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.
Official Barbados Tourist link; http://www.visitbarbados.org
Our 5th cruise is now completed (November 15 - 29, 2010) We completed all our packing, clothes, monies, electronic gadgets including sanity ready to see family in Barbados and then get on the wonderful 14 day cruise of the Islands around Barbados (Grand Caribbean Adventurer Round-trip Barbados). We live in Victoria , Vancouver Island , Canada so ahead of us were two main flights, Victoria to Toronto than Toronto to Barbados but we would have 10 days in Barbados to relax before boarding the Sea Princess.
We overnighted at the Airport Hotel in Toronto at Terminal 3. Beware of Airlines these days who change aircraft on you. Air Canada changed their aircraft from Boeing 763 / 767 to an Airbus 321 / 319.
We had booked Executive Class and were looking forward to those new 'Stretch and Lie Down seats. Well at least we still had more leg and seat pitch room plus were able to relax in the lounges. In all our years visiting family in Barbados I had not seen any of the Islands around Barbados.
The cruise itself...(14 days) Left on a Monday, November 15, 2010Bridgetown, Barbados with days being, Grenada, At Sea, Bonaire- Aruba , Curacao- Antilles, At Sea, Grand Turk- Caicos Islands (became an extra Sea Day) , At Sea, Tortola- B.v.i., St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Trinidad , Barbados. Arrived back on November 29, 2010
I did a couple of things prior to the trip. Bought Trip and Medical Insurance, ordered Rum and Coke and Ginger for the cabin, new summer clothes bought, as I discovered I had no short sleeves shirts and found four pairs of pants bought last year hidden away. My Bajan wife was right, you need more clothes in the tropics and wear shorts. In our case we travelled with an extra suitcase which came in handy for all the gifts we bought on the islands for grandchildren and dirty clothes. For dirty clothes we had a plastic bag that compresses air.
As we were walk-on passengers not Air/Cruise then we were driven to the terminal where you can get a porter to take your bags to the ship ($1 each bag minimal) as you have to walk through the actual terminal which is full of great shops, phones. A person is at a table to ensure you sign the health form questions, then checks your name off a list. In our case we confused them as the list was really only Air/Cruise passengers so I just said look we do have our tickets, where do we board.
You have to walk outside the terminal , across a road and into the shed near the ship. The shed is where most of the Brits on the Air/Cruise arrive by bus around mid afternoon, in our case we came about 2pm and were able to miss all the hordes arriving by bus that day. As we walked in the shed from the ship side then we had to navigate the ropes to control the mob, just us two to see about 15 check-in folks wondering who we were. In two minute we were checked in , CC verified, and then stopped by the photographer as were his first ones.
On to the ship, sea card into security unit and SMILE. Nobody takes you to your cabin but they do ask what deck and point to elevator. We were on Aloha (deck 10) A327 Balcony which at first we found small because we had been on Golden Princess a few years back which is a newer ship. Not to worry , once we had our bags and unpacked, lots of room for two adults and the balcony does help for privacy and quiet.
The service by our room steward was great in he respected our times in the room and we told him when we would be out, it also helps to place the card that says clean or leave us alone please in the lock. One day our toilet overflowed by not stopping when filling during the ships emergency practice day and our steward responded to my cry for help as he was out in the hall, five minutes later our safe would not open as I had accidentally pressed a reset button. The Pursers Office sent some one up to reset the combination. course leading zeros are not recommended. A few days later our shower control knob parts flew off onto the shower floor. I had a small set of tools and fixed it then called our steward to let him know.
The ship is about 2,200 passengers of which we had 1,915 Brits on board, 25 USA , 26 Canadians and a mix of others which means when the sun is out then you better get a lounge chair early as all the Brits will be SUNNING themselves.
Our table mates were great as we had a table of 10, all with different accents including us and our servers were great but over worked as they had three other tables of 4-6 each plus they get your wine and rum for you. We closed the room most nights as we were on 2nd seating and because of that missed some of the shows. The main theatre is not that large and only one aisle is in the middle which makes moving through the seats ugly at times so you normally have to arrive 15-30 minutes prior to a show, not my style. Shows were not bad but I found the bar and movie better , the shows tend to repeat including the daily events each day.
It is a nice ship and had been adjusted for British tastes in food, beer but the only Caribbean food offered was Jamaican Jerk Chicken, they could offer more variety of Island food but I understand majority of food, is out of the states and shipped frozen. The food was good and meals were hot. Wine testing event was not expensive ($15) for five samples and a free glass. We had an extra sea day when we could not dock at Grand Turks due to waves and wind and as this is a port intensive cruise , my thought would be to introduce a 4th sea day in the last five days.
All the Islands offer different variety and experiences but when it comes to shopping it is better to space your purchases out per Island otherwise you might have bought everything in the first few days.
The ship offers specials on the first sea day and Internet specials as in coupons of xn free minutes are offered the first day and then some others. The only add-on expense is when they charge you $4 for an admin fee to setup your Internet. The speed can be very slow , stick to emails or use Internet cafés on Islands , most Islands will not give you free access unless you buy something.
St Lucia was one of our best islands including its rum and tour. The ships excursions were fine as we normally take 1/2 day type ones and take other days to tour by walking around the dock area ourselves. St Maarten is wild when six cruise ships are in, like 20,000 folks.
What seems to be new is that every island wants to see your sea card for security and you must have your passport on your person, no exception. Some of the docks are large to walk to the ship, so ensure you are on board before the appointed time. If it rains on the way back the crew offer towels and coffee on the dock, nice gesture.
The only thing that bothered me was when having lunch or an afternoon snack at the buffet as most times a section was closed off to allow setup for supper . The food and choices were fine and they do come to your table offering drinks , coffee , tea .
Most of the crew do go out of their way to help you and it is a nice ship. The cruise itself is busy but that is me as I like to have some do nothing days We had a wonderful time and will do it again.
My Blog: http://robbarcruise.blogspot.com
My husband and I, together with our two sons and their wives, were on this cruise to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary.
We found the crew very good, as well as our accommodations and catering arrangements.
Our main bone of contention was the 15% surcharge on all drinks, which we found bordering on immoral.
We felt that the stopover in Venezuela was probably to take on board cheap fuel, as few of the passengers and staff went ashore.
I have sent an email to the company on my return from this cruise, but have not been honoured with a reply!
I would certainly not travel with the Princess Line again.
This is one of Princess' older ships and it is tired. It needs an overhaul and updating.
The crew was excellent and tried to do the right things, but some of the crew members do not understand English.
There also seems to be a little discontent among the crew and many were unhappy and were planning to leave Princess as their duties have increased with the economic changes in the cruise industry.
Overall this is a good ship and the cruise was OK, but nothing fabulous.
Princess ships still offer excellent service across the world and are our preferred cruise company as UK customers. However, there is one part of the experience that rates as our worst travelling in 35 years. The airline used between the UK and Barbados has to give the worst flight experience possible. Ineptitude on the ground - with resulting serious delays, and cramped uncomfortable seats once you get on board. Princess and the airline seem unable to coordinate between them or take responsibility, each suggesting talk to the other. Between 8 and 12 hours of misery in both directions.
Flights for other destinations with Princess have been wonderfull. Last years flights to and from Barbados were rubbish and this years even worse beyond our worst expectations.
Be warned. We are now going to use another cruise line to the Caribbean as Princess have no interest in our comments. It takes 2 or 3 days to recover at the beginning of the cruise and the same dreading the journey home at the other end. Long haul is daunting enough - but enough is enough.
We did a reposition cruise from Southampton to Quebec via Bergen, Shetland Islands, Faeroe Islands, 3 Iceland stops, Greenland, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia - 16 days aboard ship. We enjoyed all the stops, choosing to do all our sightseeing on our own rather than booking shore excursions. The ship provided reasonable information about each port which made this a reasonable option. However, the passengers who we talked to about the shore excursions reported mostly favorable experiences. The primary complaint being the usual one - inconsiderate fellow passengers who delayed returning at appointed times.
Overall, we thought this was a good cruise experience. The appearance of the ship and its layout were attractive and convenient. The entertainment in the non-theater lounges was good. The trivia games (which we do not enjoy) were well attended.
We were very impressed with the main dining room that had assigned dinner time and tables. The food was tasty and attractively served, and there were several enticing possibilities for each course every evening. The always available shrimp cocktail, steak and potato would satisfy the simple appetite, while the more exotic fare would be good for others. Vegetarian selections were not interestingmost nights, however - not even the curries. Deserts were excellent, including the sugar free (read no sugar added, as there often was fruit in these offerings). We did not try the any time dining room.
The 24 hour buffet was adequate, had some good points, but some real draw backs. The good point was that the food was mostly pretty good, with good selections at all times. The real draw back was how cramped the space was, which made for much confusion at prime meal times. It was difficult to get drinks as the set up of cups, tumblers, and coffee and tea was illogical. Often it was nearly impossible to find seats at breakfast and lunch.
The biggest draw back at the buffet, in our view, was the eggs. Whereas they had a sign warning of the dangers of eating partially cooked eggs, the trays of scrambled eggs were usually runny, no fully cooked fried eggs were offered except as a special order, and hard boiled eggs were not offered. When I did ask for a hard boiled egg, it was soft boiled. There was a cook who would prepare eggs and omelets to order. However, each of the men who were assigned this task were masters of avoiding eye contact, turning their backs to passengers even when not required, and generally prolonging the time to get eggs unreasonably. On one occasion when I was the only person in line, I waited nearly 10 minutes for the buy to even take my order while he stood cooking more sunny side up eggs to add to those already in wait for non-existent diners! Our complaint about this was noted by the restaurant captain, but there was no improvement in the service on this score.
The difficulty in finding seats at the buffet could be because of the very limited availability of the main dining room for lunch or breakfast. Whereas at dinner there are two times of about 2 hours each, breakfast and lunch were limited to early times, and then only 1 and ½ hours total each. The impression is they do not really want you in the main dining room for these meals.
Our cabin was adequate, service there mostly adequate. No more and no less than expected.
Since we left from Southampton, many of the passengers were European, mostly British, although many were French, the destination being influential, I suppose. This presented opportunities to meet people from various places, which is always fun.
On the other hand, Europeans seem to be much more likely to smoke than Americans, and this was a definite draw back on the cruise. Although the theater lounges were completely non-smoking, the other lounges were not, with the primary dance spot, the Wheelhouse Bar, giving the smoking section the center of the room, with the non-smokers stuck around the perimeter. This resulted in non-smokers having a hazy view of the dance floor at best, and a relatively smoky dance venue. The other dance spot was not really a lounge, but part of the open atrium, where a duo performed each night, and dancing was made available by closing off a doorway to make a sort of dance floor in the hallway. Smoking was allowed here as well, but at least the open atrium allowed it to float up and away.
There was no real opportunity for pre-dinner dancing, as the bands in all venues stopped a while before dinner. After dinner, the Wheelhouse had good dancing, in the smoke, but the atrium venue was set up for a trivia quiz from 10 to 11, then a break for the duo, who ran the quiz, then, finally, less smoky dancing was available. At least the duo were very good and responsive to the room.
Karaoke was available many nights, but the equipment was difficult for the crew to operate. They were not always able to turn off the vocals, and the poor amateurs were set to competing with a professional on the sound track. They ran a contest to select 6 people to compete in a final the last night of the cruise. As it turned out, the competition was not limited to amateurs, one contestant stating her occupation as professional singer. This seemed out of place. All was not lost, however, as she lost to an amateur who indicated only a second attempt at singing! Still, it does seem like karaoke should be limited to amateurs. Also, several of the passengers really liked singing, but on preliminary competition nights were limited to one song even if there were no other passengers who wanted to sing. The impression was that the crew did not really like this and wanted to limit the activities. The assistant cruise director even made rude remarks to one gentleman about his desire to have more karaoke.
The captain of the ship was really terrific. He gave lots of information about our itinerary, the weather, our progress, what to expect during inclement weather, etc. His comments were clear and accurate, and kept us at ease even during a bumpy stretch when we neared a tropical storm.
All in all, we liked this ship and would cruise on it again. However, I would not expect it to be a perfect experience, and I would seek out more dance friendly cruises, such as those offered by Holland America.
I am a 24yo cruise enthusiast who has been on 14 cruises on many different cruise lines. During college, I studied the cruise industry. My professional career has thus far focused around visitor centers and hotels as well as various forms of the hospitality industry. If you have any questions or comments about this review, feel free to email me at email@example.com One word of warning – even with wonderful modern technology I am still a poor speller and my grammar goes along with that – so best of luck to you reading this review!
Details about this cruise:
This was a seven-night Northern European Capitals cruise aboard Princess Cruises', Sea Princess. It left round trip from Southampton cruising to Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, and Helsingborg, Sweden. The port days and time at sea were a perfect mix, just enough relaxation time and just enough port time. We booked two Cat BBs located on Aloha deck, staterooms 625 and 627. These were not spacious staterooms but they were comfortable and worked very well for us. We had our wonderful stateroom steward Dante. He opened the partition between the two balconies, a great feature that gaveour rooms the feel of a two-room suite. If you can afford two balcony cabins and are traveling with family or friends, this would be a great option. I did not like the chairs on the balcony, they were very flimsy, and you cannot put your feet up. My sister and I ended up swiping some chairs from near Sundaes, the ice cream parlor. The new chairs worked a lot better and Dante even removed our old chairs for us without saying a word. Overall, they were very functional cabins.
Three great things about the cruise:
1. The ports = By far on the best itineraries we have been on. With this cruise being just one week long and full of major European cities, Copenhagen and Oslo were the best. Amsterdam and Oslo's approaches and departures are not to be missed, truly 110% the value of booking a balcony cabin. I would rebook this cruise just to go back to the ports. With so many great cities, one cannot see every thing they want to see in just one visit.
2. MUTS or Movies Under The Stars = Why was this not thought of before now and why is it not on every cruise ship by now? To me MUTS is far better than a rock-climbing wall! After a long day of traveling, the last thing one wants to do is to go sit in a hot show lounge and watch the same old boring Broadway reruns. MUTS gets you out side, relaxing, with great fresh popcorn, and great movies. The perfect end to the perfect day!
3.Personal Choice Dining = This was only our second cruise with this type of feature. Oceania had their version and we really liked the flexibility of it, so we decided to try it out on Princess. We did not try the Sterling Steak House but we did love Café Corniche. The pizza was not as great as it was on the Ocean Princess in 2000. I became very frustrated during the cruise because we could never get the same table twice in the main dining room. It was not until the last day of the cruise when I was packing the cruise docs that I saw that we could have "reserved" a table of our choice every evening. When we cruise on Princess again, Personal Choice will be my choice.
Three areas for improvement for Princess:
1. Service = What a disappointment! I do not know what has happened to the Princess that I knew when we last cruised with them back in 2001, but this was not the same product. Do not get me wrong, I do not have overly high expectations. I just know what is right and what is wrong, when it comes to customer service. You do not role your eyes at a guest when they ask for a water refill. The attendant that patrols the lido refilling drinks should not avoid making eye contact with everyone. I watched one woman follow the attendant around for five minutes before the attendant acknowledged her. We had waiters in the main dining room that refused to converse with us, and attendants in Corniche that said, "Oh, all right," when we asked for Cokes with our pizza! As you can tell, the list goes on. No doubt, you get the point that the service aboard the Sea Princess needs drastic improvement.
2. Food = I cannot quite put my finger on it but there is something seriously lacking with the food quality. Dishes that are known Princess traditions were poorly presented and very bland. For example, the crab quiche was very mealy and had large chunks of processed imitation crabmeat sticking out of it. The lido buffet was just not up to the normal cruise standards, bland food, no refills and poor drink selection. If you wanted cereal, there were no milk cartons. Just milk boxes, similar to juice cartons that you have to puncture and then squeeze the milk out though the straw, very awkward and annoying. These are just observations not complaints.
3. Disembarkation for Ports of Call = This is truly an odd observation. It centers around Princess' handling of an issue, that had they handled differently, would have not turned in to a crisis. We arrived at Amsterdam at 2:30pm. This is only 30 minutes late but passengers had begun gathering in the stairways and atrium at 1:45 and some of the shore excursions were due to gather at 1:45 and leave at 2. At 2:45, the announcement was made that we were cleared and could proceed ashore. Therefore, we - and the entire ship, went to the gangway - yes one gangway. Thus, chaos ensued. Here was Princess' chance to make things right. Unfortunately, they did not choose that option. Instead of explaining to passengers why there was only one gangway being used, and that they were going to let the paying customers of the shore excursions go of first, Princess chose to remain silent. Over thirty minutes goes by and not one non-shore excursions passenger has gone off the ship, we're now to 3:15pm. So, we gave up and headed back to our stateroom. We had purchased hop-on hop-off canal boat tour on our own and had purchased the twilight canal cruise with wine and cheese tasting through Princess.
So at 3:45 we headed back towards the gangway. There was still a very long line but at lest the non-shore excursion passengers were being allowed ashore. We winded our way though the hallways and stairways finally reached the atrium and the gangway. As we swiped our card, a representative from the shore excursions department was shouting at every one the excuse for all the delay. Apparently, there was only one gangway and only one immigration inspector that had to stamp our passports. We were off the ship as of 4:15. With the lack of time, the oppressive heat in Amsterdam, and weary souls we decided to do one loop around the city on our canal buss tickets and then head back to the ship.
I want to make a note, that it was not the incident or late disembarkation that peeved me. What did concern me, was lack of integrity on Princess behalf, regarding how they handled the situation. Upon further investigation with other passengers and crew, we learned this was a regular occurrence when the ship visited Amsterdam. Yes, passport control only allowing one gangway is what held up disembarkation but Princess knew this was going to happen and they did nothing about it. Simply notifying the passengers that this might happen or setting up a disembarkation system similar to tender-disembarkation would have made all the difference.
I will also note that the shore excursions staff did redeem them selves later in Copenhagen. We had initially booked the cruise for a family of four and had all our shore excursions confirmed for a family of four. As life often does, it threw me a curve ball and I canceled my shore excursions when I though I was not going on the cruise. Later on circumstances changed and I was able to go on the cruise. Yet, the one shore excursion that I wanted to go on was closed for booking. I went and spoke with the shore excursions staff about getting to go on that shore excursion and the incident in Amsterdam. AJ, one of the shore excursions team members was very understanding and reconfirmed my faith in Princess. He got me into the tour with the rest of my family and apologized for the lack of integrity in Amsterdam. Thank you AJ!
We are always optimistic travelers and bumps in the road are just part of the journey. For example, our flight from Gatwick to Newark took 12 hours as apposed to the normal 8. Once we got into Newark, our flight to Greensboro was canceled. Therefore, we rented a car, spent a night at a hotel, and drove back to NC the next day. Just another day on vacation!
This was a great cruise and I would recommend it to just about anyone. If you accept the fact that life is not perfect and look for the good things in life, then you are guaranteed to have a great vacation.
Thank you for reading this review. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me as firstname.lastname@example.org