Length: 594 ft
One of the small 30,000-ton R-class ships, destination-focus, quiet at nightBest For People Who Want
Destination-oriented cruises, alternative dining options; exciting itineraries; top-flight shore excursions.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Las Vegas style shows; glitzy chrome and glass megaliners; 24-hour activity; children's programs; large, busy casinos; lots of shops and organized onboard activities.Decor
Only the observation lounge/nightclub has been significantly refurbished since Ocean Princess left Renaissance, though the characteristic comfortably aristocratic feeling has largely retained.Public Rooms
The area most reminiscent of a classic ship is the purser's lounge area on Deck 4, featuring a grand staircase reminiscent of the Titanic. The lounges and bars are all comfortably inviting, with the Club Bar attracting most guests. There's a Polynesian style nightclub (which old Renaissance passengers will be amused to recognize as the sports bar, lightly remodeled), an Internet café, and a remarkably popular self-service laundry with four washers and dryers, two ironing boards, and free soap. The library has a faux fireplace, overstuffed couches, and walls lined with cherry-finished bookshelves, even though it could use a few more books published after the ship changed hands.
The Internet room, do note, has only six workstations. And if you're accustomed to broadband at home, you'll find the connection maddeningly slow. Moreover, getting help from the staff isn't likely.Cuisine
The various dining areas offer a wide variety, the breakfast and lunch buffets being especially varied. The alternative restaurants are terrific, but there's a surcharge.Restaurants
As is the tradition on all Princess ships (and bless them for it), there is food available 24 hours a day. On this small ship originally designed to have one main dining room, a buffet and two specialty restaurants, someone went to extraordinary trouble to make dining about as confusing as possible. That doesn't mean the food isn't good, though. The very traditional Club Dining Room offers open seating for breakfast and lunch, and two seatings for dinner, when passengers are assigned tables and tablemates, at 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. There are only a few tables for two.
One of the alternative restaurants has been kept as such, but changes its identity every other night, beginning as the traditional Princess favorite, Sabatini's Trattoria, for Italian multi-course dining, and then on the next night becoming the Sterling Steakhouse, the carnivore's delight. Both levy a fee, $15 for Sabatini's and $8 for the steakhouse. This venue stays open until 10 p.m, closes for an hour and then re-opens as a bistro, and doesn't close until 4 a.m. The very casual Panorama Buffet serves up breakfast and lunch, including a pizzeria, BBQ, and an ice cream bar, and becomes the Panorama Pizzeria from 5:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., but serving nothing only pizza (which is to say, no salads or antipasti).
Room service is available, of course, around-the-clock. And a highly recommended late-night eating special event is the poolside Polynesian buffet.Service
The staff, from all over the globe, is helpful and attentive.Tipping
Regardless of which dining plan you choose, you'll be charged $10 per person per day for dining and stateroom personnel, even if you're a child. Consult the purser, at the reception desk, about raising or lowering this amount. All beverage tabs automatically include 15-percent gratuity. Tip the spa, casino, and other staff as you deem fit.Entertainment
The 358-seat Cabaret Lounge presents shows performed by a team of singer/dancers, as well as performances by comedians and magicians. On some itineraries, there's a local folklore show. On cruises to French Polynesia cruises, such staple activities as bingo, bridge, and dance lessons are sharply curtailed because most of their potential participants are ashore. While you're docked in Raiatea, don't miss the musical extravaganza presented by several generations of locals.
The small casino has 30 slot machines and tables for blackjack and roulette. The Nightclub disco is a firm favorite of any insomniacs aboard.Cabins
Of 308 outside cabins, 73 percent have a balcony. There are 26 inside cabins, four of them wheelchair-accessible (if available, these are some of the most spacious "bang for your buck" cabins, though they are inside and dark, they are incredibly roomy. Pleasantly furnished in Wedgwood blue fabrics and carpeting, with yellow drapes over the floor-to-ceiling windows, the staterooms are pleasant enough, but the suites are worth the extra money for the extra breathing room they provide, especially in the bathrooms. Ample closet/drawer space, a (woefully substandard) hair dryer, a personal safe, and color TV on which you can watch CNN, MSNBC, and Princess' own onboard news channels are all standard amenities. The smaller cabins have a bathroom with shower, while suites and owner's suites have bathtubs too.
In private veranda cabins, don't be shocked to find Astroturf where you might reasonably have expected teak. Inside cabins are the smallest at 158 sq. feet. Outside staterooms, from 146 to 206 sq. feet, have either portholes or big picture windows. Outside cabins with private balcony are 216 sq. feet, including a 45 sq. ft. balcony. Mini-suites with private balconies are a roomy 322 sq. feet, including a 17' x 4.5' balcony with two chairs and a table. Veteran voyagers, especially those accustomed to other lines' suites, are likely to find the bathrooms almost satirically tiny, virtually without counter space.
Two forward suites facing the front of the ship are view-less. The Category A Owner's Suites, ranging from 786 to 962 sq. feet, are all located either completely forward or aft. Forward owner's suites numbers 6002, 6003, 7004, 7005) have direct sight lines of the rope deck on the front of the vessel. And if you're in a forward cabin on Deck 6, you'd better hope you like the orchestra that performs (and rehearses!) in the Cabaret Lounge, as you're right above it, and will be hearing a lot of them!
What we like most about the ship's balconies is that they're wrought iron, and insert no glass between you and the view.Fitness/Spa
The faintly exotic Lotus Spa, Salon, and Gym, operated, inevitably, by Steiner of London, offers a program of fitness and wellness. The fitness center, whose wall of windows makes it seem bigger than it really is, is well-equipped, with treadmills, bikes, and several weight machines. There are two steam rooms (for those who aren't hot enough in this part of the world to begin with!) and a walking/jogging track that circles the top of the ship. Instead of a 360-degree promenade, there are, on Deck 5, deck areas both port and starboard.
There's virtually never a wait for either of the two poolside Jacuzzi whirlpools, hardly surprising given how sweltering it can get in the South Pacific.Attire
Considering that your destination is the South Pacific, you'll want to pack a hat, sandals, sun block and a bathing suit. Grass skirts and loud Hawaiian shirts are at your own discretion. Aboard cruises of 10 to 14 nights, expect two formal nights and five to 12 "smart casual" evenings. Resort casual is the rule by day.
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!
Beware of Princess Cruises. Once they get your money, you are on your own. They could care less whether you ever make the cruise ship.
We had booked a 28 day cruise on the Tahitian Princess departing from Papeete, Tahiti on Dec. 19, 2008 and arriving in Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 14, 2009. Due to weather, our NW flight from Detroit to LA was delayed 2-1/2 hours and arrived after our connecting flight to Papeete had departed. We called Princess and they were absolutely no help. We were told that we were responsible for making our own arrangements to catch the ship.
We flew to Tahiti the next morning arriving 12-1/2 hours after the Tahitian Princess had sailed for Moorea and one-half hour before she departed for Bora Bora. There were no seats available on commercial flights to Bora Bora, which was the last port we could possibly catch the ship before it sailed for South America.
If we were on our own, we would have had to abandon our dream cruise and forfeit the $19,000+ we already had invested. Princess could have cared less as they already had our money andtheir Princess Gold Travel Insurance does not cover this as a trip cancellation.
Fortunately for us there were 11 other Princess clients (2.0% of the total 640 booked passengers) who also found themselves in the same predicament. We were able to join together and charter an Air Tahiti plane at $1,115 each to fly the 13 of us to Bora Bora in time to catch the ship.
When we returned home we filed a claim for our $2600 in hotel, meal and additional air travel expenses with Princess Gold Travel Insurance. We were only reimbursed $500 each per their trip delay policy, which merely represented a refund of our insurance premium.
We appealed to Alan Buckeley, CEO of Princess. In their response letters Princess basically claims no responsibility for anything, even though they made the transportation arrangements.
It is buyer beware when dealing with Princess Cruises. In all fairness, the cruise was excellent; it is Princess Air's travel arrangements that were the problem.
We purchased our cruise and air arrangements directly from Princess Cruises about three weeks prior to the cruise. We had a guarantee reservation for a balcony cabin on deck 7. We were too late to make reservations for any land tours on the various islands that we were to visit but felt that we might find available tours in each port. As it turns out, we were wrong about that. Unfortunately, I did not read any of the other reviews about this particular cruise before leaving home. Had I done so, I would have picked up some very useful information that would have helped us locate car rental places on some of the islands.
We left San Francisco at noon on Dec 10, 2007 and flew to Los Angeles with American Airlines. There we boarded an Air Tahiti Nui airbus for the flight to Papeete, Tahiti. We were about an hour late departing so arrived in Papeete about one hour past the scheduled arrival time. We then waited in the customs line for at least half an hour. By the time we got our luggage and were bussed to the ship,it was about 2 am local time. When we arrived at the ship, we were told that we had been upgraded from the reserved balcony cabin to a suite. It was an outstanding cabin compared to those we have had on other ships. We had a 13-foot wide balcony separated from the room by a wall of windows. Our baggage had to be delivered to our cabin, so I was unable to sleep until it arrived around 4 am.
By 5:30 am, I was awake and out on the jogging track looking at the island of Moorea in the distance. This and Bora Bora are the prettiest islands on the cruise to view from the sea. They both have outstanding mountain formations. We were unable to schedule an organized tour of the island, so we took the tender to the island and started to walk along the road toward where we thought there might be a town. As it turned out, the town was several miles away, so we just spent some time near the dock and returned to the ship. The weather was very hot and humid and we were not in the mood to walk several miles. We spent an enjoyable day on the ship and took an afternoon nap to catch up on lost sleep.
The next two days were spent at sea. The ship had a variety of activities available, but we enjoyed time on our balcony each day and kept an eye out for flying fish.
On day five, we arrived at Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands. The town where the ship was to anchor did not have a protected harbor and the sea was quite rough with waves up to a height of 8 feet or so. The captain came on the PA system and said that we he would not allow the tenders to load passengers in such rough seas. He was going to check the weather report to see whether we might stay at the location and go ashore at a later time of the day. A short time later, he indicated that the weather was expected to remain the same or get worse later in the day. He decided to raise the anchor and cruise around the island for the remainder of the day, then make for the next stop on the cruise.
On December 15, we arrived at Nuku Hiva where there was a protected cove in which to anchor the ship. We tendered in and took a free shuttle to a museum and hotel on the other side of the cove from where the tender dock was located. We enjoyed a tour of the hotel's garden and had a couple of $5.00 cokes in their restaurant. Some of the guests from the ship used the swimming pool at the hotel, but it was a very small pool and used just for cooling off. After that, we toured the museum. The lady that ran the museum had also built the hotel with her husband, but apparently no longer owned it. Now she ekes out a living by selling items at the museum and taking donations for tours of the small facility. On the way back to the ship, we got off the bus for a short time at a very pretty church along the harbor road. At the tender dock, there were a couple of buildings where the locals sold art objects and other creations made locally.
December 16 was another day at sea. The ship had a demonstration of vegetable carving followed by a tour of the galley. We enjoyed more time on our balcony.
On December 17, we arrived at Rangiroa. This is an atoll so there are no high mountains. The ship's newsletter had said the locals provided a bus, which charged $15.00 for a round trip into the local village. We went to the pier and waited for the bus. I few minutes later, a guy showed up with a Mercedes van and asked us if we wanted to go to the village. Assuming that this was the local bus, about 12 of us piled into the van and started down the road. The driver was a maniac and had no concerns about people walking the road or how fast he was traveling. He just wanted dump us off in town as fast as possible so he could go back for another load. As we were approaching the village, we passed the real bus going in the other direction. When we arrived at the village, we all wondered whether he would ever return to take us back to the ship or if he would just disappear. Fortunately, he showed up about an hour later. It was at least 10 miles to the village and would have been a long, hot walk back to the ship. The village consisted of a store and church surrounded by houses. It was not worth the ride. We all gave thanks when we arrived back at the pier safely. We could not get back to the ship fast enough.
On the morning of December 18 we gingerly traveled through a break in the coral reef surrounding the islands of Raiatea and Tahaa, then spent about two hours traveling within the lagoon to reach the town where the ship docked. This was the only island that had a dock other than Papeete. Two groups of porpoises greeted us along the way. After docking, we went ashore and visited several shops near the dock. Most of the merchandise carried by the stores was very cheap and junky stuff imported from China or some other Asian country. The only items of any value were the jewelry items and pearls produced by local artisans.
While we were walking toward the town from the ship, we saw a tornado over the water several miles away. We were so startled to see it, that we forgot to take a picture before it disappeared. I thought it might hit the island a little later in the day since the clouds were traveling toward us, but it never did. If anyone reading this review was on the cruise and took a picture of the tornado, I would like to have a copy of the picture.
In the late afternoon, a group of children came on board and put on a dancing show. The ages of the children ran from 4 years old up to teenagers and they all did a really fine job. I was amazed at how the little ones could move their hips almost as well as the older kids. Towards evening, a group of adult entertainers came aboard to provide a show scheduled for 10 PM that night, but we went to bed early. We heard the beginning of the show on the deck that was right above our cabin, but fell asleep anyway. As much noise as they made with their drums, we heard nothing.
Bora Bora was the next stop on the cruise. We arrived there at 8 am on the 19th and took a tour that went all the way around the island. Bora Bora is supposed to be one of the most beautiful islands in the world. I thought Raiatea was prettier, but Bora Bora did have some very beautiful water.
On the last day of the cruise, we arrived back in Papeete. We were asked to leave our cabin by 9 AM, but we were allowed to stay on the ship until our bus left for the airport at 7 PM. We also purchased a tour of the island and were on that from 1:30 until about 5 PM. This allowed us to eat all our meals on the ship before departing. We were able to check our carry-on bags on the ship until 6 pm.
Papeete has a much larger population than any of the other islands we visited and it is evident from the number of large buildings at the harbor and the very heavy traffic that is constantly passing through this area. The tour took us to the home of the author of Mutiny on the Bounty and several other books. We also visited a waterfall and the cove where one of the Bounty films was made. We had an American guide who had lived in Tahiti for many years and he did an excellent job of describing the sites and culture on the island.
Later in the day we took a bus to the airport and arrived there at about 7:30 PM. We had to wait on the bus until the people from the previous bus picked out their luggage, then we had to do the same. After that we got in line and waited almost 2 hours to get up to the check in desk. Luckily, they still had two seats together on the center isle. The flight home was good, but we ran into bumpy air several times.
When we arrived at Los Angeles, we had to wait almost an hour for our luggage to arrive on the turnstile. After picking up the luggage, we had to go through customs. Then we had to take a bus to the last terminal at the airport where we were to check in at United Airlines. Arriving at United, we saw hundreds of people lined up at the check in area and asked an employee if we could be moved up in the line, because we were short on time. They refused to help us. When we got to the check-in area, we were told that we were too late to board the plane and would have to go to another line and wait again for new tickets on a later flight. We did this and again waited for about half an hour. Then we had to wait about 20 minutes for the agent to create new tickets. After that, we were told to go upstairs and go through security. We did this and found a line going out the door and onto a walkway going to the parking lot. It took almost another hour to go through this line, and then we had to walk almost half a mile to the gate. When we arrived at the gate I noticed that we did not have boarding passes and asked the agent why not. She said we were on standby. The other agent did not tell us that. Luckily, we made the flight and arrived home about 4 hours behind schedule. Considering that we were flying during the holidays, I guess the trip home could have been worse.
SUMMARY The ship was nice, although it is showing some wear and needs repairs in several areas. The food was about the same quality as on most Princess cruises. As usual for Princess, the desserts were excellent. Restaurant and cabin service was very good. Breakfast and lunch in the main dining room had very attentive waiters and assistants. The shows were about average for Princess. There was one comedian/juggler that was excellent. We did not attend the production shows, so have no opinion about them.
I recommend that you try to reserve land tours on-line before leaving home. There are very few alternatives available when you reach port. Some passengers rented scooters, but the cruise line does not recommend that you do that. They can be very dangerous. If land tours are not available, perhaps car rentals can be arranged on-line.