Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 18
Summary: Princess is one of the most consistently excellent cruise lines in the upper mainstream to premium group. All the diversity of larger ships but personalized service.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Seniors. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Families. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Value for Money. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
66 year old and knee replacement in Feb . Each time i came on board I was searched because my knee set off alarm. Cabin number was recorded and I was ok with that. when leaving ship for home I was detained with no explanation when card scanned. i was told stand here with all watching and wonder who is this problem It was embarrassing and I had to wait while 2 men in brown suits escorted my wife and I off ship. When asked for reason no one said anything, When off ship they left. Vietnam veteran with only issue knee replacement was treated like terrorist
HUMILIATED EMBARRASSED AND PI$$ED. I WANT EXPLANATION BUT WOULD BET THEY DO NOT CARE THEY ALREADY HAVE MY MONEY IS IT NOT FUNNY HOW CUSTOMER SERVICE CHANGES FROM WHEN THEY ARE SELLING PRODUCT AND AFTER THEY HAVE FINISHED WITH YOU
We just returned from a week aboard the Caribbean Princess and must say we had a very good trip. This is our third cruise aboard this vessel and for being almost ten years old, it is in real good shape. There was some rust and wear and tear here and there,but that is to be expected. They will be relocating after this week's cruise to Europe. We saw a carpet installation company aboard replacing all of the outdoor carpet. But I give them credit since they only worked in a small area at a time.
We never had a problem with finding a deck chair. Except around the pools which happens on every cruise. Of course we saw towels on almost every chair by 6:00 am and nobody around until hours later. It would be nice if Princess enforced their no saving chair policy.
This is the first cruise in years where we had to turn the a/c down in our stateroom to keep from freezing to death,it worked great. We had cabin R524, close to all.
Princess Cay was nice, but do they really need to charge for everything! $5.00 torent a noodle float that probably cost Princess less than a dollar. We enjoyed Curacao, but it was very overpriced in all the stores and even outdoor vendors. Plus getting in so late made it hard to really enjoy the island. Aruba was great and we went into the downtown area and had a very nice day, away from the cruise crowd.
We tried the anytime dining room 1 time during the week and then just ate in the buffet the rest. We have a hard time sitting there for a hour and a half to have dinner, seemed like it took 10-15 minutes to get anything. The buffet food was better than average and the desserts were very good, compared to our last cruise aboard Carnival where everything was tasteless and plain. Their 24hr pizza was really good and the special order room service pizza was fantastic. I believe it had a $3.00 extra charge and then the tip, but well worth it for an entire pizza to enjoy on your balcony.
I hate to say it but the shows put on by the ships dancers and singers were very poor, only cruise where the theater was only half full and people left during the show. The special one time shows featuring the comedian and the magic/illusions was standing room only and well worth the wait.
Our only real complaint would be with the spa. My husband and I always pay for the thermal package and use it several times a day. During the week the mild steam room only worked 2 days and the aromatherapy room was so overpowering that it was hard to stay in there more than a minute or two. Then the steam rooms in the mens/ women locker rooms never really got hot like they should have.
Getting off the ship at the end of the week could not have been easier. We always travel light with just 2 small rollon cases and we got off and thru customs in about 10 min. A word of advice to everyone paying for the bus transfer to the airport, its only 5 miles away and much cheaper and faster to take a taxi. We always go that way and never have a problem with finding another couple to share the taxi and cost. So in closing I'll say it was well worth it and will be trying the new Royal Princess in July, can't wait!. But before that we will be aboard the Allure of the Seas in three weeks and will report on that cruise when we get back. Happy cruising to all out there!!!!!!
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Eileen Flynn Bermuda October 27, 2012
My husband and I are east coast residents and we believed the weather reports issued from October 24 to October 27 and so did not board the Caribbean Princess in Red Hook, Brooklyn on 10/27 for a 4-day cruise. We are senior citizens who laid out $3,400 to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary in style. We also consider ourselves reasonable people whose reluctance to embark upon a dangerous voyage would be respected by Princess Cruise lines. Our expectation was that Princess would refund our fare, and, failing that, would at least credit us with a future cruise. We learned to our dismay that Princess Cruises holds to the fine print on its contracts and, even in the face of an approaching super storm that was 1,000 miles wide and held the lowest barometric reading ever recorded, does not give an inch.
My attempt to reason with Customer Service prior to the cruise was futile. A few calls from our travel agent to the cruise line yielded nothing. Dispute resolution through the credit card company was fruitless. The bottom line from Princess: CM(Card Member) needs to learn a lesson; purchase travel insurance next time. Enlisting Carnival Cruise executives to assist was useless. (Carnival is the parent company.) The lesson here is not to buy travel insurance; it is not to travel on a ship owned by Carnival.
Instead of the celebratory bottle of champagne we were promised on our way to Bermuda, we have been left with a bitter taste. Do we regret that we did not board the boat to get our money's worth? Not in the least. Our car would have been ruined. The pier flooded with several feet of water. The ship limped into Boston on Sunday night, after cruising in gale force winds. There were no shore excursions in Boston because the city was under a state of emergency. The waters were so rough in the port that the ship came close to coming off its berth. Scheduled arrival in NYC on 1/31 did not happen because stormy seas coupled with closed ports kept the ship in Boston. When the ship finally arrived in NYC on Friday evening passengers had to disembark in the dark. This would have literally been a nightmare scenario for my husband and me given vision deficiencies and night blindness.
Had Princess administration heeded the warnings of meteorologists and municipal authorities, as my husband and I did, they would not have known in advance the specific horrors that befell cruise passengers, but they would have known that they were taking a huge risk with peoples' safety and that terrible things were definitely in store for Voyage B237..
What we regret is that a company as large and powerful as Carnival Cruise lines, which owns Princess, and that the subsidiary Princess Cruise can be so callous and unyielding. In its advisories on the ill-fated voyage the word "unprecedented" was used; this usage is appropriate given the fact that Hurricane Sandy was the most devastating storm to ever hit the northeast. Unprecedented situations call for consideration to passengers like us; we are active older people who are not thrill seekers. We heed warnings and come inside in thunder storms; we evacuate when municipal authorities tell us to leave in advance of hurricanes. We are the market to whom the cruise lines direct their advertising dollars. Is the bad publicity that they generate from the way they treat people like us worth it? No way!
14 day RT Hawaii from LA to LA. I can only sight one fault with this ship and that is with the food both in the DR and Lido. Most dishes were tasteless and the beef was of a poor quality. First night's prime rib looked as if it had been washed, no flavor and tough. My fellow table mates said the same thing. My husband and I had the pot roast one night and it was nothing but fat and grizzle covered in gravy.
We had an inside cabin which had enough storage space, but the pillows were as flat as pancakes and I had to ask for an egg crate mattress cover as the beds are too firm.
The service in all departments on this ship was excellent. The Staff was very friendly and always willing to help you. Also the ship itself was very clean and smoking limited to certain areas.
The entertainment was very good,especially the 2 lectures who were outstanding. We spent most of our time at the Lotus Spa pool which is in a very quiet area. The Promenade which seems to be narrower than otherships had only benches to sit on, missed the deck chairs.
There were many excursions in the Ports of call in Hawaii to select from. In Hilo we did the volcano crater and the lava tube, not to be missed and in Honolulu we did Pearl Harbor and the Arizon Memorial. A very moving experience. We just walked around Kona and Maui as we had been there before.
We loved all the sea days despite the wind and the few showers.
The ship had been revamped and so was very clean and presentable. Be prepared for a lot of oldies, we are in our 60's, but the ship and the food and entertainment were very good, could not fault service or the staff. Book your own tours if possible and do lots of research before going for each port, the shuttles will take you into town most stops in not direct from ship and then the information centres give you great help. We only had a few places we had not been to before but still you manage to fill the day and explore more things. Would not do this again but will sail with Princess again.
This was my first with princess (was on island princess) but about the 10th time sailing. Had a mini suite.Suite was nice but the optional bath robes were all for small builds. Food was not what it was described as. For example chicken Marsala had no Marsala taste, lemon sorbet....was sugar and ice (no lemon)...The $20 more restaurant sabitini's had only 1 pasta dish.....which was part of the 5 course meal.....service was poor, except for the head waiter. $20 Bayou restaurant was better with lots of good choices and good service.
Gym had lots of equipment, to relax near the pool in the back of the ship costed extra.
TV in the room was mostly ....no signal or poor signal on all the real channels. The rest were old tv shows and princess commercials. Live entertainment shows were pretty good.
Nightly meetings of LGBT folks. Lots of dance lessons. Ship layout gave no area where that was closed off, quiet and air conditioned.....except for smoking area.
Many passengers got on for a song and had never been on a cruise.Huge number of mobility challenged with scooters and wheel chairs.
Ports included dangerous......Colon and Colombia...Costa Rica wasnice and safe.
Not what I would do again but anything is better than Costa Cruise lines and Celebrity.
Ruined 40th birthday.
We are new to the cruising world and are seasoned travelers, but thought it would be fun to try a cruise for an upcoming 40th birthday celebration. Little did we know that when you see a time listed for arrival, that it doesn't mean you can actually get off the boat. Don't get me wrong, I understand that it could mean plus or minus a few hours, but 6 hours! Princess cruises know that you cannot leave the boat until 7 am, but they purposely tell you that arrival is 1 am. Isn't that wrong or did I just assume something that I shouldn't have. Being the seasoned traveler, I based this assumption on the simple fact that if an airline, bus or car service tell you that you will arrive at a certain (give or take, weather permitted of course) time at your destination you can get off. This is like an airline telling you that your arrival time is 10 pm, but you can't actually get off the plane until 7 am.
How can some plan any "private" tours or their own sight seeing around aschedule if they keep the real times to themselves. Seems to me that it really is about forcing you to pay the higher fees to take one of their excursions.
On 12-19 September I took my first Princess cruise after sailing almost exclusively with Carnival and Holland America. Carnival's sense of fun was the attribute I most admired about the “Fun Ships” and Holland America always seemed to possess a sense of class.
Based on my Island Princess cruise I must say that Princess seems to combine the best of both worlds.
The entertainment was fast paced and plentiful, while at the same time always with a sense of good taste. For example, the comedians could be funny without using profanity. We had 3 high energy production show,... "Do you want to Dance", "On the Bayou", and "Motortown". There were trivia games every day and the disco rocked in the evening with the very fine band Sol Provider.
My dinner was at 1730 in the Provence Dining room where the service was excellent. The food too met or exceeded my expectations with salmon, pasta, lobster, surf & turf, and other cruise ship staples. Of course for desert what Alaska cruise would be complete without baked Alaska?
I had stateroom B537 and inside on the Baja deck. Besides always getting lost, I was most pleasedwith both the room and my cabin attendant. This room being mid-ship was remarkably stable at all times. No sea-sickness for me! Not that I get sea-sick, but I have felt the ocean on previous ships where I was in the bow or stern.
This was a Northbound Vancouver to Whittier voyage.
Vancouver: This is an absolutely beautiful city so I highly recommend coming in early as to enjoy what the place has to offer. Princess's contract hotel ~Four Seasons~ is magnificently located in downtown just a few blocks from Canada Place ship terminal.
Since I had the package, my bags were picked up at the hotel and my ship card was issued in the lobby. The picturesque Gastown is an easy walk from both Four Seasons hotel and Canada Place. Please don't use Vancouver simply as an embarkation... it is a destination in of itself.
Ketchikan: Besides a walk over to Creek Street, I took the scenic boat to Misty Fjords National Monument. That is a beautiful place and well worth the cost of a shore excursion to get to.
Juneau: They call the rainforest a rain forest for good reason, as I found out with the “guide's choice” hike around Mendenhall glacier. Yes, I got wet... but all part of the fun.
Skagway: like most everyone else I took the White Pass train which is perhaps my favorite shore excursion out of 14 cruises. Fantastic!! My tour also included a motor coach trip to Carcross Yukon, of which I can enthusiastically endorse doing.
Whittier: Not much there, but do spend some time in Anchorage which is a lovely city. So... two thumbs up to Alaska, Vancouver, and to Princess !!
Our family recently completed a 16 day Transatlantic cruise on the Emerald Princess.
Ship - The Emerald is a beautiful ship, multiple restaurants, bars and lounges. We had a balcony stateroom (usually have a mini-suite but they were almost double the price of a balcony stateroom on this cruise) which was a little cramped for three persons. The third bed dropped from the ceiling so it was not in the way except if one had to use the restroom during the evening. We especially enjoyed the Adagio lounge on the 16th floor at the back of the ship. This was probably the most geriatric crowd we have ever encountered - I would estimate the average age to be in the 75 year range. Many "typical" New Yorkers aboard, and if you don't mind hearing how great they are, or being told by some how to do things you will survive just fine.
Ports - The itinerary was a great one - left from Copenhagen and visited Oslo, Glasgow, Dublin, Belfast, Iceland, Greenland (missed due to weather), St. John's NF and St. John NB. Iceland far exceeded any of our expectations - suggestthe "Golden Circle" excursion. Skip the Blue Lagoon as it is over rated. We also did an excellent excursion to Culzean Castle in Scotland - much better than Edinburgh in our opinion. We had eight sea days which, unless you keep occupied can get a little boring.
Entertainment - We thoroughly enjoyed the singers and comedians they brought on board. The ship's Broadway shows were also quite good. The biggest disappointment was the lounge performers. There was a piano/singer in the Crooners Bar that was absolutely terrible - he had no idea of how bad he was, but he sure was loud and off-key. There was a European band called Cactus Jack that played primarily in the Explorer's Lounge. If you like american music with a distinct European accent they are your cup of tea. Also was a duo named Allan & La Donna - to be avoided at all costs!
Staff - Overall the cruise staff were OK, but many did not seem to enjoy being there. We found the wait staff at Da Vinci to be very personable. Cabin stewards were disinterested. The Captain was one of the most friendly we have encountered. The Cruise Director Lee Childers is exemplary - outgoing and extremely helpful. On of the CD staff (Karen from the UK) ran a lot of the games, including trivia. She was the consummate drama queen, even breaking into tears when a passenger criticized her.
Food - On the whole the food was pretty typical for Princess. The Da Vinci anytime dining restaurant started out poorly but continuously improved through the cruise. I would rate their food a consistent 7 out of 10. The Horizon Court food on the other hand is poor (very). Two or three times a day you have to avoid the "Charge of the Overweight Brigade" to get to the buffet. Anyone whom wishes to see why our country is in such poor physical shape only has to take a cruise. Watching 200+ pounders carting around two or three heaping plates of food will send you to the gym in a heartbeat. I would be hesitant to rate the Horizon's food? above a 3 out of 10.
Summary - To me there are no bad cruises, only a few bad moments. We always enjoy Princess or Celebrity cruises and this one met our overall expectations.
This was our 6th cruise, the 4th on Princess, our first time cruising in the British Isles and our first time on a small ship (just 680 passengers). We traveled with our adult daughter in a balcony cabin on deck 7, mid-ship. We have only sailed the eastern/western Caribbean and Bermuda, and were looking forward with excited anticipation to a British Isles cruise. We flew into Heathrow and stayed in Canterbury for one night pre-cruise.
Flight, Transfer & Precruise
We took a direct overnight flight from Boston to London Heathrow's on Virgin Atlantic and arrived in Terminal 3 the following morning ahead of schedule by about 20 minutes. Anticipating a long queue at Immigration, imagine our surprise when the room was nearly empty, and the wait was mercifully short and quick - a mere 15 minutes! So much for all the stories about 3-hour lines and delays at the airport during the Olympics.
Weather on Arrival: The woman who checked us through immigration said it has been the worst summer for weather in London and around the UK - rainy and cool. We were very lucky, as our first day in the UKwas mild - around 70, with just a few showers and a lot of sun - what a blessing!
Transport from Heathrow to Canterbury (pre-cruise stay): We hired British Airport Cars, and I highly recommend them. I had reserved this company a few months ahead, and communication was great. I specified a 9:30 am pickup time, which would give us 2 hours to get through all the airport formalities. Since we were through immigration so fast, I called the driver who, as it turns out, was not very far away. He was happy to come ahead of schedule and scoop us up straight away for our visit to Leeds Castle and then to Canterbury for our pre-cruise stay. Our driver, Gary, was personable, professional and accommodating.
Leeds Castle: As we had plenty of time to reach Canterbury, we asked our driver to make a stop at Leeds Castle. We arrived early at the castle at opening time, so we enjoyed a leisurely walk through the beautiful grounds leading up to the castle entrance. By the time we got there, the crowds started to swell with lots of groups consisting of mostly young people. The castle itself is beautiful, though not as grand and formidable as Sterling Castle and Edinburgh Castle visited later in the cruise. We queued up for a self-tour, but feel the narrated tour, available for an additional fee, would have been more informative.
Canterbury & The Agnes Inn: A few weeks before the cruise, on the advice of my dear and wise husband, we switched our one-night precruise stay from Dover to Canterbury. We couldn't have been happier! This Dickens-like town is charming, with so much history, and we really felt like we got a better experience here than if we had stayed in Dover. The House of Agnes is a cozy and quaint B&B within walking distance of the old town and Canterbury Cathedral. Natasha and the rest of the staff were very friendly and accommodating. We chose to stay in the updated renovated stable rooms facing the beautiful gardened grounds and gazebo in the rear of the main house. The room was very small. However, a comfy bed, tea & cookies, and attractive decor made for a restful night. The heated bathroom floor was a real bonus! The main house is full of history and character, with sitting areas, an honesty bar, and comfortable breakfast room. We only wished we could have stayed longer at the inn as well as spent more time in Canterbury.
Embarkation & Cruise: Day 1
Canterbury Cathedral: Before leaving the lovely House of Agnes, we took a walk through the old town of Canterbury to Canterbury Cathedral. If you only have a short time in this beautiful town, this magnificent historical cathedral is truly breathtaking and is a must-see. Once again, the weather gods were good to us, as the day started out with a fine misty rain falling but the sun appeared in time for our walk to the cathedral.
Transport from Canterbury to the ship in Dover: We reserved a taxi through Canterbury Taxi for our ride to the ship. Our driver, Ray, arrived on time (even a bit early) and was personable and helpful, even pointing out several sights along the way. The charge was a reasonable £35 to take the five of us and all our stuff to the ship in a minivan.
Embarkation & First impressions: We arrived at approximately 1:00 pm to check in. We have always found the Check-In process on all of the Princess ships we have sailed to be fast and efficient, and even easier on the Ocean Princess, due to the smaller number of people. Our luggage was quickly whisked away, and we were warmly welcomed into the cruise terminal with smiling, happy faces. No lines, friendly staff, and all very fast and efficient, yet leisurely. There were crew members on board to show you the way to your cabin - not that you need help - the ship's not that big.
Our Cabin - Deck 7, #7061 Balcony (triple): The cabin was roomy enough, with plenty of storage space. However, the sleeper sofa, when open, blocks the way to the balcony and the desk drawers. The end of the bed can be folded back - but not so easy if there is someone sleeping in it. So I found myself crawling over my daughter to get to the balcony whenever something interesting caught my eye off the starboard side - which I am sure she didn't appreciate much. Our bed was perfectly comfortable, but our daughter said the pull-out bed was not. The bathroom seemed a tad roomier than the other ships we've been on and had plenty of storage. The balcony was large enough with a small round table and two reclining-back chairs. Honestly, though, there were several days when it was just too windy, cold or drizzly - or we were just too busy - to spend much time out there. Our cabin steward did a great job refreshing the cabin daily and always greeted us with a warm smile.
The ship's interior design contains a lot of wood paneling, mirrors, art and floral designs, giving the feeling of a traditional cruise ship of the past - a classy look, and I loved it! No room portrayed this better than the ship's library. Wood paneled walls, fireplace and a ceiling mural gave this room a warm, intimate look - a great, quiet place to curl up with a book or just sit and relax. The central staircase on decks 4 and 5 is beautiful and, as others have commented, reminiscent of the staircase scenes with Jack and Rose on the Titanic, except on a smaller and less grand scale.
The passenger demographic was much more mature (i.e. older) and well-traveled than the cruises we've taken in the Caribbean on the big ships, though a few kids were spotted around the ship, as well as a number of younger couples. There was no concern over "chair hogs" on this tiny ship in this cooler climate. Due to rain, drizzle and chill, the activity took place inside. Rarely did we see anyone spending time out on deck, although I did spot a brave person in the pool on one warmer afternoon, and the hot tubs seemed to be used often. Those who did chose to sit outside were bundled in sweaters, including myself!
One nice thing about the small size of the ship was that everything we needed was either a deck or two above or below our cabin and never more than a couple of flights of stairs away. Due to British maritime law, the casino is closed throughout most of the cruise, but otherwise, the activities on sea days are similar to those on the large ships, but not as varied and on a much smaller scale. Some of these included line dancing, trivia, Wii games, ice sculpture viewing, and the art auction. There are in-cabin movies and occasional first-run movies shown in the Casino lounge. Afternoon tea, of course, is available every afternoon, and the Lotus Spa and fitness room provide classes, treatments and workout options.
Day 2: Guernsey (Formal Night)
I had read many tales of missed calls to this port. I am happy to report that the day was mild and sunny, and the ship made it to port, as scheduled. However, wind and high winds prevailed, making the tender ride a bit choppy. We watched the tendering process from our balcony and noticed that the tender and ship had trouble connecting in order to board the passengers. The captain had to reposition the ship throughout the day in order to assist the process to make it easier and safer for boarding, so it all worked out.
Castle Cornet: Since we had to be back on board by 2:30, it was a short day for us in Guernsey. We walked to Castle Cornet, a very easy and walkable mile. We paid for admission which included a guide who was very informative and filled us in on the history of Guernsey and the castle (which is a fort, really). As an added bonus, the views are truly spectacular, including a fabulous view of the ship! One notable event at the Castle is the firing of the Noon Day Gun, a tradition dating back to the early days of the 19th century. We watched from the roped area surrounding the gun, but a visit timed to be at the level just below the gun at noon may make for a better view.
Added note about Guernsey: Later on that evening, we learned that the captain had nearly made the decision to cancel the Guernsey port stop due to high seas. Which makes me wonder - what happens when they tender people over to the island but then can't tender them back because the waves are too high ....?
Motion on the Ocean! Just as we had earlier in the day, we faced rough seas Friday night once we left Guernsey on our way to Waterford. So rough, in fact, that the Ocean Princess Singers & Dancers production was canceled, replaced by comic, Tom Brisco. There were a lot of seasick passengers that evening, as well as many empty seats in the dining room and show lounges. Those souls brave enough donned their formal attire, stumbled around the ship, attended the captain's welcome party, and dined to the rocking and rolling of the ship. The formal photo shoot was particularly challenging for both the photographer and the subjects. Another consequence of the turbulent waters is that the ship had to reduce speed, which could have affected the arrival time in Waterford the next morning. As it turned out, we made it on schedule.
Tonight was our daughter's 25th birthday. OK, not really. It was actually last January, but we never properly celebrated, so we thought this would be a good way to honor such a momentous occasion. Balloons, a happy birthday sign on the door, a card from the Captain, and a cake complete with singing waiters at dinner made it all special.
Day 3: Waterford, Ireland
When traveling to Waterford from the ship, cruise passengers are not permitted to walk out of the gated port of Belview. Fortunately, Princess does have a complimentary shuttle for the 20-minute ride into Waterford. We also saw four or five taxis waiting, but with the small number of passengers, it doesn't make sense to hire a taxi here, when Princess provides a free ride. There was never a wait, and it was an enjoyable ride.
Rural Ireland & Jerpoint Abbey Excursion: We did not want to leave Ireland without seeing some of the countryside and, therefore, pre-booked this 4-hour excursion. The day began overcast, but rain-free. Sitting on the balcony with my morning coffee and the Princess' version of an Egg McMuffin, I admired the beautiful Ireland countryside as we pulled into Waterford. By the time we headed off the ship for the tour, the rain had begun and continued on and off through most of the day. Our guide for the tour was Mary, a very personable and knowledgeable woman, whose charming Irish brogue reminded me of Mrs. Doubtfire. The bus took us on a ride through rolling hills and farmland filled with horses, cows and sheep. We were led through Jerpoint Abbey with a knowledgeable guide who took us through the old monastery ruins, pointing out interesting facts along the way. We then continued to the little village of Inistioge, along the River Nore, where we spent about 15 minutes photographing the scenery and the remaining 10 minutes in a small Irish pub enjoying a pint of Guinness with my husband's new-found Irish friend "Patty" and a few other locals. Perfect! We then made our way back to the ship for lunch before heading out, once again, this time to the shuttle for a ride into Waterford. We were very happy with the Jerpoint Abbey tour, though, as my husband mentioned, we would have liked to stop for a quick photo op of the beautiful countryside we drove through. After all, photos tend to be of better quality when the scenery is standing still, as opposed to speeding by.
Waterford: As mentioned, we took the ship's free shuttle into Waterford after lunch. We began by heading over to the City Square Shopping Center. It was Saturday, there was an outdoor festival going on in Waterford and the streets were mobbed. The shopping center was just a mall with chain stores mixed in with local shops. We didn't like it, so headed back to Reginald's Tower, the Greyfriars ruins and the House of Waterford Crystal, stopping on the way to pick up a few gifts. We prefer the historical aspects of touring and found these places more interesting and enjoyable than trying to maneuver a busy shopping center full of stores that we can find back home. Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland and I am sure has many fine qualities. However, after spending time in quaint Canterbury two days before, it was hard to become excited about Waterford's traffic, crowded streets and noise. It was my least favorite city on this itinerary.
Day 4: Dublin.
The weather in Dublin on the day we called was fairly wet - not a washout by any means, just enough to bring out the rain slickers and umbrellas. There may have been taxis available at the port, but we chose the ship's shuttle into Dublin, 16 dollars/pp round trip. It was convenient for us - the shuttles drop off and return to the same location, so they were easy to find and always available. Once dropped off, we needed to get our bearings and find the green Hop On, Hop Off bus which we reserved in advance. There happened to be one sitting nearby, and when we asked the driver how to find the location to obtain our tickets, he said it was about a mile away but made it easy for us by giving them to us right then and there. As he wasn't operating at that time, we walked to the nearest location and hopped on board the next bus. This was #5 on the route and we stayed on until the end, at which time we needed to change to a new bus. This next bus had a live narrator, where the first was the multilingual recording. If I were to do it again, I would be sure to be on the bus with the live narration. Other than that, the HoHo tour was a great way to get an overview of this lovely city as well as many photo ops. Note: The HoHo bus tour we booked was the green bus run by Dublin Bus Tours. They can easily be joined and paid for at any of their stops, and it is not necessary to book in advance. However, they do offer a 15% web discount. As our only missions in Dublin were the Book of Kells and a pint of Guinness, we got off at #3, queued up at Trinity College for the Book of Kells and then had a fine lunch on Grafton Street consisting of a very tasty Irish stew and a pint. We stopped at a few shops for Irish woolens on the way back to the shuttle and headed back to the ship. When comparing Dublin to Waterford the day before, Waterford seemed to be more of a typical working class city, whereas the city of Dublin had more of an Irish flavor and character, as well as better local gift shops.
With regard to the Book of Kells: We arrived here on a Sunday morning and, therefore, the city was pretty quiet. We arrived at the queue for the Book at 10:45 am, just in the nick of time, before several large groups lined up behind us. So if you plan on seeing this, make it your first stop of the day or save it for later. We waited about 30 minutes in line and then, once inside, it took some patience as people waited their turn to view the Book as well as other writings. Once in view, it was humbling to be in the presence of such ancient works.
Day 5: Glasgow/Greenock
We woke up to Greenock with the sound of bagpipers playing below our cabin on the pier and then, once off the ship, were treated to a dram of whisky (my husband got a double!) by a friendly Scottish welcoming party at the port. We were very impressed by the genuine hospitality all over the UK, but particularly here in Scotland.
Independent Tour with Gordon Ross - Luss, Loch Lomond & Sterling Castle: I had gathered a group of fellow Cruise Critics and booked a Highlands tour with Great Scot Tours for 15 people. Our guide, Gordon Ross, and his able driver, John, were waiting for us right on schedule and greeted us warmly as we boarded his mini-coach to set out on a full-day tour of the Highland. The village of Luss, our first stop, is a quaint, pretty little town on the banks of Loch Lomond. Gordon refers to it as "Brigadoon" and we wholeheartedly agree. One feels a sense of quiet serenity in this idyllic place, and the view of the distant hills across the lake is one of timeless beauty. It was all very magical!
Back on board, we arrived in the Highland, at which time Gordon stopped at an overlook and let us sample an assortment of whiskies - just a wee dram ... or two or three! This was not in the tour description - just a little extra something that this kind and thoughtful Scotsman adds to his tours. With his passengers now all warm and giddy, he took us on a scenic drive, pointing out many sites along the way including all the "white rocks" dotting the countryside. Except they weren't rocks - they were sheep! Thousands upon thousands. I believe there are more sheep in Scotland than there are people.
After sharing his vast knowledge and history of this beautiful country, Gordon brought us to the lovely town of Callender, where we could wander about and have lunch. While many in our tour chose a restaurant pointed out by Gordon, we chose a pub nearby for some fantastic fish & chips and black pudding.
We then continued on to the final destination of our tour - Sterling Castle. As we came closer, the castle appeared majestic and formidable to us at the top of a rocky hill and was a fearsome sight to behold. There are no words to describe it. A walk through the castle and along the grounds is like a step back in time to the days of Rob Roy, Sir William Wallace and Sir Robert the Bruce. While some in our group toured on their own, Gordon led a few of us through the castle and showed us some of his favorite rooms - the jail, the great hall, the queen's and king's bedchambers, the kitchen, tapestries, and so much more. The distant views from the castle are spectacular, and it was humbling to look down upon the fields where fierce battles were fought to secure Scotland's freedom. Our tour was now nearly at an end, and it was time to head back to the ship. Gordon Ross was an outstanding tour guide, as well as a kind, intelligent and well-traveled man. Did I mention that he travels the world with his Celtic band? He is retiring as a tour guide after this outing, but tours will still be available with other guides from His tour company. Thank you to our fellow tour mates: Violet, Tom, Sharon, Cindy, Jon, Nancy, Dennis, Kathy, Cheryl & Mike. I couldn't have found a nicer group of people!
Today was our 35th Anniversary. Just as with our daughter's birthday celebration earlier in the cruise, there were balloons, a happy birthday sign on the door, a card from the Captain, and a cake complete with singing waiters at dinner to make it all special.
Day 6: Sea Day
Today was the first day of this cruise without a raindrop, and partly sunny skies prevailed. As great as it is to be in port and see new cities and places for the first time, it is nice to have a day in between to sleep in a bit, with no place to be. As I write this on our first day at sea, I thank God for our balcony. With just a climb over my daughter slumbering in the pull-out bed blocking the balcony door, I could step out and admire the majestic rocky cliffs off the coast of Scotland. We headed north and rounded the northern parts of Scotland today on our way to Edinburgh. I had no idea the coastline would be so magnificent, and I could sit on the balcony and stare at this beautiful scene all day.
With that said, however, I should point out that my husband and I have very different ideas about sea days. I like to lounge around in my jammies and order breakfast in the room. He likes to be up at the crack of dawn, get some exercise, and stop at the buffet for breakfast. I like to find a quiet place to read, write or just watch the world go by, maybe participate in an activity or two. He likes to be entertained non-stop, 24/7. We both love to lounge out on deck, swim in the pool, and walk around he promenade deck. Unfortunately, there is no promenade deck on the Ocean Princess, and it was too cold for serious sunning and swimming. My husband likes to try his luck in the casino, but that too was unavailable for most of the cruise. While I was perfectly content with the entertainment on this ship for this itinerary, he was not so impressed. Unlike me, he was restless and it was an effort for him to find things to do. I can see his point, and I think on a longer cruise with more sea days, it would all become old fast.
By the way, today was my husband's birthday. Balloons, a happy birthday sign on the door, a card ... well, you know the rest!
Day 7: Edinburgh
As we headed into the Port of Rosyth, the Captain came on over the loud speaker with an announcement that (1) a barge was blocking our way into port and (2) a cargo ship was parked in our spot, and he did not know if or when we would be able to dock. Well, you can imagine the rumbling which began to arise among the passengers. This was the highlight of the tour for some folks, especially those who spent big bucks on Edinburgh Tattoo tickets. Fortunately, the ship did manage to pull alongside the dock a short time later, and we were soon on our way into the city, so it all worked out.
Weather forecast: Today we were given a gift. After a mixed bag of sun, clouds, drizzle and rain, we were blessed with a warm, sunny day in Edinburgh. Blue skies prevailed, and the folks holding tickets for the Edinburgh Tattoo were very fortunate and had a beautiful night for it.
We did not choose an excursion for this port, but instead found 2 taxis for the 5 of us to take us to Edinburgh Castle at a flat rate of £35 each. There were taxis lined up at the port terminal building, and we could see them clearly from our balcony cabin. In order to get to the taxis, you might think - ok, it's just a short walk from the ship to the terminal along the perimeter of this cargo port. No, not a chance. Due to insurance reasons, presumably, we had to take a free shuttle from the gangway to the terminal, just a stone's throw away. Silly, really. Our taxis dropped us off just a short distance downhill from the castle on the Royal Mile. We had purchased the Explorer passes in advance of the cruise and simply walked in through the Fast Pass gate. Not a big deal with the small crowd when we arrived early in the morning, but a real timesaver if arriving later when the queues become large. We joined a guided tour through a portion of the castle and explored the rest on our own. The views over the city and distant hills and river are stunning.
Once we had our fill of the castle, we continued downhill along the Royal Mile toward the Palace of Holyrood House, stopping for lunch at a Scottish tavern, Deacon Brodie's Tavern. We were seated upstairs, which was fortunate because the downstairs was crowded and very warm & stuffy. There was a nice breeze and a roomy feel upstairs, and it was a great place to refuel with local favorites, like chicken pie, vegetable tort, bangers & mash, and we shared a plate of Haggis, which was actually quite tasty considering the contents of the dish and the manner in which it is prepared - minced meat and oatmeal cooked in sheep's bladder. Yikes! We had our fill, left the restaurant and found ourselves in a large crowd of festival goers outside. It was the week in which "the Fringe" was happening, and the streets were mobbed with performers, photo ops, including Sir William Wallace (my personal favorite), Yoda, and lots of people passing out ads of the fun things going on around town. We made our way down the Mile until we finally made it to the Palace. We didn't go in, but simply peeked through the gate and took photos of this stately retreat for the Queen. We turned around and started back up the hill, bought a few gifts, and when our legs couldn't take another step, grabbed a 5-person taxi parked at a hotel and went directly back to the ship. The cost was £35 - a very economical and convenient ride when split among the five of us. We loved the picturesque streets and beauty of Edinburgh, and the Castle was magnificent. Next time, though, I would take a HoHo bus tour around the city, similar to what we did in Dublin, in order to see more in a short amount of time.
The big highlight, of course, of this cruise was The Edinburgh Tattoo. Even though it is a must-see event recommended by many, we chose not to attend. At $199 per person for the ship excursion, it was more than we wanted to spend. Even though we could have easily saved a lot of money by purchasing tickets to the show on our own, stories of cold, torrential downpours during the performances were deal breakers for us, as well as the late night crowds and transportation issues if we were to go on our own. As it turns out, the night was clear and dry, though a little cold. Many people I talked to said it was a perfect night and all had a great time.
Day 8: At Sea
It was another much welcomed, relaxing day at sea - the second and last of the cruise. The warmer sunshine brought a few more people out on deck, and I saw at least one person in the pool. Re-packing took up most of the late afternoon hours.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We had breakfast in the buffet, vacated the cabin, and waited at the appropriate time and venue according to color code. In our case, we waited in the Cabaret Lounge for just a short time while Princess showed a video of the new Royal Caribbean features. We had already seen most of it, but the review was nice, as we are booked on Royal for next summer. Our color was called, we exited the ship, grabbed our luggage, and climbed directly aboard the Princess shuttle for the 2-hour drive to Heathrow. The process was all very well quick and well-organized.
Return Flight Home:
This was the first time we flew out of Heathrow. The process was pretty painless, except for not assigning the seats requested on line. I was surprised by the terminal - it's a shopping Mecca. I also didn't realize that we would have to wait over an hour before we could go to the gate, nor that one had better use the bathroom before you get to the secure gate area, which seems to be guarded like Ft. Knox, not like the small town airport I'm used to.
Dining, Entertainment & More:
Dining Room: This was our first time with fixed, late seating, and it worked out very well. With long days in port, we were able to nap or just rest before dinner. We found the dining room cuisine to be excellent. Just like all Princess menus, the menu is different each night, and if you don't see anything that appeals to you, there are the alternative always-available items (i.e.. Fettucini Alfredo, roast chicken, etc.). Our waiter was fabulous, attentive, friendly and professional. It always amazes me how hard the dining staff works, always especially evident on the final evening with the Baked Alaska Parade. If the service seems a little off, it is always this final night. It takes time and patience to individually serve and chocolate-glaze that Baked Alaska after being paraded around the room, and things can get a little muddled in the process, with some staff assigned to the parade, and the rest left to serve the tables alone. So please forgive your waiter on Baked Alaska night, when he seems a little frazzled or for the little omissions, like forgetting to bring coffee.
Buffet/Room Service: The buffet, on the other hand, at both lunch and breakfast was hit or miss, like every other cruise or land buffet I've experienced, but there was always something to like. In particular, there is an omelet station for made-to-order eggs if you don't care for the buffet scrambled eggs. Drinks, on a couple of occasions, were a little slow in coming in the buffet, and I found myself getting my own coffee or juice on occasion. Room service is available 24 hours, and we always started the morning with pastry and a pot of coffee.
Specialty Dining: Crown Grill and Sabatini's: We didn't bother with either this time around, so I can't comment.
Pizza/burgers: Princess still has the best pizza at sea. I was told by my family that the burgers by the pool were good.
Coffee: With coffee being a popular topic on the boards, I will simply comment that it was all good, but better when cream was added as opposed to milk. I am a Dunkin Donuts/Folgers gal, and I take my coffee with "extra cream". It was fine in the dining room with milk, but better in the morning when it came with cream to the cabin. Whatever it was - syrup or real ground coffee - it gave me the caffeine kick I needed. I used my old coffee card from 2010 for specialty coffees and hot chocolate in the Club Lounge.
Afternoon Tea: It was our sixth cruise, and we finally attended our first afternoon tea. I don't know why we never tried it before (could it have something to do with my husband not being fond of tea?). We enjoyed it and think it will now become tradition.
Entertainment: I liked the intimacy of the show lounge over the large crowded theaters of the big ships, there was never a problem finding a seat, thought the entertainment on board ranged from "just OK" to excellent, and all provided 45 minutes of solid entertainment. Following is a summary of some of the entertainment we caught:
Ocean Princess Singers & Dancers/Joe & Jennifer: Great vocals, choreography and stage presence. By far, the best shows on board. The alternate cast appeared later in the week with their premiere dance show - good, high energy dancers.
Comedian, Tom Brisco: Good, funny stand-up comic.
Piano man, Alan James: Young, talented guy with a nice voice. He takes requests, to the point of attempting a Lady Gaga song ("Bad Romance", of all things!) requested by a group of three young blondes who wandered into the bar. Let's just say it wasn't pretty. I give him credit for aiming to please his audience.
Comedian/Impressionist, Sean O'Shea: Highly energetic, entertaining and sometimes funny. In one of the more memorable moments of the show, I was one of several women picked to throw a piece of underwear at him during his rendition of "Delilah" as Tom Jones. Oooh La La!
Alex Crowe, Mentalist: He was the "Just Ok" element of the entertainment on board, and the skeptics among us had an inkling of how he was able to perform some of his mind reading acts.
Trivia: Tough questions on this cruise, mostly relating to history and geography.
Art Auction: The free champagne flowed on this voyage at the auction, several glasses, so I hear from my husband who attended and was feeling enough of a buzz to purchase a piece. I have yet to see it.
Line Dancing: Since it was too cold for the pool, we found ourselves taking part in cruise activities we never bother with. This was one of them, and it turned out to be fun - and we burned a few calories in the process!
Casino: Gaming lovers, take note: The ship's small casino remains closed throughout most of this cruise due to British maritime law.
Dress Code: Even on this classy little ship, a few pairs of jeans were spotted in the dining room at dinner. The staff didn't bat an eye, but some of the more seasoned cruisers may have turned up their their noses at this. Several tuxedos were seen in the dining room, but the majority of men wore suits or jackets, and the women were seen in an array of styles ranging from cocktail dresses to long gowns.
Weather: like most reports I read about weather in the UK, every day on this cruise was a mixed bag of sun, clouds, drizzle and a few periods of steady rain, but far from a total washout. The temps hovered at a high of low 60's through most of our time in Ireland and Scotland, except for our last port day in Edinburgh, when the sun appeared and warmed the day up nicely. As others have recommended, bring a rain jacket and umbrella, and be prepared for anything.
Dolphin Discovery: Early in the cruise I was sitting by the balcony door writing notes for this review, when I turned to gaze outside at the sea and spotted some gray fins pass by as they bobbed up and down in the waves. With no open sofa bed to climb over, I jumped up, grabbed my camera, and quickly made my way to he railing, and snapped a couple of photos. By that point, they were pretty far ahead of the ship, so I may have only a couple of dark specks on the ocean in my photos to show for it. It was still a great moment nevertheless!
This was a fantastic itinerary for an 8-day cruise, and we thoroughly enjoyed all the ports, except maybe for Waterford, which was our least favorite. I particularly thought the cooler climate was a nice change to the tropical waters of the Caribbean. The Ocean Princess is a very pretty ship, and the smaller size makes it easy to get to know the crew and fellow passengers. On more than one occasion, crew members addressed us by name, a pleasant personal touch not found on a ship of 3,000 passengers. Features of the bigger ships that we missed most on the Ocean Princess were a real promenade deck and the International Cafe. The most wished-for item missing from the dining room menu was French Onion Soup. For the most part, the pool deck was unusable and I wish there had been a covered pool like that of some ships cruising colder waters. We are happy that the cabins and balconies are now smoke-free, but disappointed that the prettiest lounge on the ship, the Tahitian Lounge, allows smoking on one side of the room, making the room reek of tobacco at any time of day.
Would we cruise Ocean Princess again? If it were me, absolutely! However, given that my husband still prefers the large ship experience and since he contributes the most money to the cruise piggy bank, I would have to give him a say. So the answer to whether or not we would cruise Ocean Princess again is probably more of a definite maybe!