Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 17
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. Value for Money. Teens.
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: Teens. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
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. Overall Service. 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.
My husband and two sons, age 13 and 16 years, took our 4th cruise. We booked the Golden Princess, and we were very impressed with the ship. (We have cruised on the Diamond Princess which is similar).
EMBARKATION We arrived early at around 10:30 am at the pier and our bags were taken straight away by a porter. We than waited for half an hour outside the pier and then were shown to another waiting area to find out it would be another hour's wait. After checking in at the terminal, we had to proceed to another waiting area. We finally got to board the ship around 12:30 pm.
CABIN We booked two balcony cabins on Baja deck. The cabins were very clean and spacious. We opened up the balcony door so we could walk between both cabins, which is a great idea if you have children.
DINING We had Anytime Dining, which I think is wonderful because you never know what you're doing late in the afternoon or early evening. So, eating at Anytime Dining worked well with us. We never had to wait long for a table, and could sitwith other guests if we wanted, which we did a couple of times. The food was fantastic, lots of choice, and we had very funny waiters who couldn't do enough for us.
KID'S CLUB Both of our children went to kids' club every night and they enjoyed it. They made some new friends, won prizes, and just had fun.
SHORE EXCURSIONS We booked a few shore tours, which we enjoyed. However, we hated the disembarking at each port. This was very disorganized as you had over 2000 people trying to get off the ship from one exit point. What a mad house! Getting back on the ship at each port was just as bad. Once again only one gang plank to get back on the ship. The only other thing that was annoying on this cruise was that there was way too many old people on the ship -- I'd have to say about 80% were over the age of 75.
SHOPPING Shopping on the ship was fantastic, with lots to choose from, and some really good prices as well.
CASINO We went to the casino every night, won and lost a bit, but it was fun just to do a little gamblinge each night after dinner before the shows.
SUMMARY Overall I love to cruise and I love the Princess cruise ships. You're always treated like royalty onboard them. I just wish you could find out the average age group of passengers before you book.
Looking at booking our fifth cruise. We plan on going to the Caribbean next.
First let me state that I am an Elite member of the Princess Cruise Lines. I have cruised about 35 cruises with Princess and other cruise lines, so I say this to make clear that I do have some experience with most cruise lines. Princess has usually been our favorite, especially in the 80's, but since then we have noticed a decline in service, quality and personnel.
The ships are nicer and larger. The rooms as a whole keep getting smaller. I sailed on the old Crown Princess as well as the new one. I find that most of the staff are just workers, there to do as little as possible. It seems that the best staff members are the ones that make up the rooms.
Food on Crown is nothing to brag on. It does however keep you alive until you arrive back at your beginning point where you can get real food. But it is consistent, it is always cold and tastless. But I will admit that I am a picky eater and I don't eat sea food. I have always made it a point to eat notingthat lives in its bathroom, if you know what I mean. But to be fair, the food on the other cruise lines is about as bad. Carnival is only somewhat better.
But on Princess' behalf, they do have the best getting on and getting off program in the business.
They also have some of the worst destinations. Tortola and Grenada are among the worst places to stop in the Caribbean.
Prices are also higher on Princess than its parent cruise line, "Carnival." I will probably cruise on Princess again, but only if they become more competitive in price with other cruise lines. And by that I mean, some prices may be cheaper than others, but check it out, they make 2 or 3 stops on a 7 day cruise, where Carnival has cruises that make a stop every day of the cruise.
To sum this up, I don't expect anything extra on any cruise. I make no demands on anyone. I would be just fine doing my own room, and waiting on myself in the dining room as well as other places on the ship. A lot of the time the staff are in the way.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Bogeyjim Eastern Caribbean April 13, 2008
My wife and I, along with another couple who are close friends (mid 50's to early 60's) just returned from a cruise of the Eastern Caribbean on the Caribbean Princess. I have only cruised once before, five years ago on the Celebrity Summit, so I can only compare the performance of the staff to those on that ship.
We chose to take a package with a Saturday night in Ft. Lauderdale, and transfers to the ship and return to the airport at the completion of the cruise. We had a bit of a problem initially at the airport as we could not locate the Princess personnel who were to meet us and provide transportation to the Marriott North. After having them paged, all went smoothly getting us to the hotel. The hotel room was very nice and we were able to relax after the day of travel.
We had concerns about being picked up late in the day on Sunday but those fears were put aside when we were told to be ready in the lobby at 11:30 Sunday morning. Wewere on a bus by noon and on the way to Port Everglades. We arrived at the Princess terminal at about 12:30. The longest wait we had was in going through security, as it turned out two of the three personell performing that task were on lunch break. Once through security we proceeded to the Princess counter for our deck and within approximately 15 minutes were in our staterooms, it could not have gone more efficiently.
The rooms were fine. We had a balcony cabin and our friends an inside cabin, both at the rear of the Aloha deck. Our cabin steward was Rumiel from the Philippines. He was great, attending to every request that was made of him with a smile on his face always. He is truly an asset to Princess. Other staff was very good as well except for a very few exceptions. The wait staff was very good with several of our waiters (we chose anytime dining, and loved it) very friendly and personable. The food was not gourmet, but was very good in the restaurants. We did have dinner one evening at Sabatini's and it was excellent. Our biggest complaint on the whole cruise was the buffet in both the Cafe Caribe and Horizon Court. In a word these areas are "chaotic". There is no rhyme or reason to the lines for selecting your food and people are bumping into each other constantly. Also, no trays to put your plate or glass on, you have to carry them in hand. On the Celebrity ship the buffet was very orderly to the point where personnel were there to take your tray and carry it to your table when you came off the line. There were also occasions where personnel heading back into the kitchen and service areas cut in front of me, which would never have happened on the Celebrity ship, or at least not without an "excuse me". There were also several occasions in the Princess theatre where the cocktail waiters seemed as if they would like to have been somewhere else, instead of waiting on the guests.
The pool areas were very nice, and even on the "at sea" days we were always able to find four lounges next to each other. On the days that the ship visited the ports of call, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Princess Cays, we stayed on board having visited the first two on our previous cruise, and we had the run of the ship. We would have like to have gone ashore at Princess Cays, but did not reserve cabanas for the beach ahead of time. When hearing that they only have 200 of them, we opted to stay on the ship rather than bake in the sun on the beach.
We saw several shows in the Pricess theare, the best of which was the "Beatlemaniacs". They were terriffic and their show was a trip down memory lane, most of the audience singing along with the group. Bert Stratton's piano/comedy show was also very good, and there was a comedian/magician, Michael James, who was also very entertaining.
I guess the word is that the ship is just about due for a trip to drydock for some rehab after four years of operation. While there were some areas that were showing some wear, overall the ship was kept in excellent condition.
When we returned on Sunday for disembarking, our instructions were to meet in one of the dining rooms at 8:45. We got there early and were released from the ship at about 8:15. It took us about 10-15 minutes to locate our luggage and we were then put right on a bus to the airport. Again, this process went like clockwork.
Overall, while the service level may not be quite up to what we experienced on Celebrity, I would have no second thoughts about taking another cruise on Princess.
This was our 4th cruise with Princess and our first transatlantic. It was also, at 20 days, the longest cruise we had taken. The attraction to this cruise was the itinerary and the price. Princess did a great job of turning a regular transatlantic into a grand adventure. We went to the Caribbean, Devil's Island, Brazil, Senegal, Morroco, Gibraltor, Cannes, Pisa, and then Rome. It was a near sell out.
We only had 2 overcast days and could not tender into Devil's Island. Other than that, the weather was beautiful. The 3 day crossing between Brazil and Senegal was beautiful. We sun bathed all the way into the sea day in the Med.
The Grand is 9 or 10 years old and shows some wear in comparison to our cruise on the brand new Crown Princess. But overall it is still a beautiful ship and more than got the job done. We had a rear facing balcony on Carib deck. We had really looked forward to this but did find it a little noisier than we would have liked. It is a little bouncier over the stern as the propeller shafttends to send the back of the ship sideways and then snaps back. But the views over the wake forgave a lot of the above.
The food was okay. I think Princess is continuing to slide in okayness. The buffet was always bland and predictable. Dinner in the main dining room did offer some exceptions with some very good fish dishes. I think a major weakness are the salads. The cold soups were very good. I thought too many of the entrees had been prepared with alcohol which makes them off limits for me. But overall I ate everything and then wondered if I should stop or not.
The wait staff was excellent. We had anytime dining, but we liked our servers so much we requested tables in their area. This was great and there was never much of a wait, if any. The head waiters always made a fuss over us and always were great with arranging my wife's special, sugar free, desserts. Princess broke out the new china during the cruise and were also preparing to introduce the new menus. We heard this was the first in ten years.
I think we may have had a few of the new items. We also heard that special chefs from corporate hq were onboard to try and bring the food back up to the level it was supposed to be. The staff mentioned that they were inspecting every dish before it got out of the kitchen.
Our room steward was great and really made our cruise special. This is often where a cruise becomes special and that's what a cruise is about. We always were well taken care of and always had fun conversations with him easily 2 or 3 times a day. He was always there when we needed him.
A recommendation would be for the purser's desk to have postage stamps for the countries that the ship is going to stop in. This would go a long way in being able to mail post cards. It has to be with stamps from that country. Brazil and Morrocco visits were on Sundays (post office closed) and Senagal was a walk thru the industrial port and then some.
The onboard future cruise office was slow and with limited hours. The internet host was outwardly rude and the purser's desk said he was going to get canned at the next convenient opportunity, but he was still there at Rome.
The fellow cruisers were the most travelled group I had ever met. This was a great thing about the cruise. Everyone seemed to have been all over the globe. I learned many things from them and had many wonderful conversations. They certainly were an inspiration to keep growing in cruising.
There were about one-third Europeans onboard. Many Dutch. This really added a lot to the cruise. I always enjoy talking to them and hearing their perspectives. Many of their insights are not heard in the United States. Definately a big plus to transatlantics. It really lends a world perspective to life.
I would definately recommend transatlantics. This itinerary will be repeated in reverse this fall. It's like a trip to the edge of the earth.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Mellocroozr Eastern Caribbean March 30, 2008
Our focus for this cruise was to relax and enjoy the outstanding atmosphere we were expecting on this first trip away from our children (ages 4 & 1). We really bought into the "small ship feel" and "excellent food" reviews (we are I guess what you would call "foodies") and advertising and while we did have a good cruise, we had to really work at enjoying ourselves which is definitely not what we expected to have to do.
Embarkation was flawless, except for the rudeness of some of the embarkation staff which was unexpected and uncalled for by locals wearing Princess uniforms. Some were outright abusive to people, but worse upon debarkation.
Our stateroom was OK. We had a mini-suite which was OK. The room was nice, but the bathroom had a few caulking issues and the sliding door to the balcony was whistling and water poured in on the last day during a big storm. This ship seems so dated in the décor. I could not put my finger on it but I guess you could compare it to buying furnitureat Wal-Mart and then walking into a furniture store with a higher end product afterwards. It looked fine at the time but it wasn't until I toured the Westerdam after our cruise that I realized what was wrong with everything. It all looked cheap.
Service Our cabin attendant and the Palm Dining Room Staff were great. The Buffet staff were hit and miss but everyone working on the ship seemed tired. There was no one that really went over and above to WOW us. The cabin attendant remembered our name and he did a great job keeping our room tidy and fully stocked with towels.
As mentioned in many reviews. Princess has a problem enforcing rules -- some with very potentially serious consequences: no unsupervised children in the hot tubs and pool, using hand sanitizers when entering the buffets, shirts and shoes in the buffets, and the not so serious but really irritating no children in the adults only pools, reserving of deck chairs (some sat empty with towels from 8am until noon or longer).
Itinerary We enjoyed St Maarten including the beach being so close to the ship, but found St Thomas expensive and the people not as friendly. Princess Cays is a great day at the beach. The Cabana was a good investment when a brief shower rolled through for about 20 minutes soaking everyone else.
Entertainment The new Piano Bar singer is not very good unless he was singing a Billy Joel song. Sarge returned to the ship in St Maarten and was very funny. We did not see any other shows, as we found it not worth the struggle for seating each night.
Dining This is going to be a sore spot and you will have to excuse me if I rant. Food in the dining room was mediocre at best. The Halibut was so overcooked on the second night that I did not think you could dry out such a succulent fish to the point it was a solid brick. The sauces were never quite rich enough, or flavorful enough. When I ordered my meat rare, it came out rare, but grey on the outside. We gave up dining at our appointed time after the second night until the Chef's night when surprisingly, the lobster was not overcooked.
The Breakfast Buffets were so disappointing and the shortcuts that were taken were noticed by us in a big way. The bread is bad. The on-board bakery needs a good shake-up. The toast bread was dry and old tasting, and all buns lacked a crust. No decent rye. No offence to Americans, who generally had no problem with the bread, but Europeans are really big on bread -- that is, FRESH BREAD. Don't bake it, put it in a plastic bag for the day and then sit there and pretend that it is fresh. It is such an easy thing to do when you have a bakery 2 floors from your kitchen. Bake fresh bread. JAM -- 5 gallon pails of the cheapest stuff they could buy is what is served; and why the salad dressing ladles instead of spoons? Orange and Apple Cocktail? Not juice. Powdered scrambled eggs, or at least that's what they tasted like. The fresh fruit selection was always nice and on a few mornings they had Eggs Benedict available. I think the above shortcuts could have been upgraded without any effect on the budget had they just eliminated the smoked salmon every morning.
On the last evening, after all comment cards had been turned in for the "big draw," (this is the only explanation we could think of for this) we went to the Caribe Buffet for a light dinner. It was very packed and very hard to find seating which is to be expected after a day at the beach. There were no salt and pepper shakers on the tables in most sections. Did they think we were going to steal them? There was no rhyme or reason to the food offerings -- pasta with undercooked cans of crushed tomatoes as a sauce. Jerk chicken which looked like they took the leftover chicken from Princess Cays and tossed in spices, Curried Chicken Salad which had very little flavour and tasted dry -- not quite sure how a mayonnaise-based salad can taste dry, but it did. It was just a mish mash of leftovers. When you walked to the pool areas, all the deck chairs were being packed up, no movie was offered. At one point, both pools were closed but I am not sure if it remained that way. We really got the feeling that Princess was ready to be rid of us all. We decided to grab a couple of pieces of pizza -- which were always outstanding -- and head to our cabin to order a club sandwich from room service. Our final impression and last night on the ship was probably the worst of all the evenings. We felt unwelcome.
I will not be booking another Princess cruise without assurances that this was not typical. We really looked forward to this trip. After (my wife) being on maternity leave for a full year, we really stretched to book ourselves on this cruise but needed the time together. While we did have a nice time, it was in no way due to anything Princess did to make our voyage enjoyable. I will be looking elsewhere for our travel needs in the future.
I sailed for 1 week with Princess on The Crown Princess with 7 other people. We are in our late 50's to early 60's. We experienced a terrible situation on the ship when we were approached to participate in the "sexy legs contest."
To make a long story very short, the Princess hostess in charge of the event planned an entire group of situations that she involved us in and did not inform us as to what was going to happen. My partner was the last man to be in the contest and he was told to throw in the judge (there were 3 judges, myself included). He did as he was instructed, only to find out this person was deathly afraid of water. The hostess announced on the microphone that my partner did it on his own, and that Princess had nothing to do with it. We were in shock. We questioned her. Needless to say our entire trip was ruined due to this. All of the people on the ship were calling Andy all sorts of dirty names. They even remembered him at dinner and in the halls.Well, my trip and his was a waste of money. We paid $3000 to be humiliated.
I contacted Princess and informed them of this. It took them 8 weeks to get back to me to basically say "too bad." I have sailed with several companies and I have never been treated this way.
I appreciate you allowing me to express how I feel about this experience. Thank You.
The Emerald Princess is a stunning ship. However the spa staff ruined our vacation. My husband & I bought the thermal suite package. RIP OFF! There is no aromatherapy and people who didn't pay for it were constantly sneaking in. There is no one to check on the clients, so my advice is to take a chance and sneak down and don't pay!
I had a hair appointment at the spa just for a wash and blowdry. The hairdersser told me I had a horrible haircut and asked if he could fix it. I said sure. He started and only cut one side of my head and then said he couldn't concentrate and had to finish it 3 nights later at his next available appointment! I thought he was joking but when he started drying I realized he wasn't. After he was done he handed me a $30 discount coupon for a fat and cellulite treatment program since in his words "You need it for your fat!" I was horrified and ashamed!
At our massages the next day the massage therapist tried to sell me a $170 detox program because Iwas fat and had cellulite! I approached the purser's desk devastated by these occurrences and he said that his hands were tied since the spas are contracted by an outside company. I contacted Princess customer service and they gave me an unempathetic apology! A piece of advice if you are even slightly overweight -- stay out of the spa. You will only face ridicule!!
This was the WORST CRUISE OF MY LIFE.
1 -- There was an epidemic on board the Star Princess. A huge number of passengers had severe vomiting and diarrhea accompanied by high fevers. The fact that cruise ships tend to have epidemics of vomiting and diarrhea, and not the much more common cold, tells you that it is not being brought onboard by a sick passenger. These bugs are most likely living in the carpeting, drapes, bedspreads, blankets, or ventilation. They could also be being spread by asymptomatic crew members who are carriers.
2 -- My husband and I are good cooks. It was difficult to find good tasting food at the buffet. We did eat dinners at the restaurant. On some evenings the food was very good. On other evenings, the food was mediocre to bad. I could cook better in my sleep. At the end of the cruise, they were actually trying to sell their cookbook!!!
3 -- The Beagle Channel Wildlife shore excursion (Ushuaia) was really boring. We saw a few seals and some birds. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
4 -- We tried to go to the poolsone night right after dinner, but they were already closed for the night.
5 -- The shore excursion to see the penguins in Punta Arenas was canceled because the penguins had moved on. This was disappointing, but at least they were honest about it.
6 -- The captain took the ship all the way around Cape Horn, which is an island at the tip of South America. We saw Cape Horn about 5 PM. The scenery from that point until it got too dark to see was fabulous.
We anticipated this 'trip of a life time' with eagerness, and now that it is over we are still awe inspired by this southernmost continent: Antarctica. So little is known by many of us, that when we think COLD, it is the Arctic North Pole which first comes to mind; however, actually it is Antarctica and the South Pole where the coldest temperatures are recorded (-112 to -130 degrees F. in the winter and 41-59 degrees F. in the summer). Don't forget that the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere. Antarctica is a frozen desert with hardly any precipitation. Then why go there? Actually less than 20,000 people have visited it. But, those of us who have, can now relate the beauty of the snow covered mountains, the stunning variety of icebergs seen in “Iceberg Alley” and the various wildlife (whales [9 varieties], seals [3 types], penguins [5 varieties] and the many other birds like albatross, petrels, cormorants, etc.).
Now let us go back to the beginning -- We flew American Airlines from Miami, FL on Feb. 17th. Flight #909 was set for a 8:15 pm departure and we boarded ontime. Then we sat on the tarmac for two hours while baggage handlers searched for a passenger's luggage in order to remove it, since this person had opted to be paid to make a latter departure. In the waiting areas, it was obvious that AA had over booked several flights and enticed passengers to give up their seats for money plus free hotel rooms and meals etc. We left two hours late, but the time was made up in flight and we arrived on schedule in Buenos Aires, Argentina the next morning. We spent overnight with Vincent's family and embarkation was Feb. 19, 2008 at noon.
EMBARKATION Embarkation was chaotic to say the least. In port were the MS Symphonia and other ships. There were no baggage carts and very few handlers to take luggage. Vincent with the help of his cousin Fabian found someone to help with the wheelchair, but there were huge potholes and we didn't get far. Out of the blue, the taxi driver from yesterday at the airport appeared: Giorgio! He came straight to us and said,”Signora! May I help you.” Problem solved. When Vincent returned and heard about it he said,”nothing like tipping well.” We had done pre boarding at a downtown hotel the day before and received cream colored boarding cards. Thus, we moved straight ahead to buses and the ship's gangway. It all seemed well, but we were told we still needed boarding cards which were supposed to be on the pier. After a mix up, where our passports were sent back to the pier, Jr. Asst. Purser Suzanna Romano got our boarding passes from the ship. She assured us our passports were safe with the ship's personnel. And they were, because all passports were collected, so that clearance for each country we entered was done on board in each country we visited.
SHIP The Star Princess was built by Fincantieri in Monfalcone, Italy and launched in January 2002. Her length is 950.1 feet; Breadth is 118.1 feet and she has a draft 27.7 feet. Her total passenger capacity is 3,100 and she sails with a crew of 1,120. She is propelled by six diesel electric engines. Her cruising speed is 21 knots and maximum speed 23.3 knots.
The Star Princess is beautiful both inside and out. We have already done a deck by deck description of this ship, published in 2005, when we first cruised on her in the Caribbean. So this review will center on the Ports and the gorgeous natural vistas offered by Antarctica. There were over 1,800 Princess Captain's Circle Members on board and Captain Bob Oliver of Harwich, England hosted four cocktail parties in order to accommodate us all. We had a fantastic Bridge Tour with Capt. Oliver and his 3rd Officer Raffaele Ansanti. We learned of the many ship's components all linked to the LIPS joystick giving terrific maneuverability to this huge 109,000 ton ship. This was soon to be appreciated as the very able Captain threaded our way among icebergs.Overall the ship's decorations are in exceptionally good taste. There is simplicity and elegance rather than neon and gaudiness. We found the ship to be in excellent condition and well kept.
CABINS Our wheelchair accessible cabin #E304 on Emerald Deck 8 is centrally located near the forward elevators. It has a wide entrance which is necessary for a wheelchair. On the left is an excellent large bathroom with safety rails all around. There is a fold away seat in the 5'x5' shower. There are also two large shelves for toiletries above the single sink.
There are two low dressers flanking the king size bed with the “de rigor” heavy white puff, but, for the first time, since we were travelling to the South Pole, this puff was necessary. When entering on the right there is a parking space for the wheel chair. Next, there is a triple armoire with hangers in, two sections and shelves and a private safe in the third section. There s a TV, bar and refrigerator,and a long desk/vanity with a lighted mirror and four drawers. The back wall has a huge window which was partially obstructed by a life boat. Our view was “letterbox”, just as when viewing an old Vista Vision film on TV. Top and bottom are cut off, but the panoramic sweep is wonderful. We had an excellent view of the continental shelf from our cabin.
Our steward was Luis and he was very efficient. Thanks.
SERVICE & FOOD Service is overseen by Passenger Services Director (PSD) Claudio Mazzoni, who was extremely helpful in answering our many questions. The ship service is excellent, Asst. Purser Suzanna facilitated boarding, assessed delays and took control. How nice it feels when it seems everything is mixed up and someone can take control and ameliorate the situation.
We were leery about taking this trip so far away from home with a wheel chair etc. Mary has a distinct fear of falling, since she broke her leg that way last October. However, Dr. Marguerite Bozian, our travelling companion, was the one who slipped and broke her arm. Princess' Dr. Stewart Buchanan and nurse Vina came to the rescue: they expertly cared for her and sent her home with a write up, DVD, X rays and a history of the whole matter. All of which her husband Dr. Richard Bozian termed as “not only efficient, but accurate and sensitive....the whole matter was impeccable” and a credit to Princess Cruises. Thus, we learned about the medical service on board through our friends, and it is comforting to know that the quality is excellent.
Of course, it is in the dining rooms where service reaches its apex. The suave Maitre D'Hotel Daniele Saredi secured for us a table for six near the entrance to the Capri Dining Room. We don't like to disturb diners with our walker or wheel chair. We had sixteen happy evenings with our travelling companions the Drs. Bozian and the Drs. Chen. Our Waiter Emmanuel and his Asst. Waiter Ariel were spot on. The Head Waiters Silvio and Angelito always charmed us with Executive Chef Francesco La Forgia's marvelous food! We can still smell the wonderful Limoncella cake served in an artisan crafted chocolate bowl. How delicious!
The best way to describe the food is to start at the beginning; each morning we were served continental breakfast in our cabin by the very prompt and efficient Elena. Her smiles and her bouncy curtsies were a delightful way to start off the day. The meal consisted of Cappuccino, hot chocolate, croissants, and brioches with fresh fruit plates and marmalades along with cereals. Excellent!
At lunch we mostly dined in the Portofino Dining Room where Maitre D' Vincenzo outdid himself with excellent tables near the windows. The lunch menu was terrific. Some of the selections were Mozzarella in Carrozza , fried calamari, Monte Cristo sandwich (ham & cheese on French toast) and crispy English style fish & chips. So many choices, so many decisions. When the weather was nice, we went up to the Horizon Court Buffet or to Prego Pizza and the Trident Grill, for Hamburgers, Chicken Sandwiches, Hot Dogs or German sausages, which were served with the lightest French Fries afloat.
Dinner was the best time for our group, because we all got together after going our separate ways during the day. We talked of the ports, the Antarctic scenes, the photos we took, the gigantic tabular icebergs, the wildlife and the wonderful food. Appetizers were Pate', shrimp, pineapple boats, etc.... Soups included Lobster Bisque, clam chowder, cream of wild mushrooms, clear broths with tortellini, or refreshing cold slurry style soups of pineapple or mangos --- so nice.
Entrees of many types were offered, plus a pasta course. Try the Fettuccine Alfredo served in a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese bowl, or spaghetti alle vongole or primavera. The main entrees included succulent and tender beef Prime Rib; fillet Mignon; veal, lamb or pork chops; and seafood such as salmon, Chilean bass, shrimp, lobster, etc.... Desserts were many and varied pies -- lemon, apple, pecan, etc.; profiteroles; souffle`, cheese cakes and mousses -- plus a large selection of ice creams and sorbets. Our hats are off to Chef Francesco La Forgia. When he strolls through the dining room, you can't miss him-- 6'2” with a 10” chef's toque, he's easily spotted.
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Frank Castiglione keeps the passengers hopping with the following: Bingo, Trivia (Get some new questions, players are tired of seeing the same back-to-back and round the world cruisers walk off with all the valuable prizes [the real plastic key chains and the Princess logo luggage tags are collectors items!] and No, if you are on the ship nonstop for 76 days, it does not make you smarter than the rest of us, even a parrot could win if it heard the same questions over and over again). There are dances in the Skywalkers Night Club on Sky Deck 17and Casino tournaments. The on board Lectures by Joe May and other University Professors were very well received. The Las Vegas style entertainment each evening was lead by the following: Philippa Healey with her mix of opera and classical songs had a standing ovation, the tenor Vincent Talarico was enjoyed in concert. Maurizio, who played several nights in the Atrium, Plaza Deck, was a sensation in concert one night titled “The Duke of Verona” in the Vista Lounge. The ship has many areas for entertainment and relaxation. We had a wonderfully relaxing time, but of course, it was the itinerary which drew us so far from home. This was a never to be forgotten trip. In view of an article dated March 6, 2008, which detailed the breaking off of a 400 square kilometer ice sheet from the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the SW Antarctica Peninsula and with scientists saying that this is another indication of global warming, we feel that future generations probably will not be as lucky as we have been to enjoy the wonders of Antarctica. Perhaps, these wonders will diminish with the passing of time.
ITINERARY 2-19-08 Buenos Aires, Argentina Sail away. 7:00pm
2-20-08 River Plate out to the Sea headed to the Falkland Islands.
2-21-08 At Sea
2-22-08 Stanley, Falkland Islands Arrive 7:00am Depart 7:20pm Tendering to the on shore pontoon.
2-23-08 At Sea. At 1:15pm we passed over the Antarctic Convergence Zone where the sea temperature falls rapidly due to the constant melting of Antarctic ice into the Southern Ocean. The first look outs for icebergs were put to work on the Bridge.
2-24-08 Elephant Island -- The first pieces of ice were detected on the ship's radar. This island juts out of the ocean. At 4:30am we passed latitude 60 S. and formally headed into Arctic waters. At 9:00am we sighted Elephant Island, numerous icebergs and many penguins. After cruising around the island we headed SW.
2-25-08 We set course toward the Antarctic Sound, but conditions worsened and at 8:24am we turned around and began a slow exit of the Sound and crossed the Bransfield Straight towards Admiralty Bay. This was the first of several stunning days, with the slow movement of the ship affording passengers magnificent views of icebergs and spouting whales. The sun was shining brilliantly and we approached 400 foot high icebergs. Surreal! They were so huge compared to the ones in Alaska.
This was our first glimpse of Antarctica and it was spectacular! The age of an iceberg is told by how low it sits in the water. The blue ice is the oldest and most compact, the white ice is newer and has more air in it. These huge icebergs usually last about 8 years and are eroded by water and air. They turn over in the water and there is a tide line around the bergs. The seals are in the water even in the winter. During the winter, this area is 80% covered in ice and only ice breaker vessels can enter here.
The famous explorer Captain Cook would pull up the smaller icebergs, called “Burgy Bits” and bring them on board as a source of fresh water. On the Port side of the ship we saw part of the ice shelf 100ft. above water and 800ft. below. There were spectacular icebergs every where, with some bigger than the ship. There were tabular perfect rectangles of pure white that looked as if they were sawed off. There were some shaped like ramps which could be used for water skiing. Our first glimpse of Antarctica revealed its pyramid shaped mountains, snow and vertical striations and the ice cap that in some places can be over 5 miles deep.
We sailed through out Admiralty Bay and at 1:15pm the scientists from the Polish Artowski Research Station boarded the Star Princess and gave a short informative talk. They were invited to dinner and left soon after to return to King George Island. Their station has been operating continuously since 1977. We heard of glacial movement and the micro chemistry of their layers which trap pockets of atmosphere. At 6:32pm we passed out into the Bransfield Strait and headed south to the Neumayer channel.
2-26-08 Sunrise 5:55 am and Sunset 9:47 pm gave us an almost 16 hour day -- fantastic, like the white nights of the Baltic! This morning there was a brilliant sunrise. Humpback and orca whales were sighted spouting everywhere, easily spotted by the oil slick they leave on the water. Penguins were also seen. The orca whales work in packs much like wolves; they separate out the weaker prey and attack. Thank heaven, we did not witness them in action. The view from our cabin window is picture perfect.
The on board Antarctic specialist says this is a rare clear day here. Port side lets us view the Ice Cap and the Antarctic Peninsula. It is the narrowest point of the peninsula called Paradise Harbor. The other side of the peninsula is the Weddell Sea. The water is incredibly calm and there are Burgy Bits everywhere with penguins on them and pods of whales in the Gerlach Strait (Gerlach was the first explorer to spend a winter here and with him was Armundsen the first man to go to the South Pole). At 11:20am we reached our Southernmost point of this voyage, latitude 64, which places us 3,898 nautical miles south of the equator. The eeriness and quiet of this scene is remarkable, the water is almost glass like, today.
Lion Island is at the head of the Neumaier Channel. It looks like a sphinx with a black face. There is much more snow and ice here, actually, yesterday we saw snow flurries. In 1819 Anvers Island was named by a Belgian Expedition. We sailed northeasterly toward Deception Island.
2-27-08 At 7:45am we approached Deception Island and it was visible from some 10 miles away. All morning we saw minke and humpback whales and then penguin colonies on the shore. The island is actually the remains of a volcano with a caldera similar to Santorini. From here we turned away from the Antarctic and faced patches of fog where visibility was near zero.
2-28-08 We crossed the Drake Passage neared the Pilot Station at Cape Horn. The waters were exceptionally calm, unlike the last time we rounded the Horn. The pilot boat was an hour and a half late and Capt. Oliver circled patiently waiting. Fortunately, the sea was very calm, and we had an excellent view of the Chilean Flag over the weather station and the Albatross Monument dedicated to those sailors who lost their lives in these treacherous waters. There is an old tradition for sailors who round the Horn: they had their ears pierced, got a tattoo and had a drink of rum, which they shared with the sea by pouring some into the ocean.
2-29-08 Ushuaia, Argentina Arrive 6:50am Depart 4:28 pm Many passengers were happy to set foot on terra firma and do some shopping. Magellan called this Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire). It was named that because sailors feared it due to the wildness, fierce winds and the rocky shores that literally ate up whaling ships. Today it was 58 F degrees and bright and sunny in the morning. In the afternoon we headed for the Beagle Channel. The Argentinian pilot debarked and the Chilean pilot steered the Star Princess through the Beagle Channel past the European named glaciers.
We have seen these glaciers six years ago and we were amazed by how much they have receded: in some of them the ice that once arrived all the way down to the water has been replaced by waterfalls, more evidence of global warming.
3-1-08 Punta Arenas, Chile Arrive 6:48 am Depart 7:50pm This is the southernmost Chilean city which is a center for oil drilling. It has stark snow less mountains and was the turning point of our journey, for today in the rain we headed back east and then north to Uruguay. Our travel companions returned to Sotito's Restaurant where we had dined in 2002. They enjoyed it, but not as much as when we had eaten there before.
3-2-08 At Sea Smooth seas and a sunny day in the open waters of the South Atlantic. 3-3-08 At Sea Sailing Northeasterly in over cast skies. 3-4-08 At Sea Sailing Northeasterly in clear skies. 3-5-08 Montevideo, Uruguay Arrive 7:45am Depart 5:00pm 3-6-08 Buenos Aires, Argentina Arrive 6:00am Debarkation 8:30am
DEBARKATION This was much smoother than embarkation. We had wheelchair assistance from our cabin to the bus only, and then we were stuck until we were moved to luggage pick up. Once more we were on our own until we managed to get a porter. Needless to say, it was not too smooth, and we were happy to see cousin Fabian again, waiting for us outside the terminal.
CONCLUSION Definitely, this has been one of our best cruises ever, considering the itinerary, our traveling friends, Marguerite and Richard Bozian and Yvonne and Alan Chen, the excellent food and service, especially in the restaurants, and our return to the Star Princess. And just think that we almost canceled the booking of this cruise due to Mary's recent knee replacement surgery. We are glad we didn't!
We have booked two future cruises with Princess, one on the Norwegian Cruise Line without specific dates and one in November on the new RCI ship Independence of the Seas. We have not booked a cruise for this spring or summer due to Mary's knee surgery scheduled for April 10th. However, we hope that she will recover fast, so we don't have to wait too long for the next cruise. Happy Cruising!
Travel Arrangements From start to finish disorganization around travel arrangements is normal. Princess's inability to arrange airline assignments continues. Evidently they just don't care about things such as spouses sitting together on lengthy flights despite the arrangements being booked 3-5 months ahead and paid for in advance.
Embarkation Embarkation continues to be a major challenge. As an example, in 30 deg plus, high humidity weather, platinum and elite passengers are forced to wait hours while staff fruitlessly search for boarding cards and other assorted documentation on the Buenos Aires dock. Disembarkation is another nightmare albeit a 'gong show' in trying to get passengers to the airport. When queried, on board staff say it's all to do with being in a South American port and decry any control over the situation, yet other cruise lines out of Buenos Aires seem to handle the situation very well.
Noro Virus We found out while we were on the ship that the previous cruise had severe problems with novo virus. Despite our best efforts to protect ourselves we and numerous experienced cruisers contracted the dreaded virus. The virus weakened many people's resistance so that when they recovered, theyfairly quickly contracted a severe cold/flu that was running rampant throughout the boat. The flu spared no one, entertainers and staff alike.
Cleanliness The boat doesn't appear to be properly cleaned. Other passengers complained of boarding the boat and finding dirty sheets on their bed. Certainly we saw that as we were disembarking, despite the tremendous amount of illness that had been on the boat, no methods were being employed differently to ensure it was clean enough for passengers arriving that very afternoon for the next voyage.
Due Diligence Passengers sign a document prior to boarding that they have not been ill for two days. Yet we met people from the UK who boarded the boat while they were sick and had been so for 2 weeks. There is no effort made to ensure that people boarding the boat are healthy which just exacerbates the problems that this boat was having. One would expect extra efforts which were non evident.
Smoking The smoking arrangements on this ship are obviously not well thought through. For example, in all the areas where there is dancing, the smoking area is right beside it even though there is lots of room to move smoking well away from the dance floor. The ventilation arrangements appear sporadic in these smoking areas as well. This is evidently a corporate policy.
Food We were astonished to find that even though the ship was embarking from Buenos Aires all food was sourced from LA. Argentina is famous for the world's best organic beef, pork and lamb and yet we had no chance of enjoying it. There was no effort at all for the menus to reflect the local cuisine. For example, there was no Argentinian wines on board. This is evidently a corporate policy.
Staff The staff on board overall are extremely helpful, friendly and service oriented. It seems in these situations their hands are tied by corporate policies. These policies must be reflecting a continuing shrinking of resources and penny-pinching attitude from head office.
Conclusion This experience has certainly soured us at looking at any other Princess offerings. The preventable problems of this cruise were a source of major disappointment. Antarctica was a fantastic experience.