Chocolate dipped strawberries as a gift from Princess Cruises to celebrate our wedding. '''A Funny For You To Enjoy''' This is true!! So my wife opens the wardrobe to find the safe to lock away our passports,cash etc. which she duely does. I then said......." So whats the code for the safe"? She replies 2808. I said " Why the bloodyhell have you chosen those numbers I wont remember those" !? She replies " Well thats the date we have just got married on"! "Bugger"!! ===Other Available Rooms=== '''Star Princess State-rooms''' '''Oceanview Double''' Passengers traveling in these accommodations enjoy twin beds which make up into a comfortable queen-size bed, a large picture window, a refrigerator and TV, a spacious closet and a bathroom with a shower. Grand Suite With Balcony. A Bedroom with a queen-size bed, a separate sitting room with a sofa, and a private balcony are just a few of the amenities included. This beautiful room also features three televisions, a refrigerator and a wet bar, a walk-in closet, and a bath with tub. '''Suite With Balcony''' Accommodation include twin beds which make up into a queen-size bed, separate sitting room with sofa bed, a private balcony, two televisions, a refrigerator with a wet bar, a walk-in closet and a bath with tub and shower. '''Family Suite''' Each suite is actually two self-contained staterooms interconnecting through a large living room which leads to an oversized private balcony. Each suite sleeps up to eight people. '''Mini-Suite With Balcony''' Twin beds which make up into a queen-size bed, a private balcony, refrigerator, and TV make these accommodations like a home away from home. With a spacious closet and a bath with shower who can resist? '''Oceanview''' Passengers traveling in these accommodations enjoy twin beds which make up into a comfortable queen-size bed, 2 porthole windows, a refrigerator and TV, a spacious closet and a bathroom with a shower. '''Oceanview Obstructed''' Oceanview staterooms with partially or obstructed views are a great value. They feature a picture window providing natural light and added ambience. You'll find them comfortable and welcoming with all the amenities of an interior stateroom. '''Interior Double''' Ample space and luxurious accommodations await guests in these categories. They'll also find twin beds that make up into a comfortable queen-size bed, a refrigerator and TV, a spacious closet and a bathroom with a shower. The room measures 160 square feet. ===Facilities=== The sheer amount of facilities onboard is amazing. The ship is big, granted, but I was astounded at what was on offer. I have listed below the facilities. ''''Formal Dining'''' *Amalfi Dining Room *Portofino Dining Room *Capri Dining Room Specialty *Sabatini's (Italian restaurant) *Sterling Steakhouse at Tequila's *Ultimate Balcony DiningSM Casual ''''Casual Dining'''' *24-hour International Cafe *Horizon Court and Bistro *Vines wine and seafood bar *Scoops ice cream bar *Prego Pizzeria *Outdoor hamburger grill *Afternoon tea *24-hour room service * Piazza-style atrium featuring casual dining venues. '''Theaters''' *Princess Theater *Vista Show Lounge *Movies Under the Stars outdoor theater *Grand Casino Virtual View *Explorers Lounge (nightclub-style performances) Virtual View *Skywalkers Nightclub (15 decks above the sea) Various Lounges '''Bars''' *Wheelhouse Bar Virtual View *Shooter's Cigar Bar *Promenade Lounge and Bar '''Pools & Spas''' *Calypso Reef and Pool (plus 2 hot tubs) Virtual View *Neptune's Reef and Pool (plus 2 hot tubs) Virtual View *Terrace Pool *Oasis pool & hot tub *The Sanctuary (adults only) *Full-service Japanese-themed spa with ocean-view gym '''Sports''' *Lotus Spa, gym and fitness area *Swim-against-the-current lap pool *Nine-hole putting course *Virtual golf simulators *Shuffleboard *Center Court '''Shopping'''' *World-class art collection, gallery and auctions *ScholarShip@Sea *24-hour Internet Café (wireless access available) *Library *Hearts & Minds Wedding Chapel *Boutiques (duty-free) *Future Cruise Sales '''Under 18's''' *Teen Center *Youth Center *Splash pool Video arcade ===Dining=== As mentioned above there are the less formal places to dine dotted around the ship. The pizza/burger bar, 24-hour International Cafe are very good as are the other restaraunts. '''Breakfast''' The food was simply excellent, the only area that was a slight criticism is that they cater for Americans. So the breakfast is pancakes,syrup, etc basically a more sweet based breakfast. Not the full English that we are used to but still the choice and quality was outstanding. '''Lunch''' The breakfast restaraunt was used for lunch, we did not have lunch very often as when we docked we left the ship. The few times that we did dine again teh quality and service was fantastic, one thing they do do well is food. '''Dinner''' There are 2 sittings to accommodate all the passengers. We chose the second sitting, this you choose when you initally book the cruise. There are 2 formal dinner nights on the cruise, these dress is strict, dinner jacket or dark buisness suit for males, evening gown or cocktail dress for Ladies. For all other dinner meals its shirt and trousers for males and skirt/blouse or trouser suit for ladies. One of the highlights of each day was dinner, every single meal and bottle of wine was outstanding, this is were they excel at Princess. The quality. choice of food are outstanding, as was the service provided. Dinner each evening truely was exceptional. ===Bars=== There are as you would imagine bars located throughout the ship. Most of the bars are themed and have specific entertainment nights like bingo,singles and dance nights. We settled on a bar which was located just by the grand staircase this was the bar we used for the majority of the cruise. It was a more casual bar, with a relaxed atmosphere. On the ship drinks are more expensive as you would expect, this itself did not bother me to much. What did grip me a little was the gratuity that you had to pay on each drink. You basically have to pay 15% on a drink and you can not opt out, by the time you have finished the cruise it really does add up. I have always prefered to tip because I want to rather than being told to. ===Entertainment=== '''Shows''' There are shows each night on in the theatre, generally the shows are for me a bit short. If you are on the second sitting for dinner then the time frame between dinner and the start of the show is tight. You really need to be at teh front of the queue as the theatre is not big enough to accommodate all the passengers. As I mentioned the shows are a bit short, each is around an hour, that includes the warm up acts. The quality of the entertainers is good, but again geared towards the American sense of humour...if thats what you call it. All in all they are well worth the visit. '''Casino''' The casino is not open that often, this is to do with licensing laws, generally its open for the at sea nights. I paid a short inexpensive visit. That was enough for me. It has all that you would find in a casino, the machines and tables are played in dollars, there is also a cash machine for you to withdraw cash from any UK account. Handy! You can also charge cash to your shipboard account, however if you do they add 3% surcharge! '''Skywalkers Nightclub''' This is at the very top far end of the ship. We only visited this once and that was really just to see what it was like. Its a great area but with the age group usually on a cruise its not that well used should we say. ===Customer Services=== As you will gather from this review, this is an area they take extremely seriously. They really do go that extra mile to ensure you are enjoying your holiday. The information desk is open for the majority ===Medical Facility=== There is a full medical centre available 24hrs a day. Luckily we did not require this. ===Staff=== As you would expect the staff bend over backwards to help you. The staff are attentive, polite and very helpful, you really are waited on hand and foot, some of the guest seem to abuse this in my opinion. I must admit this makes me a little uncomfortable, but you do pay for it and I suppose its they expect. Most of the staff are from the Far East/Asia, they all speak good English and are extremely polite and helpful. The working arrangements employed by the company leave a lot to be desired, lets say that they basically "use" the labour. One might even say they exploit peoples needs. I do have a strong opinion on this, however I shall refrain as I am not them and I cant be truely impartial. ===Countries/Ports Visited=== I have listed below the Countries and ports we visited. I shall not go into details as it would firstly make this review longer than War and Peace, and secondly some of the places we visited will be reviews later. All I can say is that there is a good mix of countries and ports visited. In one or two places we would have liked longer, and perhaps this is something they should consider. They stay in Barcelona was wholly inadequate it was just 4 hrs. 1. Venice, Italy 2. Athens (Piraeus), Greece 3.Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey 4. Mykonos, Greece 5. Naples/Capri, Italy 6. Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 7. Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy 8. Monte Carlo, Monaco 9. Barcelona, Spain As you can see above you do get to visit a lot of countries. This really is what drove us to choose this cruise. we both ticked off many places that we had always wanted to see. For me the stand out places where our visit to Pompeii and Rome. ===Shuttles=== Princess provided shuttle boats on two occasions, once at Venice and once at Monaco. The shuttle to Venice the evening and the morning before we departed we paid for, I was a little dissapointed in this. They could have provided transport for free. The cost was $10 charged to your shipboard account. The shuttle to Monte Carlo was free, it was crowded and we had to queue but of course this is to be expected. ===Security=== Well they are American! security is extremely important and especially in todays climate. There are security checks on entering and leaving the ship. You pass has your photograph on which is matched against the ships computer. When the ship docks in port a huge banner is unfolded that informs all vessels to keep at least 150 mtrs away. All in all the security measures are excellent. ===The Little Extra's=== '''Good''' Firstly, I have never seen anything like this. The keep the ship immaculate, so much so that one evening (very late) on our way back to our room they were actually re-laying new carpet in one corridor!! The ship is kept spotless, rubbish and dirt just dont exist. The ship is washed from top to bottomalmost on a daily basis. Its the small things in life that make the difference like: 1. We got an upgrade as it was our Honeymoon. Brilliant. 2. Chocolate dipped strawberries and Champagne on arrival. 3. Your bed turned down ever night and also chocolate on your pillow. 4. Easy wheelchair access staterooms and most public areas also a steward to help. '''Bad''' GRATUITY!!!! Americans arghhhh tip here tip there they are obsessed! And you are taxed on the tip! Basically you pay gratuity on certain items or facilities. For example; You pay gratuity to your room steward. this is set at $10 a day. Meaning that for our Cruise it would have been $130. This is very expensive in my opinion. However in small print on the leaflets it states that you can opt out, indeed in the bar couples that had previous cruise experience told us that they opt out and pay the steward direct to ensure that they recieve all the cash. This is what we did, and we felt better for it. $100 before you ask! There is also gratuity on every drink that you buy, 15%. This really does mount up over the duration of the cruise. Especially as you pay tax on the tip! Credit Card: As you have registered your credit card everything as near as damn it is charged to the card. Great? well for ease yes, for keeping an eye on your spending... A Big No! Unless you are very careful and also regulary check your balance at the information desk your spending can spiral out of control. Be careful! Yes I have had a bit of a moan above, but all in all it does not detract from the experience. ===Summary=== Well, hopefully from my review above you will have gathered that I really rate this cruise. Yes it has its slight flaws, but nothing in life nothing is perfect. From start to finish the level of service never dips below excellent. Everytthing really is geared to ensuring you have an excellent time. From the moment they take your luggage at the airport to the moment you leave the ship they do give 100%. Our room, the ship, the staff, the facilities, the entertainment, the dining, everything, was first class. Princess Cruises deliver, big time. The same can of course be said for their desire to prise you cash, but hey ho, be resolute and firm and spend only what you want to. ===Recomendation=== Yes, it is a fantastic way to see many places in a short time
Princess cruises is my favourite cruise line, I`ve been on the Grand princess and this review is based on that ship. Princess with P&O and Celebrity are all owned by the same company Carnival Princess cruises dock at Southampton and cruise out to the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. Scandanavia and British Isles. On arriving at Southampton if you`ve taken up the offer of free parking, you are met by a meet and greet reprecentative, who books your car in and takes your keys from you, the porter takes your luggage and the next time you see it, it is in your cabin, ready for unpacking. I had a balcony junior suite, there was ample storage space, two tvs, one in each room with a king size bed in one, and a top bunk and sofa bed in another. There was loads of space and we had it at a great price. The bathroom facilities are ensuite and towels, shampoo, shower gel and miniture toiletries all provided, and if you use them they are replaces everyday. The rooms are cleaned everyday and the beds made and sofa bed got out and put away every day. There is a minute fridge in your room with a selection of soft drinks, and alcholic drinks and if you use one it is soon topped up but you will be charged for them and will have to pay a service charge. The entertainment and facilities are 2nd to none and covers a wide variety of ages. They have kids clubs upto 17 and they are on the top at the back of the boat so children are rarely seen and well entertained. Theres also an adults disco and bar at the back of the ship away up in a big fin and theres a moving escalator upto it. Through the day the views are brilliant and its a comfortable area to sit and read. There is a library on board where you can pick up a daily quiz, crossword or sudoko. As well as lending a book, or even taking a free book that other travellers have left, so theres no need to purchase as they have plenty. You can also do a jigsaw here or browse the net (at extra charge) There are numerous pools, including an indoor one, for children and adults alike. Theres a gym, crazy golf and a golf simulator. Theres also a sports court where lots of activities thoughout the day take place. There is something going on all day everyday, and you need not leave the ship , or you can do as much as you want or as little as you want. The food is excellent and more than any cruise I`ve been on, I dont know whether thats because it usually caters for the american market or what. My son is a fussy eater and for starters he had chicken strips and chips. Chicken breast, steak, potatoes as a main and two or three desserts, he didnt ask for them but they were always trying to tempt him with other dishes. I liked that the kids could have unlimited drinks packages and these are great value, as soon as you get on the ship, they`re promoting them everywhere, in fact I purchased one for myself because I dont drink alcohol. They also have free tea, coffee , lemonade and water throughout the day. Served by the waiters in the dining rooms. Another plus was the free ice-cream and popcorn and if you went to movies under the stars where you lay on a padded sunlounger with a pillow and a blanket ,the porters bring popcorn around to you. Princess is my favourite cruise , the stewarts seem to go that extra mile further, they dont seem false like they do on other cruise lines, they`re eastern european and they happy to help you more genuinely. This is my opinion, and does not slight any other cruise lines at all.
I sailed on the Golden Princess from the 24th of December 2008 to the 6th of January 2009. The cruise departed from Los Angeles, CA and sailed around the Hawaiian islands, stopping at Honolulu, Lahaina, Hilo, Nawiliwili and finally Ensenada, Mexico. Having never been on a cruise before, and with the prospect of being on a ship for Christmas and New Year, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. However, I can safely say I have fallen in love with cruising and never want to go on an 'ordinary holiday' again! Everything about my Princess cruise was perfect - the service, the food, the facilities, the activities and the entertainment. There was so much going on during the day there was literally something for everyone - from ping pong competitions to ballroom dance classes to Hawaiian lei-making. Combine that with 3 swimming pools, 4 hot tubs and a 24 hour buffet and I was set. The evening entertainment never failed to disappoint - with professional theatre shows, live music and themed nights, there was always something to look forward to. The highlight of my evenings was the Skywalkers Nightclub - located at the rear and topmost deck of the ship, where the party would continue all through the night with the resident DJ. One of the best aspects of my Princess cruise was the level of service I received. The cabin which I shared with my best friend was serviced twice a day, and little touches like chocolates left on our pillows at night really made it special! I also found the room service facility extremely useful when I was feeling lazy - there was no extra charge for delivery of food and the delivery time was always fast - even in the early hours of the morning! The fact that every crew member was friendly and welcoming really made the holiday - it was lovely to feel so at home at such an important time of year! Cruising with Princess is one of the best experiences I have ever had and I would recommend it to anyone.
In June of this year, I embarked aboard Princess Cruise's Oriana, only to feel completely at home again. It had been two years since I disembarked its luxurious surroundings to be brought back down to earth with a bang as I realized my mum wouldn't wait on me hand and foot as Raju, my waiter on the Oriana, had. A cruise is what you call a holiday. No stressful flights, delays, self-catering etc etc. You step on the ship, and everything from then on is done for you. This year, my dad had had an accident only two weeks earlier where he ruptured his akilis tendon, forcing him to be in plaster for eight weeks. We toyed with the idea of canceling, but then decided the cruise would be the best place for his temporary wheelchair, how right could we have been? Embarkation was the easiest it would ever be as a man pushed my dads straight on to the ship, no waiting around. Taken into our small, but comfortable cabin. Then our cabin steward came by and introduced himself as Carlos, and asked us what time we'd like to be wakened and what we'd like to drink. Already feeling at home, I unpacked then went up on deck, only to be hit with the warm, Southampton sunshine (!?). This sunshine was fine enough for me, nevermind the heat we were to encounter while cruising round the med. As the band played us out, we stood on the deck sipping champagne and watching the tiny people on the ground waving us away, feeling somewhat like Titanic passengers, except a hundred time safer. Trains, planes and cars are more likely to have problems than a ship of this size. We then got dressed for dinner in the Penisular Restaurant. Feeling very prestigious, being welcomed to dinner and eating to a beautiful view of the Isle of Wight. But this view was nothing compared to the views we'd get in the next two weeks. One of my favourite things about a cruise is getting a different view every single day. You wake up ready to go for a walk aroun d the promenade deck checking out the islands and beautiful sea. One thing I have to recommend on these ships is the entertainment; from the comedians to the tribute bands, from the on board cinema to the theatre. Every night theres something to appeal to you. There's a lot of theme nights as well, like cowboy night, the black and white ball and tropical night. Tropical night was by far the best , we were in Palma until midnight that night and had a massive party up on deck, around one of the three pools, with a fab live band, streamers, balloons etc. What a great party atmosphere. Oriana is Princess Cruise's 'family ship' so is ideally suited for families. Theres the young kids nursery, Peter Pans, where they can watch videos, play games, go swimming etc under the supervision of the fabulous Youth Crew. The Tweens (9-13yr olds) where they can do the same, in a youth club type way and The Teens (14-17) where teh 'young adults' can go and 'chill out' with their new freinds, which you find they don't really want to leave, and parents rarely see their Teens as their club goes on until midnight, still under the supervision of the Youth Crew, who also become on great terms with your teens as they are all young and still energetic! One of my favourite parts of the day was when at noon the captain would speak over the tannoy and tell us our route, speed etc. I just loved his fabulously proper voice and how he would say "I hope you all enjoy your sail this afternoon aboard (deep breath) ..Oriana" sounding very much like David Attenborough. It made my day! If I wrote about everything good about this ship I would be going on for pages and pages. From the first class service and the luxurious surroundings to the beautiful places you visit and top class entertainment for any age. This was definitely the best holiday for us this year, not only because of my dads condition, but just the general relaxed feeling you got. I'd also like to recommend the beautiful portraits you can get done by professional photographers for a great price, a fabulous memory of your wonderful holiday aboard?..Oriana.
A true test of any product is repeat business. If customers keep coming back for more, then you have a winning formula, and boy, what a formula P&O Princess have come up with. I have travelled twice with Princess - in 1997 on the Dawn Princess in the Southern Caribbean - in 1999 on the Grand Princess in the Mediterranean. On each occasion, we encountered seasoned 'cruisers' who loved to recount tales of their previous cruises. Of course, everybody had their opinion on the 'best ship' or 'best cruise line', but amongst all the conversations I rarely heard a bad word spoken about Princess Cruises. You will have heard many organisations spouting the standard guff about customer service, customer is always right, nothing is too much trouble etc. Princess actually mean it. As an example of the calibre of personnel they employ, I recount the following tale:- On our first night aboard the Dawn Princess, we went to the Wheelhouse Bar for a pre-theatre drink. ONE DRINK. On the second night we returned to the same bar. The barman greeted me by name, my wife by her name and he remembered our drinks. All from a sixty second encounter the night before. Now that is impressive! This level of service is standard fare amongst the crew onboard. I believe the passenger to crew ratio is about 2:1, so there is always someone around to help, but at the same time they are discreet so you don't feel overwhelmed. The ships carry over 2000 passengers, yet never feel crowded and you can always find a quiet corner if thats what you want. In the evenings, there are cabaret shows which can be tacky, but just go with the flow and you'll have fun. You can always retreat to the numerous bars, disco or casino. The restaurants and food are an adventure in themselves. You can choose between the formal dining experience of the main dining rooms, the less formal 24hr Horizon Court with great views, or any of the severa l other informal offerings on board - Mexican, Italian, Pizzeria..... Be prepared to gain a few pounds around the waistline cos extravagance is the name of the game here. When booking, you will be asked to select a dining table size - from 2 to 8 people. If you want romantic then pick 2, otherwise go for 6 or 8. Avoid 4, because if you don't like the other couple it could get a little awkward. For me, the real beauty of cruising is that you get a taste of a number of different places in the world without the need to pack and unpack every day. Some of the organised tours can be a bit pricey and they may not cover the things you want to see. So do your own research on the destinations you will be visiting, and make your own plans. This way you will get the most out of each port, and probably save some £££ into the bargain. Talking of £££, Princess Cruises are not cheap, but they are good value. One thing to be careful of....they operate a cashless system on board. Basically, they give you a charge card which you use to order drinks, make purchases in the onboard shops, buy tours etc. Just don't forget you have to settle the bill before you disembark. When selecting which room category to book, don't get over-obsessed with balconies etc. If you can afford it, they are a nice touch, but in reality, you will spend little time in the room and you can save hundreds of £££ by choosing a lower room grade. Also, if you plan your cruise to coincide with an Anniversary or Birthday you can get a free room upgrade. Finally, lets dispel a popular myth - the notion that cruises are for 'old' people. On both my cruises I encountered a good cross-section of age range. Yes the balance may have been tipped towards the older generation, but that need not have any impact on your enjoyment of the excellent facilities on board. Heck, the bingo sessions were a good laugh anyway!! If you are looking for a holiday of a lifetime, don't settle for one of those second rate cruises with the popular tour operators, save up a bit longer and go with Princess. You won't be disappointed. ADDED APRIL 2002: Recently returned from Ocean Princess - Eastern Caribbean. (For those that prefer to sail British - Ocean Princess will be transferring to P&O in November and will be renamed Oceana.) As usual the experience was superb. Princess have now introduced Personal Choice Dining. This differs from the fixed dining arrangements that existed previously. Now you can eat when you want, where you want. It really introduces extra flexibility into the holiday and means you never have to rush for dinner. Well Done Princess!!
Following the popularity of my Celebrity Cruises opinion, I though it was time to follow that on and give everyone a taste of the Oriana. While reading this, just imagine yourself walking aboard, the beautiful sunshine, plam trees, sunsets - sorry if I'm making you all jealous. Anyway here goes; Oriana was built in Germany, and entered service in 1995. Costing £200M it wasn't cheap either! Oriana is a brilliant ship, only to be beaten in quality, service and food by Galaxy, Zenith and QE2. Cabins aboard Oriana are quite good, and come in a variety of categories, some able to accomodate 4 people. There are quite a few cabins for single people as well. Other cabins include a trouser press, iron, and ironing board, binoculars, umbrella and an atlas.The decor in the cabins is a warm cherry wood which makes them very inviting. The bathrooms are a bit of a let down though. There is no marble sink, and the sides to the whirlpool bath are quite high.Electrical current in cabins in 110 or 220 AC. Overall, the rooms are the biggest let down in this ship, but do not let that put you off in anyway. Depending on which cabin grade you choose, you are allocated to a certain dining room. Peninsular or Oriental are both very nice and have tables for 2,4,6 and 8, and the chandeliers in both are amazing. There is also a 24hour self service beverage stand, which also offers breakfast and lunch. For anyone worried about sea-sickness while on Oriana, this is usually a thing of the past now-a-days. Oriana is so big it is just like a floating city at sea, and it also has the largest stabilizers of any ship covering an area of 231 sq ft. There is a large amount of outdoor deck space, and wide passageways ensure good passenger flow throughout the ship. With a passenger:space ratio of 35, it is the largest ratio of virtually any ship. 3 outside pools are great for cooling off in, and if that wasn't enough, there are 5 whirlpools to go with it. Keeping fit is easy with a gymnasium, which is very clean and well kept. Relaxing afterward is always important, and is easy done with a sauna, steamroom and massage parlour. There is a 4 deck high atrium with waterfall topped by a dome of Tiffany glass, which is very elegant. The Theatre Royal is superb on Oriana decorated in rich reds with individual air conditioned seats. Anderson's Lounge is also very popular at night, although this has no fireplace. To top it off, the library is very well stocked with books and the chairs are so comfortable you could sit there all night. The artwork on Oriana is also excellent some by all British artists. One of the other things people tend to notice is the quality of the carpets. They are 100% wool! Whilst on Oriana, the biggest cost you will notice is tips. They recommend a charge of £3 per person per day. Movement around the ship is also pretty good, due to 10 elevators that are very nice too. As with all large ships, expect a few delays at excursions. Overall though Oriana is a top ship that very few ships come close to beating.
Warning: this will be a fully-fledged teaser. If by the end of this op you're not gagging for a cruise, then you're either made of stone, or you've got some pleasure-avoiding gene inside your body doing the rounds. As I won't be having a break from work till next month, I thought of revving up those wishful cells by a spot of time travel - back to a couple of years ago when I took a holiday on the Grand Princess - at the time billed as the largest cruise ship in the world. As everyone else, of course, I'd seen Love Boat and dreamed of travelling on such a ship. Cruising - the ultimate vacation isn't it, in all our dreams? Images of over-abundant food, glitzy shows, seas, pools, sunbathing, all-included. Oh yes. We've all been there with the TV series! So you can imagine when the opportunity came along to actually go on a cruise myself... whoaa, I was over-excited about it for six months before it was due. Having worked myself up thus, I was sort of bracing myself for the inevitable disappointment - well, not disappointment perhaps (it still would be a cruise!), but a sense of anti-climax. Usually whenever I've stacked up my expectations too high, the actual product does not live up to them, and I'm headed for a mighty bang (or at least a soft thump...) Okay, enough prancing around, let's get to the point: NO, it was no disappointment. It was all that I'd dreamt of, and then some. Seas, food, luxury, partying, and of course sightseeing. We had it all. I'm not ashamed to say those were an unforgettable twelve days of luxury. It's that kind of thing where you imagine yourself being filmed for a James Bond party scene - it's all too great to be true. You know it won't last, but you're too busy gaping mouth wide-opened at the surroundings to worry about that. The ship was massive. I'd read many comments on the internet about these mega-liners being very impers onal and mass-market, but then again I've since concluded that the reviewers who wrote those comments were either jaded travellers who would have found fault in Buckingham Palace, or travel-snobs for whom anything that can be accessed by the "masses" has to be low-quality. Take my word for it, there was nothing impersonal or "mass" about the whole experience. Notwithstanding there being well over 2,000 passengers, I can assure you that it felt like being on a ship with 600 people - the public areas are designed intelligently so as to divide what would otherwise be massive spaces into small, relatively intimate compartments. Thus the foyer, for example, which was a gigantic three-storey mirrored affair (I'd have to admit that understatement wasn't Princess' theme for this cruiseship - and yes, there is an element of kitsch about the very idea of cruising), curved and turned around a mega-staircase, thus creating many smaller areas with 7-8 sofas maximum in each. This made for automatic grouping of people - in each area you chose to sit (and I just loved plonking myself on one of those armchairs with a book for a few minutes after returning from a day on land!) you felt like being in a cozy alcove. The same goes for the restaurants. Instead of one assembly-line hall, there were something like 9 or 10 smaller restaurants, each with a different theme - in itself a great feature as it made us feel like being on land and trying out a new restaurant each night. But now I've mentioned food, I have to say something more about it. After all, deep down, the eating experience is one of the most eagerly awaited moments on a cruise (whether we admit it or not!). The idea of unlimited food, when and where we liked it, was too appealing. I must confess to pigging out mercilessly (with the occasional conscience-appeasing trip to the gym), eating like there would be no tomorrow. Well, unfortunately there were tomorr ows - and these led to yet more food. And more food... We got to choose from the poshier restaurant - where dinner was a formal affair with jacket and tie and maitre d' - to an Italian trattoria, a Mexican eating place, an open-air barbeque, a 24-hour buffet, or a patisserie. ... Yes of course I tried them all! ... No, not all in one evening...! Life on board, as they say in the cheesier TV movies, is a breeze. You decide how much activity you want to do. There's the usual structured activities, which I avoided like the plague - you know the ones I'm talking about, tombola, cha-cha and samba lessons, yikes.... None of that for me, thank you very much. I'd rather pass and have myself a lie down by the ocean. [hehe, come on, admit it, you hate it when I show off like this ... actually I'll hate myself soon if I don't stop it, so STOP. Ok there you are, I'll behave better now, I promise.] But there's enough things to do for aeons, so don't worry about not finding anything interesting to do. For starters, if all the above left you indifferent, there's what a cruise is ostensibly about: the destinations. We were on a Mediterranean cruise, starting from Istanbul in Turkey and ending in Barcellona, Spain. Now the standard complaint I've heard is that when cruising you don't get to see enough of a place - let's face it, one day doesn't even begin to give an idea of what Barcellona or Venice is all about. Yes I know, that's true, but for me the cruise was a journey in itself, with the destinations an added bonus. So although I spent only a day in Barcellona, it served as a tiny sampler of what this incredible city has to offer, and I bookmarked it for an eventual repeat visit. Think of it as a 12-day break on a mega-yacht, with all fathomable luxuries at hand, with the added plus of not being berthed in just one place but waking up every morning with a different spectacular background. O ne day it was Istanbul, the next Ephesus with a walk around those unmissable ruins, then the great favourite - Venice - (two days there, actually) which for me was a repeat visit. There were a couple of days at sea thrown in here and there - which was just as well since it served to idle by the pool or in the library or at the gym without feeling guilty about not doing the sights. Then it was Naples (an unexpected discovery, although with it being ferragosto and all that, everything was closed down), and on to Livorno. Incidentally Livorno was were I discovered Chris' official "most beautiful place on earth": San Gimignano e dintorni. Tuscany is incredibly romantic and beautiful. The only disappointment in the whole itinerary was Monte Carlo - billed as the home of the jetset, it felt like a tacky imitation of what Hollywood made us believe. Give me Barcellona or Volterra any day...... If anyone reading this is considering a cruise, I heartily recommend Princess cruises - I consider myself a moderately well-travelled person (of course I can't compete with some of the more exotic globe-trotters here at dooyoo, but still....), and yet Princess Cruises exceeded my expectations for this cruise. I did not in any way feel part of a "package tour", and contrary to the received wisdom about commercial cruises, the staff on board were not only not surly but embarrassingly helpful, acceding to your every whim. ... Please somebody read this op and send me on a fact-finding exploration of all the cruise ships in the world (a la leahslad, only I doubt my local pharmacist would subsidise the trips...) :)