I previously sailed on this ship when she was originally the Sea
Princess (1999), then the Adonia (2003). Since she was re-named Sea
Princess again, I was interested to see what changes had been made
following her much publicized and expensive re-fit, prior to the
transfer back to Princess Cruises from her former operator P &
O Cruises (UK). (In my review of the Adonia in 2003, I suggested
the ship was a wrong choice for P & O cruises, and now we have
her back home to her original family.)
This time, I traveled on Sea Princess from June 18-July 2 on a
Norwegian Fjords and North Cape cruise, visiting Stavanger,
Trondheim, Tromso, Honningsvag, Geiranger and Bergen. The weather
was mixed at the beginning of the cruise, but the sun shone while
we were at the North Cape and in the fjords; for two days, one
would have thought we were in the Caribbean until we saw the snow
on the peaks of the mountains.
Check-in at Southampton was controlled but slow - the average
time for queuing for check-in was 58 minutes. Six check-in booths
were closed; perhaps if these
had been staffed, waiting time would have been reduced.
On embarking the ship, there were no members of staff to escort
guests to their staterooms. The absence of staff for this purpose
needs to be urgently looked at, as the majority of guests on this
cruise were quite elderly and many were wandering aimlessly around
Staterooms were clean, comfortable and compact. Compact is the
key word: Many guests who had traveled on other cruise lines
– indeed, on other Princess ships -- were disappointed with
their size, especially the outside cabins with balconies. There are
plenty of drawers for storage, but limited wardrobe hanging space
in the cabins. The beds are among the most comfortable afloat. Each
cabin or stateroom has a refrigerator, hairdryer, TV with a wide
range of channels, a telephone, and en-suite shower room with
toiletries supplied. If you require a bathrobe, just ask your cabin
attendant. Fresh fruit is supplied daily, but only on request.
Bottled water is available for purchase.
Cabins are well lighted and ventilated, and have soft
furnishings. Some guests observed that some bedspreads had seen
better days, as they were stained or threadbare, but these were
immediately changed after a word with the bedroom
A number of guests were annoyed that their cabin attendants
asked them, during their initial introductions, if they would like
to attend a wine tasting seminar, and if so, the attendants would
"get them the tickets for it." Those who agreed were surprised when
they learned there was a charge to attend this seminar, and the
first they knew about the charge was when they checked their
on-board account. At the outset, guests should be made aware of
A word of warning: If you consider this ship for a cruise, be
careful about cabins on Dolphin deck 8 aft. A number of these
cabins are directly above the Vista Lounge, and when activities in
this lounge involve music or the use of a microphone, every sound
can be clearly heard. The cabins actually vibrate when the noise
gets to a certain level. Like some, I enjoy an afternoon nap, but I
seldom got an undisturbed one -- nor could I get to sleep prior to
11.30 p.m. most evenings. I spoke with other guests who had cabins
in this area and they too suffered the same level of noise.
In fairness to the staff, within hours of completing an in-cabin
form titled "Let us Know," I was offered a transfer to a different
cabin. This was amazing, as a notice on the Pursers Desk indicated
all cabins were full and no changes were possible. While Princess'
official line is that they have "never received complaints
concerning these cabins," privately staff indicated that Princess
was very aware of the problem. This I know to be true, as in
previous reviews and on the guest comment forms on previous cruises
on this ship, I informed them of this problem. I spoke with guests
who had cabins above the Princess Theatre, who said that they were
not affected by noise. Readers may wonder why I chose this cabin
when I was aware of the noise problems – but I didn't. When I
booked, I was listed for a cabin on a guarantee basis, allocated at
check-in; this occurred each of my three times on this vessel.
Now to explore the features of the refurbishment – but
what features? I saw very little difference. I saw the same
carpets, the same décor, the same furnishings - ah yes,
there is Movies Under the Stars; and they have done away with the
wonderful lounge, I think it was called ‘As Easy as a Friday'
when the ship was called The Adonia – what a shame! But what
else has changed? Nothing obvious! Though I must say that the ship
is maintained in a spotless condition; staffers were always seen
cleaning and polishing.
Muster Drill was next on the agenda. This drill was well
executed - though I did observe that in Muster Station C there were
not enough seats to accommodate everyone. This would be most
uncomfortable in case of a real emergency, if guests had to gather
for a lengthy period of time. Perhaps the number of muster stations
needs to be reviewed.
Food and Restaurants
For our cruise we chose Traditional Dining. There are many
options on this ship. At dinner, the food was superb, the service
excellent and the menus varied and exciting. It was a pleasure, and
we all looked forward to dinner each evening. There were 28 in our
group. The only comment I would make about the main dining room is
that in a four-star restaurant, one does not expect the waiter and
his assistant to deal with wine and bar orders; this distracts from
their primary purpose - to ensure efficient service and
presentation of food to guests. Proper, dedicated staff needs to be
employed for this purpose. It was amazing how our waiter managed to
cope so effectively in this regard.
Formal breakfast service was slow in some areas of the
restaurant, with the average wait being 35 minutes from orders
being taken until the food arrived.
The Horizon Court is the informal dining area. This area is not
user friendly. While the food and presentation are of a high
quality, there is a lack of staff to clear tables (not only in
Horizon Court, but in some of the other bar and coffee outlets
throughout the ship). The layout of the buffets is
higgledy-piggledy! There are no trays, and all the dishes are
plastic. There are no staffers available to assist elderly or
infirm guests, and the area is too small for the number of people
on the vessel. Again, I previously brought this to the attention of
Princess, but alas no action has been taken. A limited selection of
fruit juices is only available for breakfast; they are weak in
flavor and gave the impression of being watered down (although they
are not -- I watched them being poured directly from their sealed
containers into the dispensers).
At the entrance to the Horizon Court, facilities are available
to disinfect or cleanse one's hands, in an effort to curb the
Norfolk and other viruses. This facility should be extended to
other eateries and main restaurants throughout the ship.
The entertainment on this ship is excellent in all regards, from
the revue shows to the daytime activities, the individual acts, the
many musicians and their varied styles of music - all were a treat
Some of the cruise staff needs to pay more attention to detail
when hosting shows and other entertainment - a minor matter but
Incidentally, for British guests on board (and there were many),
do remember that answers for the majority of quiz shows are based
mainly on American responses - this should be indicated to
contestants at the outset.
One of the most annoying aspects of attending shows in the
Princess Theatre (the main show lounge) is that Princess insists on
serving drinks throughout performances. Waiters have to disturb
guests who are seated and enjoying the show in order to get to
those who want drinks. After they take the orders and return with
the drinks, the same disturbance occurs. This is grossly unfair not
only to guests but to the performers. The service of drinks should
be suspended while entertainment is taking place.
The Princess Theatre causes me concern regarding safety. Seating
is such that in some areas, seats are against a wall/barrier
– an obstruction that prevents free movement/access. The only
means of evacuation in case of emergency are the center aisles --
unless you are fit enough to climb over seats.
Bars and Lounges
Drinks are reasonably priced and of good quality. However, I
take exception to the aggressiveness of some bar staff and those
who suggest that large ones or doubles are a better value. Also if
someone orders whisky or a similar spirit, they produce and serve
the "premium" variety, thus attracting more commission for
themselves - naughty. Regretfully this aggressiveness increased as
the cruise progressed. Obviously bar revenues had not reached their
targets and the big sell was the order of the day. This was not the
approach of all bar staff, just a few.
The spa, shops, photography services, future cruise sales and
shore excursions desk all operate efficiently and effectively,
offering the normal wares, goods and items associated with ships of
a similar size and standard and within their specialist range.
Unfortunately at Geiranger, some 238 guests, after lining up for
their bus assignments, were told the tour had been oversold and
that their tour was canceled. This caused immense disappointment to
many. According to the Shore Excursion Manager, this was due to a
computer error -- or rather, lack of communication between
Princess' headquarters and the ship. He did try to get additional
buses but was unable to do so at the last minute.
Guests were compensated with a bottle of wine, but most felt
this was totally inadequate, since the highlight of this cruise was
to be going on this shore excursion. Many had indicated they would
be unlikely to return to this port again. There does indeed seem to
be a lack of communication between the headquarters and the ship --
when I boarded with my group, staff at the Pursers Office had not
been advised my group was coming onboard. However in fairness,
after a couple of meetings, this was soon rectified and group
members were able to dine together, etc.
Some of our group booked a series of spa treatments, but
canceled these after the first session as they were most annoyed at
the hard sell to purchase spa products.
The staff attached to the Pursers Office -including the Captains
Circle Representative - were most professional and helpful. Nothing
was too much bother for them and they always went out of their way
to assist, no matter what the question or request.
I have cruised many times with Princess and without doubt, this
was the best cruise ever. The service and food (especially in the
Traviata Restaurant), the entertainment, and the approach and
attitude of the majority of staff were outstanding. The foregoing
comments should not be taken as complaints but as constructive
criticism in the hope that the excellence portrayed may be
continued and where necessary improved on.
This ship, because of its size (77,441 gross tons), is
manageable, comfortable and ideal to provide a fantastic cruise
experience. I look forward to sailing onboard her again - soon.
Top 5 highlights
1. The entertainment. 2. The food. 3. The staff. 4. The Princess
Loyalty Program (Captain's Circle) - the best afloat. 5. The ports
of call and scenery.
Top 5 Disappointments
1. Cabin size and noise. 2. Aggressiveness (by a few members of
the bar and beauty salon staff). 3. Lack of seating at peak times
in Horizon Court. 4. Cheap plastic ticket wallets given by
Princess. 5. The tender service - lack of organization and