Kennicott

Kennicott

Captain
Cordova, Alaska
Joined 03/2014

16

Cruises

18

Reviews

201

Helpful Votes

Born and raised Alaskan, in Cordova on Prince William Sound. Live in Anchorage now. On our last cruise we just passed the 600 days on the high seas mark. First cruise was in 1990 on the Fair Princess. When a kid we used to travel "outside" from Alaska and the only way to do that was on Alaska Steamship Co. So that is where, I think, I first found I love the sea and riding on the big ships. After large aircraft transports pushed out the passenger travel on Alaska Steam the only chances I had to be on the water was a commercial fishing venture I invested in. I also flew for a living, for about 12 years, and my largest customers were fishing processors so I served the commercial fishermen as well as the cannery fleet of large tenders. Not listed here, are two more favorite ports of ours, Cape Town, South Africa and Stockholm, Sweden.

Past Cruises

Pacific Princess

November 2018 - 29 Night Mediterranean Grand Adventure (Venice To Ft. Lauderdale) Cruise on Pacific Princess

Seven Seas Mariner

October 2018 - 22 Night Panama To Paradise (Miami To Honolulu) Cruise on Seven Seas Mariner

Regent is enhancing over all cruise quality

In summation, I realize Regent's prices are pretty steep and going up, so are the other line's prices that we frequent. But you have to say this about Frank Del Rio (FDR)'s lines. The other lines seem to not only be increasing prices but also engaging in a commensurate ratcheting down of overall cruise quality. While at the same time, Regent is enhancing over all cruise quality.

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Pacific Princess

January 2018 - 111 Night World Cruise (Los Angeles Roundtrip) Cruise on Pacific Princess

We have voyaged on the Pacific Princess for almost two months. This ship still remains one of our favorites.

We have voyaged on the Pacific Princess for almost two months. Our first on this vessel was in November and December 2016. I posted an excellent review back then and this ship still remains one of our favorites. However, since then on this ship, there has been a little improvement here and there and some degradation. Which has resulted in my dropping the previous rating.

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Pacific Princess

January 2018 - 94 Night World Cruise (Los Angeles To Ft. Lauderdale) Cruise on Pacific Princess

We have voyaged on the Pacific Princess for almost two months. This ship still remains one of our favorites.

We have voyaged on the Pacific Princess for almost two months. Our first on this vessel was in November and December 2016. I posted an excellent review back then and this ship still remains one of our favorites. However, since then on this ship, there has been a little improvement here and there and some degradation. Which has resulted in my dropping the previous rating.

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Pacific Princess

November 2016 - 29 Night Mediterranean Grand Adventure (Venice To Ft. Lauderdale) Cruise on Pacific Princess

Good, Bad and the Ugly-----except there were no ugly's on this vessel or voyage

.     We spent a month on the Pacific Princess, a TA---started in Venice, did the Balkans, Greece, Italy, Spain Gibraltar, Madeira, Bermuda and then Florida. For us we passed the 600 total days of sailing landmark on this cruise.  Excellent ship, confirms my preference for the smaller vessels. We both agree we like ships this size best, doubtful if we do much cruising in the future if all we have are the gigantic's to choose from. Princess may sell this one as it is much smaller than anything else in their fleet. They are really keeping it up nicely though, don't know if that is because they want to sell or what, they are still booking it through 2018 however. A most enjoyable cruise over all. Good going Princess.   Although this cruise occurred very late in the season, basically a repositioning 29 day cruise from  the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, it was jazzed up with extra ports and a romantic name attached "Mediterranean Grand Adventure". Some though, booked it as two "Back to Backs" or only took one segment.   

 

EXCELLENT--  

 

---The ship--The smallest in the Princess fleet, a little over 30,000 gross tons with approximately 650 guests. In my opinion, more staff per guest, more space per guest and much less pushing and shoving than we have seen in quite some time on the high seas, plus much more quality and personal service. The ship is well taken care of, in fact I thought our cabin, 8000, must have recently been refurbished as it was in perfect condition and the heating-A/C system worked like it should. Crew members are constantly chipping away old paint and renewing woodwork everywhere. I saw no patches of rust anywhere. This "Pacific Princess" was one of the three, out of eight, relatively new "R" ships Princess acquired after the Renaissance Line went under around 2000 (R-3). These vessels are still all in service but Princess has only this one left now. It is too bad that Renaissance didn't have stern thrusters installed when these were manufactured as those would eliminate a few difficulties and need for tugs, even though they do have "Becker Rudders", when getting into tight ports under severe wind conditions.  

 

---Our stateroom was a mini-suite and one of the finest if not the finest we have had. A five by fifteen foot balcony with drapes that, when pulled back, presented the spacious living area with a huge picture window. Very quiet location forward on Deck 8. The bathroom was not large but average by today's standard dimensions, the shower was in the tub, however, the vanity cabinets were more than ample and each had cupboard doors with mirrors on them which we haven't seen for a while, so all one's cosmetics, etc. aren't sitting out in the open ready to fall off the trays. The closets, at first, appeared to be a little short on space, however that wasn't the case, true, they aren't walk in, but they handled all our stuff easily and I had two tuxes and wife had the equivalent fine dress for our five formal nights. Nice refrigerator and an excellent room steward who had the fridge constantly full of fresh ice, perhaps one of the best if not the best room Stewart (Ginno) we have had in over 600 days of sailing. Balcony---In addition to being quite large the balcony has a teak top rail and three bars below it instead of plexiglas or some other barrier.  Plexiglas often is clouded due to scratching, UVs, or covered with salt crust and or water spray, so you actually have to stand at the railing in order to get a decent, not distorted, view of the ocean below. Not with these railings though, as you can sit in your deck chair or your cabin and enjoy a clear view, this is the same type of railings the ships of yore had.  

 

---The library on this vessel is outstanding. The largest and quietest we have ever seen on any ship. Truly a library for a vessel engaging in lengthy exploratory voyages.  

 

---Thank you Princess for the free laundry and free dry cleaning. We used it all the time, very good, prompt and no rationing. First time I have ever had creases in my cargo pocket Wranglers.       

 

VERY GOOD---   

 

---The main dining room "Club Restaurant" was very good, the first time I've been able to give a MDR an "A" rating in a long time. Didn't start out that way though. When we first booked we were # 24 on the wait list for a table for two at 6:00 PM. About 4.5 months before sailing we reached "confirmed" status in that category, however, there was caveat small print language that indicated the table for two wasn't a certainty. When we boarded we discovered instead, our seating was at 5:30 PM and we were at a table for eight.   This ship only offers traditional dinner seating, we always use anytime dining as traditional times are way too late or too early, but anytime dining on other ships is usually a mess as well, since the waiter and kitchen staffs aren't adequate and the lines for anytime dining are usually over 30 minutes long as everybody wants to eat around 6:00 PM, it seems, and guests in those lines are usually not of good temperament. On recent cruises we have began taking dinner in the extra charge Specialties or other venues rather than the MDR. If we go early we miss one of the best aspects of cruising, the "Sail Away" times. It also pinches us time wise on long shore excursion days and also limits our time to enjoy our Elite lounge special price cocktail and free Ore' hors d'oeuvres  time, beginning at 5:00 PM.    So this time, at the start, we made due without going to the MDR the first 13 days of the voyage. Dinner during that period was at--Ultimate balcony dining (1), (Thanksgiving), Sabatini's, extra charge (1), Sterling Steakhouse, extra charge (1), Buffet-(Panorama Buffet) (10). Hey, we were still happy, sort of, as the buffet on the Pacific Princess is much better than that on the larger ships and not near as crowded. Plus, we weren't rushed and were enjoying the rest of the voyage. But after our visit to Rome and thanks to Maitre d', Oscar Perego he got us set up at a table for two in the MDR, with seating anytime between 5:30 PM and 6:30 PM. From that point on eating in the MDR was like the days of yore. Good wine service, good meals, great waiters and atmosphere in a not over crowded dining room. We then ate dinner in the MDR most of the rest of the cruise (15), Sabatini's, extra charge (1).

 

 ---The Internet worked pretty good everywhere we voyaged. It slowed a bit in the afternoons sometimes as more logged on, but I had no trouble loading and sending 7 or 8 Face Book pictures with each of my posts outlining our journey for family and friends back home. Fortunately, due Elite status, we received 1000 free Internet minutes (between the two of us) and 800 more at a very low rate, for the entire cruise. The internet cafe is quite large for the size of this vessel and the manager is congenial, knowledgeable and usually available. Right next door is the card room with 4 large tables, (The card room is right above our cabin, how's that for quiet?) where one with a laptop can get better and faster signals than in many cabins.   

 

---Captain Domenico Lubrano was a real great and safe seafarer. In addition, he has excellent demeanor and went out of his way to keep us informed as to what was going on. He even speculated far in advance as to changes that might have to take place due weather, etc. We had a few pretty rough days, one day and two nights in the eastern Mediterranean and at least two real choppy days in the Atlantic. Some long time cruising guests were displeased, even got sea sick, but we've seen worse seas, after all, a TA on winter solistice?    

 

---Princess still has formal nights, we had five this cruise, we love them. I understand a lot of the other lines are doing away with formal to satisfy the preference of the average cruiser today, consequently confusion and anarchy in dress practices is causing degradation in the quality of the cruise experience for many.  

 

---Ample deck chairs available all the time. No battles over "chair hoggers" on this ship.   

 

---Two of my best liked experiences on board are watching the "Sail Away's" and the Enrichment lectures. Both have been good this voyage. Of course, during the first two week segment it was almost impossible to have viable enrichment lectures since we were ashore about every day. There was some decent destination lectures squeezed in though. It is well worth one's while to take in a destination lecture before arriving at the port. However, during the second segment the enrichment lectures were excellent and on point with respect to our sailing across the Atlantic. Provided by an historian, David Sisler, who got into the theme of the voyage with lectures dealing with the spice trade, world navigators, points of ocean geography and pirates. I understand some of the majors are doing away with enrichment lectures. That would be terrible, when we sail to the remote areas of the globe there is nothing like having somebody knowledgeable about history, geography, naturalism, provide a series of lectures pertinent to the part of the world in which the voyage takes place.  

 

GOOD--- 

 

---I like the theatre on this vessel (Cabaret Lounge). We had previously quit attending showband dance productions and other individual entertainment shows, since the theatres in the newer vessels are a nightmare due the long rows located too close to each other where early arrivals take the closest seats to the too few isles, leaving other guests to try and squeeze by as many as a dozen who fail to stand up and let you by. So, this was the first cruise out of the past five cruises where we attended such events and really liked it. On the first segment a singer named Philip Brown from Britain had a three octave voice and could really sing, he did a stint one time there with the theatre in the "Lion King". I watched both his performances and loved them. The Pacific Princess Dancers deserve extra credit. I have heard some of the mega-ships on other lines even give tickets out for extra charge productions, ugh, I don't know if they assign seats or not.  

 

---There are three hot tubs on this ship. Two of normal size and design on the pool deck on each side of the main swimming pool. One very large excellent one just below the bridge and available for extra charge. To gain access to the big tub one must go through the "Lotus Spa" area. Along side this hot tub are Lotus Spa provided extra comfort reclining deck chairs and lemon water refreshments. My wife negotiated some sort of deal for a 29 day Lotus Spa package wherein we got access to this hot tub and the two steam rooms in the men's and women's dressing areas. When the large tub was down for maintenance I used the smaller public ones which were never over crowded and most of the time I was by myself in them. My wife used the steam room all the time and I love the hot tub. Plenty of towels available at every location.  

 

---The television was adequate but it sure would be nice to have a larger one like the new ships have with a large selection of on demand movies to chose from. Comprehensive TV news programing was very good, especially MSNBC and BBC---reception was available for each channel 99% of the time near the Continent but sporadic at best in mid-Atlantic and even non-existent for more than three days there.  

 

---Buffet-(Panorama Buffet) was a lot more enjoyable on this ship than on the larger ones. Not near as crowded, hardly ever had a difficult time finding a table at lunch and at dinner there was always many empty tables. On warmer days there was a lot of outdoor seating, particularly on the fantail immediately aft of the buffet. In addition, the food and service was a lot better, there were more staff per guest and the quality of meals superior. Fresh squeezed orange juice every morning, all you want.      

 

---In general, the average passenger on this vessel was much more congenial than those we run into on larger vessels, in particular those involving short cruise segments. Courteous conversations all the time, no arrogant political mouthing off anywhere that I witnessed. During meals when sitting with others we always found good and interesting companions to talk with. However, we still had our share of the pushing and shoving type that gives cruising a bad name. For instance, those with no mobility issues who sneak ahead before excursions are called in order to get on the coaches first and gobble up the front row seats. If and when we somehow end up in a front row seat I can't live with myself as I watch others with canes and crutches limp their way to the far back seats.  

 

---First time in quite a few cruises there was plenty of staircases and the elevators not jammed packed all the time  

 

---Shore excursions. We took only ship sponsored shore excursions. We purchased 18 of them this voyage, but one port was canceled, so 17. The shore excursion office did an excellent job of keeping track of individual excursions, for instance, in addition to the one canceled there was a substitution for it which also  had to be canceled due wind, there was also another port substituted for another which did take place, so, changes had to be made which must have been difficult and confusing for the staff to do. All of our knowledgeable guides spoke English well, I could understand everyone of them. Some excursions were better than others and some were somewhat repetitive for us as we had taken similar excursions years ago when on other cruises, but all in all they were very good, not one bad in the lot. Buses were well maintained and modern, some were even brand new. Since we had never been in the Balkan states before excursions there probably stood out more than others. I was impressed with the cleanliness of the Balkans and the quality of excursions. They have a lot to offer and I expect that the cruise industry well take advantage of this in the future. One very good one was where the Postojna Caves were included in Slovenia (Koper). Even though we had taken gondola rides before in Venice, this time we took a night ride and it was memorable.  

 

---For the first time in many cruises the Captain and staff kept us well apprised of what the ship was doing, where we were and what was ahead. They did this by having a marine navigation chart (This is the first marine navigation chart we have seen posted in our last 6 cruises) posted on the pool deck along with weather forecasts, etc. Also the ships TV had three channels devoted to weather, sea conditions, current location of the vessel, speed and heading. All this in addition to the Captain's frequent announcements and updates.   

 

---We booked our Venice hotel with Princess, for two nights before getting on board our ship, once on board we had a third night in Venice before sailing late the next afternoon. We also booked transfers from the airport to the hotel and hotel to ship (Sure is nice to have a Princess representative waiting for you with a sign when you get off the aircraft, additionally, on our recent Princess cruises we have immediately been provided transport to our hotel, sometimes by limo, no more waiting in a bus with a crowd of others for a few stragglers on late arriving flights). On disembarkation day we also had ship to airport via a Princess shore excursion.   The Cron Plaza Quarto D'altino hotel has to be about the cleanest if not the cleanest hotel we have ever stayed in. Our room was fairly large and immaculate, we liked it a lot. It is on the outskirts of Venice on the mainland, about 7 miles from the cruise ship pier. I'm not certain how much we paid but it was a lot, since our transfers to and from the ship are cranked into that charge. We had to be wait listed by Princess before they could get the hotel to guarantee our second night. This was off season too, and it certainly did not appear to be near full during our stay. One guy told me he made reservations directly with the hotel for $126.00 per night which is probably half what we paid per night.   If one is planning to go into Venice during the day this hotel location is ideal since it is a 3 minute walk to the train pickup. The hotel is located in a residential area so the only places to eat are at the hotel. The dining room is good, the cuisine mediocre. The bar is pretty reasonable and offers a variety of dining choices. The bar will also sell you canned sodas you can take to your room. There is one ice machine on the 3rd floor just down the hall from our room (the hotel has only three floors). The liquor in the hotel refrigerator set up is very limited so bring your own liquor and mix. We ate dinner at both. Part of the Princess hotel package included two full buffet style breakfasts at the hotel in the dining room, which were pretty good.   The hotel doesn't exchange currencies and tell you that you have to go into downtown Venice to do that. So, my two mistakes were not bringing some Euros and not bringing an adopter for our US 120 volt AC laptop battery charger from European 220 volt. Wi-fi in the room is free and very good. The TV is also excellent with hundreds of different channels, but we could find only two in English, CNN International and CNBC International. In summary, we would book the hotel again but would prefer a better rate. The hotel did serve our purpose in that we were relaxed and anxious to board our ship beginning a month long cruise.  

 

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT---  

 

---Specialty Restaurants.---Actually, good in most respects, however, definite slippage in meal quality there over the last couple of years or so, on the larger vessels they do a better job. Plenty of good waiter staff as service is very prompt and kitchen staff not understaffed either, so that isn't the problem. However, overall quality not up to what it has been. Not really worth the $29.00 per person extra charge anymore. MDR has the Specialties beat on this ship, that is if you can get into the MDR at a decent time. There are two main Specialties, "Sabatini's" and the "Sterling Steakhouse". The kitchen and wait staff for both are the same but the dining areas are in different locations, albeit close together. Both have excellent ocean views from most tables. Don't be misled though, they are never both open at the same time. The Steakhouse is apparently more popular than Sabatini's so they open the Steakhouse for three consecutive days then two days for Sabatini's. We like Sabatini's best.     

 

---Fitness Center---Excellent location for workouts, Deck 9, with wonderful vistas. Downer is that it is in need of more equipment. In particular, at least two more elliptical's and one or more treadmills. Treadmills and elliptical's have notices on them requesting guests to limit their workouts on each to 20 minutes during busy periods. Doesn't work, many guests are not disciplined enough to honor this requirement.  

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Regal Princess

January 2016 - 14 Night Caribbean West/East Adventurer (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Regal Princess

Not quite five but more than four--Great sun voyage

We just got off the Regal Princess after a two weeker on the Caribbean. It was billed as the two week "Caribbean Adventurer" but only one fifth of the guests were on both segments. The cruise industry gets coy anymore with labeling their cruises, on this voyage some aspects were treated as two weeks others were by segment. You really have to pay attention to the detail here or you could get screwed up. For instance, on this cruise our cruise card was issued for both segments, but one time we noticed that the cruise card was issued per segment, so if you got off at the middle cruise port you couldn't get back on again. A nice advantage though was our free internet time which gave us more if it was calculated per segment, which it was, instead of two weeks, so our Elite status allowed more free time.  All and all this was an enjoyable sun country cruise. It was a pretty nice two weeks on the Caribbean Sea, weather for the most part was sunny and warm, although the two times we were in Fort Lauderdale, beginning and ending as well as the intermediate stop there, were rather chilly.  We were on the Regal for three weeks in September for a Baltic, British Isle and TA which I rated back then in a fairly comprehensive review, so I won't be going over most of that in the detail this time, as much was the same this voyage. However, there were some differences, since this cruise was much shorter. I rarely give a cruise 5 stars and I'm not going to do so here, but I do believe it to be four star plus. It was a simple cruise that I thought was going to be like one of these "booze cruises" after I learned it was basically a B to B, it was not.Happy

 

We began by flying into Fort Lauderdale and using the Princess Hotel and transfer package, two nights at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort. We always do at least two nights prior in order to acclimatize so we are not dragging and tired upon embarkation.      

We found some more improvement in the Princess overall cruise product during this sailing on the Regal, over that we encountered on our four previous Princess cruises during the last 15 months but there were some reductions which concerned us. We are beginning to appreciate some aspects of a cruise on the larger vessels a little more, previously we only used the smaller ships. Regal/Royal are the largest we have been on, the Regal is almost a new ship, it is delightful to enjoy a cruise on a vessel that has little wear and tear on it. We had a mini-suite again but this one was different in that it was forward facing with a huge balcony, about 200 Sq. Ft, billed as a premium mini. I had my doubts when we booked this as I thought it would be very windy. Not so, actually the flow of air up over the bow made this balcony more comfortable than those on the sides. I was out there every day. The mini-suite itself was a little larger as well. But the sea days were real nice and we enjoyed our huge balcony immensely.

OUTSTANDING---One feature about this ship that is real intriguing is the over-the-water SeaWalks (one port and one starboard about midship). They are on deck level 17, 128 feet above the sea, and extend 30 feet beyond the vessels hull. They are enclosed extended half-moon walkways with glass-floors, the crew keeps the glass impeccably clean, so much so that one looking down at the sea far below, and rushing by, gives even those used to heights pause before stepping out onto the glass.

VERY GOOD----The specialty restaurants were very good, particularly Sabatini's, wife didn't care much for the service in the Crown Grill $25.00 pp, the only time we ate there this voyage the waiter took her plate away before she was ready and their lobster wasn't as good as Sabatini's, so we booked Sabatini's five times, $25.00 pp. We also booked the "Crab Shack" almost every time we had the opportunity (Do yourself a favor and don't miss that if you love shell fish). A pleasant surprise was the high end Alfredo's on the two new larger ships, Royal and Regal, this is a sit down hand-tossed Neapolitan-style pizza, with linen table clothes etc. which is no extra  charge (note, this is not to be confused with the cheap pizzas they hand out 24 hours a day on the Lido deck at no extra charge as well). On longer voyages they offer the Chef's Table, but not this time they apparently viewed this as a one week cruise, B to Bs don't count. The Chef's Table is for dinner only but you have to get on a list, it is extremely a good multi course dinner with wine selections included for each course and you get a lot of extras with it like the Princess cook book and special talks behind the scenes with the top chefs, if you get invited, expensive but worth the $230.00 for the two of us. If you are into shell fish they put on two "Crab Shacks" a week, they charge $20.00 pp, we never miss at least one a week. We also love the extra charge "Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar" it is very good, even has caviar and excellent oysters, sushi, extra charges depend upon the item. "Gelato" is a super high end ice cream style eatery, extra charges depend upon the treat, note---ice cream is available on the Lido deck free of charge on Princess. On this cruise we ate dinner at Sabatini's (5). Crown Grill (1), Seafood Terrace (2), Crab Shack (2), MDR (2). Alfredo's (3).

 --Princess has the no smoking restrictions down pretty well now, to the point we wondered, on a previous Regal cruise, if a new rule had been created making this ship a totally non-smoking one. As it turned out there is a limited amount of smoking in the Casino and within a fenced off portion of the Terrace Pool, Deck 17, and in a enclosed ventilated lounge called "Churchill's" dedicated for smokers only, including cigar smokers. Plus a short section of deck on the starboard side of deck 7 which allows smoking but I never saw any smokers there. It appears smokers shun Princess ships anymore or refrain from lighting up on them. That is good.

--I use the hot tubs everyday, there are six good ones, four around the Fountain Pool and two at the Retreat Pool. Unfortunately, these are not enough for 3600 passengers on a sun country cruise. I found it very difficult to get into one, at lest one that wasn't packed, no matter what time of day or evening it was. Unlike our sad experience on the Coral Princess in January 2015 there were always towels everywhere all the time, and I mean all the time and there were a huge number of folk using them, no exceptions, good going.

--Judging from our five Princess cruises in the last 15 months, It appears to us the buffet area (Horizon Court) has improved in quality of food as well as service over that provided on the Coral in January 2015 and to some extent over that on the Royal in September 2014. Of course, like all buffets there is crowding at times but 3 out of every 4 of our visits to the buffet for brunch there has been ample seating room and waiters to take care of you. On our cruise on the Regal in September 2015 we were in pretty chilly northern climates, meaning folk couldn't use the ample buffet seating outside, so the buffet was very crowded at times. However, on this cruise, there was almost always plenty of seating inside and outside.  

--Some of the musicians playing at various times throughout the ship were outstanding, for instance, in particular, violinists playing on the main floor of the grand atrium.

GOOD--As previously mentioned, we sailed on the Royal over a year ago and the Coral in January 2015. The main dining room experience on the Royal was tolerable but definitely needed some improvement. The Coral MDR however was a complete debacle, although we enjoyed the ship and cruise. The Coral experience was so bad we stayed away from the MDR on the Regal in September 2015 (by using specialty restaurants mentioned previously) until about a week into the cruise. Maybe because we expected the worst we were pleasantly surprised when we finally did go there. On the Coral the MDR was beset with a myriad of problems due to both understaffed kitchen and service personnel. Food quality was significantly better on the Regal and the waiter staff didn't appear to be so harried and disorganized. This voyage we ate only twice in the MDR due our recent experiences, the first time we had an hour wait with some friends we had met, other than that things were okay, the service very good and meal mediocre. The next time however, was the last formal night out of four, where lobster was served. Now, that last MDR visit reminded us of the old days in the MDR, very very good. Keep up the improvements Princess, I have now moved your MDR experiences out of my "poor" category, don't let me down.

--Shore excursions were all well organized and good, at least all those we took. We really haven't visited much of Mexico and what we have hasn't impressed us, however, we had never been on the Yucatan Peninsula before and now find it worth doing. It looks like the island of Cozumel is one's best bet for weather, low crime, cleanliness and visitor amenities if one wants to visit for a week or so. Beautiful beaches everywhere as well as excellent snorkeling and diving. When we were there last week, they said there were 10 ships in, I counted eight, which must have brought over 30,000 visitors for the day.

If I hadn't been enjoying the voyage so far, which we had, the Coba excursion would have made the entire trip worth while. I took an eight hour day trip out to the Mayan ruins at Coba on the mainland. We were in port on the island of Cozumel, Mexico so had to take a one hour boat shuttle over to the mainland to begin the two hour trip inland to Coba. The day before that I also had the opportunity to do Mayan ruins at Chacchoben when we were in port at Costa Maya. Coba was the best though, I got to climb to the top of Nohoch Mul which is the highest (138 ft.) pyramid in the Yucatan Peninsula. It is also the only one you can climb to the top of. That is about to change they say, our guide said that any day he expects to see it roped off. Coba is a very interesting and well kept up Mayan historic site inside a lush jungle area. It has three lagoons. It once held 50,000 Mayan's and it was the center of Mayan commercial activity for centuries.

We weren't able to port in Grand Cayman due strong winds and surf and the port had to be closed. I took a tour there last January but wife didn't feel so hot that day and missed out, so we were both going to do it again this trip, shucks. There were 7 big ships scheduled that day and all but three of them turned away since a tiny alternate port on the other side of George Town had to be used, it was a tender show using one little dock, a narrow one lane gravel road to it, resulting in a complete mess on shore, Princess decided not to participate in the melee.

--The before dinner Exclusive Elite Lounge for elite and platinum guests where hors d'oeuvres and half priced cocktails are available is much appreciated.

--One of my favorite cruise experiences is the enrichment lectures. I was very displeased on the first segment when there were none. They had sales pitches for all the stuff they sold on board all the time but no quality lectures dealing with the area of the world the ship was in. I was going to write Princess about that but then on the second segment they had an excellent enrichment lecture, John Rossi. They seemed to relegate his presentations to a small venue and didn't advertise them much although the audience, when they found out about him, really like it. Princess has always done a pretty good job in my opinion of providing for good lectures, this often makes a big impression of the voyage on me. I have a hunch that enrichment lectures on a sea day might detract too much from art auctions, the casino, wine tasting and other money raising events. Hope they are not attempting to do away with enrichment lecturers. That would be a real downer.

--Princess Stateroom large flat screen TVs on the Regal are great. I certainly appreciate receiving BBC, MSNBC and CNBC.

--The internet system on the Regal is very good and one of the fastest we have experienced on ships, additionally, we get the signal on my laptop almost anywhere on the vessel. Pricey, but we have some internet perks due to our "elite" status so that helps. But their Internet cafe is very small. Something like the library, not designed for long voyages or many people attempting to use it, like when trying to get airline boarding passes printed 24 hours before disembarkation, however I had no problem printing our boarding passes on the two voyages we took on this ship. Tip: Take your own lap top, except for printing, you won't need to use the internet cafe. 

POOR---We don't attend the theatre productions very much anymore in order to see the comics, jugglers, and dance entertainment groups. Mostly because we do not care for the crowded theatre in the evenings where some of the rows have close to 30 seats in them; many people come very early and grab the isle seats compelling those coming later to squish by the knees of as many as 13 people to get to a open seat, furthermore, these people are reluctant to stand when someone walks by and there is not much more than a few inches between their knees and the seat in front. If one chooses to order a cocktail while seated like that, forget it. I miss the theatre layouts from before, although there is one advantage with the Regal's in that there are no ceiling posts to block views.

--Apparently the company now relies on passengers to glean info regarding the daily progress of the vessel from their cabin TV's. It is true that technology has allowed for this but what ever happened to the navigation charts posted throughout the ship and updated regularly? There were none to be found anywhere on the ship during this voyage and the info on the TV is not all that informative. Maybe most passengers don't care where they are or what surrounds them, position wise, channel wise, country wise, etc. Not me though, I miss the old days?

--Not certain why Princess has significantly reduced the number of hand sanitizer stations once found abundantly throughout the ship.  Certainly hope it is not another cost saving ploy.

--The very tiny library on the Regal is a joke. It is quite obvious that they didn't intend to use the Regal on long world excursion style voyages, hence the lack of a decent library.

--Trying to use the elevators during disembarkation can be pretty stressful as they are not adequate. Thankfully, our stateroom was close to the forward elevator tower where they do have a public staircase, so we used that, if you don't mind walking down many deck levels that is. If we had been at the midship elevators there is no public staircase option there at all. Also, we were on the Mariner deck 15 and the Lido food buffet deck was on 16, so I used the stairs almost every time.

--Princess was having problems getting a handle on developing a functional system under which they can locate passenger wine bottles stored between meals. But on this voyage we noticed that our table mates, one time in the MDR, got their bottle right away, saved from the night before in another venue. We had so many problems with this on previous voyages though we take our wine bottle or what is left of it to your room after dinner, I think they prefer you do that and it works out well for us. Make sure they leave the cork at your table and not take it with them, they usually do but not always. 

UGLY--I am not at all satisfied with the emergency procedures, facilities for such and the drills etc, or the lack thereof, needed to cope with a disaster at sea involving a vessel of this size. The complexities of such give me the chills when I contemplate the potential of a catastrophic accident at sea involving fire, collision or other seagoing eventualities, particularly if the vessel experiences a rapid list to one side or the other. It doesn't appear to me that Carnival Corp learned much from their Costa Concordia sinking.

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Caribbean Princess

October 2015 - 14 Night Canada & Colonial America (Quebec To Houston) Cruise on Caribbean Princess

Would we sail again with Princess? You betcha.

This review involves a 19 day cruise/tour during which we voyaged for two weeks on the Caribbean Princess, October/November-2015. Beginning in Toronto and ending in Houston. My rating is an overall 4 points, however, I give the land tour portion a # 5 rating.  We have sailed with Princess since 1990, over the last year we have sailed on the Regal Princess, Regal's sister-- Royal Princess, Coral Princess and now the Caribbean Princess which gives us 209 total days sailing with Princess. Would we sail again with Princess? You betcha.   We find much to like in the Princess overall cruise product, this sailing on the Caribbean was no exception; we encountered the same on our three previous Princess cruises during the last year. We prefer the smaller vessels but lately have began to see some benefit of voyaging on these larger ships. So, this was a very good memorable cruise, it would rate a four plus star in my opinion except for the main dining room, which has a few issues.     The Caribbean is eleven years old and one of the Princess "Grand Class" ships, however it carries 500 more passengers than its three sisters do, this is due to an added deck, the Riviera Deck, otherwise it is pretty close to identical in most aspects to the Star Princess which we have also sailed on. Princess actually reduced the crew on the Caribbean over that on the Star, so the obvious is evident, one gets significantly less crowding and more service on the three sisters. We have read and heard comment that this vessel is not kept up. I find that not accurate at all. The ship was very clean, with new carpets throughout. One person told me on this cruise that it was a "rust bucket" another C.C. review commentator mentioned the "dents" in the interior walls. I find the crew continually painting and scraping, rarely do I  notice rust spots. Sometimes on cabin balconies next to the gutter area, subject to salt water spray, one sees rust but only because it is difficult to remove since the cabins are almost in constant use. If one wants to moan about a bit of rust here and there, then look at the HAL ships or even Regent's for that matter.   With respect to the "dents" the commentator does have a point, however, I believe that is in reference to a design deficiency with placement of the wainscoting in all corridors in almost all of the Princess ships constructed within the last 15 years or so. These "dents" are all located on the corner of the alcoves leading into stateroom doors. (Alcoves are great, in that they allow a space to get out of the corridor when entering or leaving ones cabin and a place to leave baggage during disembarkation/embarkation.)  The corridors are wainscoted with a beige colored rug material, the dents occur on the corners leading into the alcoves. This means that the wall board material to which the wainscoting is attached is not strong enough to withstand impact by utility carts, motorized wheelchairs, etc. We first noticed this on the Royal when it was less than a year old, on the very new Regal last month we did not notice any dents, if so, perhaps they beefed up the supporting material on the corners under the wainscoting. It does look terrible on this ship and other Princess ships, particularly when the rest of the corridor and rug is maintained in impeccable order. Almost 80% of the alcove corners on the Caribbean suffer this damage. Princess has let this go on for too long, new ship after new ship, makes for a blemish on their normally good creditability.   Here is my "Outstanding" through "Ugly" assessment for this particular cruise/tour and ship:        OUTSTANDING:   ---I consider the "Skywalkers lounge" on the Princess Grand Class ships to be an outstanding feature. They are located high up on the stern, higher than anything else except the stacks. A panoramic view exists from them and during daylight it is something else to look forward as the ship races through the seas.   --On the ground portion of our cruise tour they had names on all the coach seats each morning. This was great, no pushing and shoving to get ahead in the queue and the first on each morning, your seat is ready for you regardless, which makes for a much more relaxed start to the day. Also, they switched name tags around each morning to make certain everyone got a good seat at least once. First time we experienced that. Bravo.    --Formal Nights--We do love formal nights, they had three on this cruise. Quite a few appear to prefer no formal nights at all. For us, it hearkens back to the days of yore, days of romantic ocean travel which many yearn for the return thereof. Those who shun the penguin suit nights try to avoid the MDRs in favor of the buffet and other venues. It appears that among those other "venues" the specialty high end restaurants are being targeted. So, Princess has responded by requiring formal dress in their specialty restaurants on formal nights, you have to agree to that or you get no reservation. They are supposed to not sit those who dress inappropriately. Humorously and coincidentally, as I was composing this review we had a formal night dinner reservation in Prime Seven. Soon after being seated, there erupted a heated altercation between the maitre d' and a guest, the guest, dressed in a white short sleeve T-shirt with a collar, commonly called a "polo shirt", was getting the heave-hoe, and not liking it at all.      VERY GOOD:    --The specialty restaurants were pretty good, particularly Sabatini's and the Crown Grill. We also booked the "Crab Shack" almost every time we had the opportunity (Do yourself a favor and don't miss that if you love shell fish). The only disadvantage is the specialties have the same menu each night so if you eat there a lot it can become mundane. Be advised to keep track of what is going on in other eatery venues too, since some of them have specials that you will only know about by reading the daily "Princess Patter". For instance, one Sunday morning on the Regal I noticed that the Crown Grill/Wheel House Bar was having a "Traditional British Pub Lunch" at no extra charge except for drinks, it was outstanding, it was from 11:30 AM-2:30 PM we got there about 12:15 and joined a small line, when we left the line was over a 100 feet long.    --We had a very clean mini-suite with a new carpet and were pleased with the size of the room, but it does not have a curtain divider making for a clear separation of the bedroom, which has a new flat screen TV, refrigerator (ice bucket therein kept full every day), open cabinet and a desk, from the living area which has a large sofa, coffee table, seat, open cabinet and a new flat screen TV. Pulling the curtain allows one to read while the other watches TV or sleeps. The balcony size is significantly larger when compared to the two new and larger Princess ship's mini-suite balconies, Regent and Royal; also the suite proper is slightly larger on this ship as well. (I'm torn between preferring a curtain separating the room in two parts or liking the layout of this cabin which does not have a curtain but has a half moon shaped open and closed cabinet system against one wall in the middle and against the opposite wall, is a partial divider wall with a desk connected to it).    --I use the hot tubs everyday, there are nine hot tubs on this ship while the huge newest Princess ships offer only six and one of the six has no jets. Two on the Caribbean are much hotter than the others which is about time they got the temperature exactly right for me. Those two are found along side the outside adults only swimming pool you can access from the Lotas Spa and Fitness center. The other hot tubs are a little too cool for my taste, too cool is what I found as well on the Regal, Royal and Coral as well as most voyages we have taken on Regent. Unlike our sad experience on the Coral Princess in January there were always towels everywhere all the time, and I mean all the time, no exceptions, good going.    --The before dinner Exclusive Elite Lounge for elite and platinum guests where hors d'oeuvres and half priced cocktails are available is much appreciated. This occurs in one half the Skywalkers Lounge high above the rest of the ship in the stern rendering a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding sea.   --This ship's fitness center is great. Not overcrowded and has plenty of good equipment so there are almost no wait lines. We use it every sea day.    --Shore excursions including the land portion on coaches, were all well organized and very good, at least all those we took, which involved every port. The area tour in Newport, Rhode Island and the New York Brooklyn Bridge walk and area tour rate extra credit. So did the day at Niagara Falls on the land portion.   --After we began to get some sea days to do it on, Princess provided an excellent enrichment lecture series by Dr. Harold Tinberg. Judging from the way he absolutely packed the theatre, standing room only, others must share my opinion. Princess has always done a pretty good job in my opinion of providing for good lectures, this often is one of my favorite aspects of the voyage. I would suggest however that the lecturer presentations get back to focusing more on the areas being visited from historic, cultural and political perspectives, instead of dealing with subjects not remotely connected to the pertinent voyage. For instance, on this voyage and associated cruise-tour we traveled the entire length of the St Lawrence Seaway, an area of the world rich in hundreds of years worth of history and historic events, not one mention of this at all on this ship. This is not to say they shouldn't have had Tinberg or another equivalent, they should have both. I have a hunch that two enrichment lectures on a sea day might detract too much from art auctions, the casino, wine tasting and other money raising events.   --The "Elite" Captain's Circle benefits, like complimentary wine tasting, initial free mini-bar set up and upgraded bathroom amenities, are greatly appreciated.  Number one of these perks, for my wife, is the free laundry and for me, the free internet time.        GOOD:   --Unlike Princesses' newest and larger ships, Regal and Royal, this ship does have an real promenade deck, deck 7, and if you include the staircases leading up to the deck 8 wrap around walkway at the bow it is a complete wrap around promenade.  It is fascinating that the cruiser's so called foremost authority on ships, Berlitz, edition after edition is fixed on trying to convince guests that the Royal and Regal have wrap around promenades. "The ship features a complete walk around Promenade deck." Actually: That statement is completely false, not anywhere close to being accurate. On those ships the promenade does not go around the bow or the stern. In fact, in the stern one is met by an almost vertical wall of steel where the promenade terminates. There are two bulged out areas on the promenade, one around mid-ship and one close to the stern, on each side of the ship. These are relatively small deck areas, 50'-75' in length on which they place a few recliners. Other than the bulged out portions most of the promenade deck area is closed to guests "crew only" however there are a few short walk-way interconnections between the bulged out portions which run between the windows and the life boats. These are approximately four feet wide where numerous pipes and other fittings occupy a good portion of those walk ways rendering them single file. I use this quote this from Berlitz, just to show you how even professional reviews can be grossly misleading, do your research before booking.    --It appeared to us the buffet area (Horizon Court) had better than usual good quality food. The ship did not seem to run out of desirable food and drink items which is often common on ships toward the end, like bananas, other fruits, good wines, ect. Like all buffets there is crowding at times but it was really bad during many our visits to the buffet and at times almost impossible to locate a place to sit. I do much prefer the layout of the Horizon Court on the Caribbean to those on Regal and Royal though, in that the seating and tables are much more cozy and private and pleasant to sit at while the seating in the two larger ships is more like a army chow line setup. Unfortunately, the space available in the buffet on the Caribbean is grossly inadequate for a full boat. Now, in fairness most this voyage occurred in fairly cold climates, spitting snow at times, therefore all the very abundant outside seating for eating was not used, forcing everybody inside, once we reached warmer climes, i.e. Charleston and south, the outside seating was utilized and the buffet seating situation became tolerable.    Wife says she misses the custom made omlets of the past, now all you get is a pretty much generic omlet, take it or leave it, on the Caribbean the special order options are even more limited and worse, she says.  The crew must bring you a juice drink after you locate a table, this is okay and the juice glasses they use on the Caribbean Princess are of a decent size, the problem on the larger ships in this regard is that the glasses they serve you the juice in are half the size of what they used to be. What is next, orange juice in a shot glass?   --We used Princess Air, Princess transfers and Princess hotel accommodations at the beginning of the cruise and at the end we had our own air but used the Princess airport transfer which included a local tour of Houston before airport drop off. Were well satisfied with each.   --Sure nice to have free ice cream available almost all day from the ship's "Scoops" shop. No nickel and diming there. Even though I watch my diet, a little, and don't eat ice cream, I do like malted milk shakes and they make those for me for a couple of bucks extra.       --Some of the musicians playing at various times throughout the ship are pretty good.     --Princess Stateroom new large flat screen TVs (two in mini-suites) on the Regal are great. I certainly appreciate receiving BBC, MSNBC and CNBC and inclusion of major sporting events, for instance, just about every big NFL game was provided on the big screen over the swimming pool, in the bars as well as cabin TVs. The same held true for the World Series baseball games. Good going.   --We have earned free laundry perks but it is nice that Princess still has self service pay laundry facilities on their ships as it takes the load off of the ships laundry facilities, so we don't have to be rationed. HAL has quit putting self serve laundry facilities on their ships so you have to pay them to do it.        --The ships main desk personnel and its shore excursion personnel were very knowledgeable and due their hard work and attention handled most awkward situations professionally. Actually, all this ship's personnel are very friendly and exhibit excellent demeanor, I suggest a Christmas bonus for them all.     --There were very few times we had to wait very long for an elevator. Same number of elevators as the two larger new Princess ships have, where we were continuously waiting and waiting, however, those two both lack a central public staircase, which the Caribbean has in all three elevator towers, this may have a lot to do with the elevator jam ups on the two other ships.   --Very little smoking on this ship. It is only allowed at: In the casino at a limited number of slot machines except on non-smoking days and no smoking at gaming tables, the port side of the open deck Tradewinds Bar on deck 16, a 30 foot or so stretch for standing only on the open deck portion of the promenade on the starboard side, and in a enclosed lounge called "Churchill's" dedicated for smokers only. It appears smokers shun this Princess ship or refrain from lighting up on it. We observed no cheating, that is someone sneaking a puff where they were not supposed to, I'm sure there are exceptions but rare. That is good.    --Normally I'm not much on onboard shopping but I have to admit I'm impressed with the selection of sundries, drugs and other items in the boutique shops. One advantage the larger ships have over smaller vessels is the ability to stock and sell a lot of items not otherwise available. For instance, if your luggage doesn't connect with your sailing or if you forget something it is a comfort to know you might be able to find it on the ship, some of our cruises have resulted in weeks on end in parts of the world where ports had no helpful retail outlets.   --On port days, when we have to muster early, we have began to use room service for a hot  breakfast. This works out well and Princess does a great job with the meal and getting it to the cabin on time. We notice some lines now charge for room service or only allow you to have a continental breakfast unless you pay for "butler service". Hang in there Princess.   --Princess is very good at keeping the corridors uncluttered. They don't like it if you put your dirty dishes out in the hall and if you do the steward usually asks you to keep it in your room. But for those who ignore this, dirty platters are usually whisked away. One time a couple stuffed their trays right out in the middle of the corridor so wheel chairs couldn't get by, didn't even bother putting them in their alcove. Some people just don't have any couth.   --Embarkation and disembarkation on cruise lines always seems to be controversial and stressful. We really can't complain, no long line waits, things actually went pretty smooth, coordination as to where you are supposed to muster at disembarkation could use some improvement though.             POOR:   --I almost dread going to the Main Dining Rooms anymore (except on the almost all inclusive's). In the past, for an enjoyable cruise experience one needed to appreciate the MDR. Not always possible today, unfortunately, in my opinion. The MDR really had me debating whether or not to reduce this cruise's experience rating. At the risk of being too harsh on dining experience here, I must point out that ironically, on this cruise, the MDR kitchen and service staff were pretty good and worked very hard, plus, the food not bad at all, (That was not the case on the Coral in January, in addition to long wait times the kitchen and service personnel were grossly understaffed resulting in a very poor dining experience.) However, overall, the Caribbean dining rooms are grossly inadequate for the volume of guests they serve at dinner time.  We only use "anytime dining" as we do not want to be relegated to two time slots for dinner as is the case with "traditional dining". On our first four visits to the MDR our wait times averaged about 45 minutes. This MDR problem is seemingly axiomatic throughout the majors as rating services now often say "At open seating you may have to wait a considerable time for a table".  Some argue that a 30 minute plus wait time for any good restaurant on shore is the norm, therefore, cruise lines should not be held to higher standards. We are working our way toward 600 sailing days. Rarely have we ever ran into a situation where we had to wait more than a few minutes before being seated in the MDR, until last January on an 11 day voyage on the Coral Princess and now on the Caribbean Princess. Oh, yes, you can make reservations for anytime dining, LOL.   Maybe traditional diners do not experience the grief, confusion and long seating wait times that anytime diners do. Or, perhaps the dining venues are adequate in size and layout but the organization and scheduling of such is deficient to the point it creates much more confusion and consternation than is necessary. Speaking of organization and scheduling, we do know this, there are three main dining rooms on this ship, 1.5 dedicated to traditional and 1.5 to anytime. Except, traditional gets the first two hours of the dining room split between the two. When that dining room finally opens up for anytime, a "cannon could be fired through it" so to speak, without hitting anybody. Us on C.C. also are aware that 75% of us usually book anytime. Those of us who also use all inclusives are aware, that for the most part, they only offer anytime dining. The all inclusives have very little problem with seating, why doesn't Princess get rid of "traditional"? Who knows, except Princess, but they better start paying attention as it is getting worse in their MDR.   Toward the end of this voyage, however, things became more tolerable for us in the MDR because we delayed our preferred dinner time from 6:15 PM until about 7:15 PM.    Tip #1: If the MDR becomes objectionable, try to eat as many meals as possible in the specialty restaurants and other venues, such as on "Crab Shack" nights. The buffet isn't all that bad either, except of course when the crowding there is severe and service is limited, which is often, due to the relatively limited passenger space on the Caribbean and the poor staff to passenger ratios--most all these problems result from the addition of another passenger deck. In summary, limit the use of the MDR to about 25%-40% of your dining on board, that is if, you can not come up with a combination to get you into the dining room after a reasonable wait.   --It has been our experience to find, as a general rule, the Princess captains more outgoing an informative and easy to comprehend than captains with the other two lines we use, HAL and Regent, who often times offer only a dearth of information about what is going on. That does not mean however we haven't had a bummer for a captain on Princess in the past or real good captains on both HAL and Regent. That said, we never heard from this captain once, or at least I didn't hear him, the officer of the watch did all announcements. It would be nice for the bridge crew to explain difficulties they appear to be having, for instance with the stern thrusters, all one day they had a big marine outfit with divers and all working on this problem, parts and stuff spread all over the dock near the aft portion of the vessel. Other passengers with cabins in the stern had been talking about the heavy vibrations resonating throughout the ship when the stern thrusters were being employed. Judging from all the difficulty the ship had during sail away at Fort Lauderdale, apparently the deficiency is not yet corrected. Hope the next cruise isn't goofed up because of this thruster thing, when we disembarked in Houston there was quite a bit of attention being paid by the crew to this area of the hull, up to and including the bridge, who would activate the thrusters at a signal from those on the dock, only to be met by a grinding roar. Previously, our Princess captains and others have kept their guests in the know regarding similar problems. So, the captain might be great, who knows, he kept us safe though, which is the main thing.   ---We don't attend the theatre productions very much anymore in order to see the comics, jugglers, and dance entertainment groups. One thing I do not care for is the crowded theatre in the evenings where some of the rows have close to 24 seats in them; many people come very early and grab the isle seats compelling those coming later to squish by the knees of as many as 12 people to get to a open seat, furthermore, these people are reluctant to stand when someone walks by and there is not much more than a few inches between their knees and the seat in front. If one chooses to order a cocktail while seated like that, forget it. I miss the theatre layouts from before, although there is one advantage with this ship, there are no ceiling posts to block views. I do use the theatre for enrichment lectures, although these draw impressive audiences it isn't as overcrowded at those times.    --Finally and unlike the newest Princess ships, this one does have navigation charts posted on the ship. Daily progress however is not updated and other seagoing information pertinent to the voyage is still lacking. After we passed Charleston an additional chart was put up, so we could see how we navigated the Florida Keys, which was good. Apparently the Carnival Corp is beginning to rely on passengers to glean info regarding the daily progress of the vessel from their cabin TV. It is true that technology has allowed for this but we find that info on the Royal and Regal TVs is not all that informative. On this ship I couldn't find any daily voyage info on the TV, in the daily Princess Patter there is an abbreviated comment or two about this from the "Navigator".  Maybe most passengers don't care where they are or what surrounds them, position wise, channel wise, country wise, etc. Not me though?      --Not certain why Princess has significantly reduced the number of hand sanitizer stations once found abundantly throughout their ships. Are they going back to the era of mass epidemics or do they know something we don't about sanitizing? Certainly hope it is not a cost saving ploy. For what it's worth though, this voyage was "bug free". I.e.,no hacking and coughing all around in theatres etc. late in the voyage. Hurray.   --There were a couple of smudges on my white dinner jacket, so before the next formal night my wife sent it to the ship's cleaners, which you pay extra for. They sent it back, saying they didn't have the necessary equipment on board to remove spots. First time we ever ran into that.   --Their Internet cafe is small but larger than those on the much larger newest Princess ships, Regal and Royal. Both it and the library are obviously not designed for long world excursion style voyages. The library and the internet cafe on the Caribbean Princess share the same location. The internet is very good and one of the fastest we have experienced on ships, additionally, we get the signal on my laptop almost anywhere on the vessel. Pricey, but we have some internet perks due to our "elite" status so that helps.    --Big on this ship as well as most others in the industry is that many cruisers like the art auctions, part of the on board entertainment programs. Okay, but not for me. These art appraisal prices are done by the art provider, a company that pays the cruise line to be onboard. I guess that is acceptable since so many guests seem to like this, the same goes for the casino as well, even though they know the house always wins in the long run. However, as with the casino, the art exhibits take up huge amounts of on board real estate. I find myself tripping over these exhibits when trying to negotiate the cluttered maze they present when trying to find my way around the ship. They simply get in the way and detract from a quality cruise for yours truly.                 UGLY:   --Shore excursions and overloaded coaches---Apparently the days when Princess didn't load the coaches to the max on shore excursions is gone, I guess. Just about every coach we traveled on during this cruise/tour was almost packed. Speaking of coach travel problems, one of which is not necessarily a problem relegated only to Princess tours but one I have a real problem with, is the people who pull the window shades down during sightseeing. Twice on the ground portion of this trip folks felt compelled to pull their shades down due to "sun", they could see the landscape under the shade though while folks behind and across the isle could see very little in that direction. Unfortunately, due the packed coach, there was no seats to move to in order to get away from the curtain pullers. Makes one wonder why they even booked a "sightseeing" tour.   --Princess just can't seem to get a handle on developing a functional system under which they can locate passenger wine bottles stored between meals.  It is not just us either, we have witnessed similar wine debacles taking place at tables near us. Tip: take your wine bottle or what is left of it to your room after dinner, I think they prefer you do that and it works out well for us. Make sure they leave the cork at your table and not take it with them, they usually do but not always.     --I am not at all satisfied with the emergency procedures, facilities for such and the drills etc, or the lack thereof, needed to cope with a disaster at sea involving a vessel of this size. The complexities of such give me the chills when I contemplate the potential of a catastrophic accident at sea involving fire, collision or other seagoing eventualities, particularly if the vessel experiences a rapid list to one side or the other. It doesn't appear to me that Carnival Corp learned much from their Costa Concordia sinking.    --Already mentioned, wainscoting dents on corners of cabin alcoves.    --Throughout the cruise, but more noticeable toward the latter days, "really bad" the last day at sea, is the smell of sewage in the forward elevator lift area of promenade deck 7, this is immediately outside of the Princess Theatre. It is also noticeable on the starboard outside promenade deck at that location and sometimes wafts upward to where it is noticeable on decks 9 and 10  balconies. Since Churchill's Lounge must also vent out near that same location the cigar smoke is almost a relief when it overcomes the smell of the sewage.   --One area that has always irritated me on all our cruises and most buffet venues on shore is that tongs are allowed to drop back into the food after someone has handled and touched them. Princess is no exception. In fact some buffets have little trays where one is supposed to lay the tongs or forks or spoons after dishing up the food, for the most part Princess has very few places to lay the tongs so many passengers just drop them right back into the middle of the platter, they might as well handle the food directly. 

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Regal Princess

September 2015 - 15 Night British Isles & Norway Passage (Copenhagen To New York) Cruise on Regal Princess

Really enjoyed the Regal on this itinerary.

Our cruise was more than Copenhagen to New York, actually we got on board at  Berlin's Warnemunde port and did four Baltic ports before Copenhagen, two nights in St Petersburg as well. We began by flying into Berlin and using the Princess Hotel and transfer package, two nights at the Westin Grand Berlin. 25 days total.   

We just voyaged on the new Regal, for over three weeks, September 2015. At about this same time last year we sailed on the Regal's sister, the Royal Princess, and in January of this year we sailed on the Coral Princess. The truth is, it is very difficult to rate cruise ships since they keep changing as the industry evolves and matures. There is no such thing as a best cruise line or best cruise ship only the ship and cruise that is best for you. We have sailed a lot with Princess (we only cruise on Princess, Regent and HAL) but prior to our first voyage last year on the Regal the last was in 2010, much had changed within the industry by 2014, so much it isn't practical to compare cruises that took place more than a few years ago with today's experiences. So:

We found much improvement in the Princess overall cruise product during this sailing on the Regal, over that we encountered on our previous two Princess cruises during the last year. This was a good cruise but not exceptional. We are beginning to appreciate some aspects of a cruise on the larger vessels a little more, previously we only used the smaller ships. Regal/Royal are the largest we have been on, the Regal is almost a new ship, it is delightful to enjoy a cruise on a vessel that has little wear and tear on it. We had a mini-suite and were satisfied with the size of the room which still has a curtain divider making for a bedroom with a TV and separate area with a large sofa, desk, coffee table, refrigerator, two seats and TV. The balcony size is not as large as we would like though, we would prefer a balcony at least another foot deep. Much better though than the commensurate level cabins on HAL even though HAL has a larger balcony.

 

OUTSTANDING---One feature about this ship that is real intriguing is the over-the-water SeaWalks (one port and one starboard about midship). They are on deck level 17, 128 feet above the sea, and extend 30 feet beyond the vessels hull. They are enclosed extended half-moon walkways with glass-floors, the crew keeps the glass impeccably clean, so much so that one looking down at the sea far below, and rushing by, gives even those used to heights pause before stepping out onto the glass.

 

VERY GOOD: The specialty restaurants were exquisite, particularly Sabatini's and the Crown Grill. We also booked the "Crab Shack" almost every time we had the opportunity (Do yourself a favor and don't miss that if you love shell fish). A pleasant surprise was the high end "Alfredo's Pizzeria" which was a no extra charge restaurant laid out like a fine dining Italian restaurant and located in a central portion of the ship's huge three deck level atrium complex. Be advised to keep track of what is going on in other eatery venues too, since some of them have specials that you will only know about by reading the daily "Princess Patter". For instance, one Sunday morning I noticed that the Crown Grill/Wheel House Bar was having a "Traditional British Pub Lunch" at no extra charge except for drinks, it was outstanding, it was from 11:30 AM-2:30 PM we got there about 12:15 and joined a small line, when we left the line was over a 100 feet long.

During we kept seeing references to the "Chef's Table" as a specialty restaurant on the ship. But there was no such facility. I called and found out that was a special arrangement only offered occasionally where they really do it up big.  As they advertise; "An extraordinary treat for both gastronomes and gourmet novices. Enjoy a behind-the-scenes galley tour with Champagne and hors d'oeuvres, followed by an extravagant multi-course dinner created and hosted by the executive chef." This pitch is not an overstatement, it is truly an eating experience. They even forget to mention the variety of wines served with each course and that you end up in a special section (They drape a huge circular curtain over everybody after seated). in the MDR for the main course and desert. Only ten guests allowed each time, very-very good. My wife loved it. Trouble was I didn't ask the price. Found out when we received the final bill getting off the ship. $230. But it was still great.  

--Ships captain was great in most aspects of the voyage, a minor feature of which, that really delights me, is how he liberally used during sail-away's (sail-away's are one of my favorite enjoyments of each cruise) the multi-tone horn system on the Regal. I might add, this was much appreciated by many of those on shore waving us fair-well. It has been our experience to find, as a general rule, the Princess captains more outgoing an informative and easy to comprehend than captains with the other two lines we use, HAL and Regent, who often times offer only a dearth of information about what is going on. That does not mean however we haven't had a bummer for a captain on Princess in the past or real good captains on both HAL and Regent. The following describes an event as to why I like this captain:

"Yesterday about 10:00 AM the captain came on and gave us the run down of the storm, changed course and the increased swell coming up, other than that he was very optimistic that we would get into Newfoundland on time with decent weather there.

However, two hours later he came on again just as the ship was making a 180 degree turn. Turns out a lady passenger was in very bad shape and had to get emergency medical attention as soon as possible. We had been sailing for about 13 hours since leaving Ireland and were pretty far out in the Atlantic. The Irish Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter and a electronic navigation heavy aircraft to guide it. We had to turn back because the range of the medivac helicopter wasn't the long. After about 5 hours sailing we made contact. They lifted the lady off the aft deck in a gurney, which took about 30 minutes with the helicopter in hover about 50 feet over the deck as the ship moved along at 20 knots. Apparently they prefer to hover the copter over a moving vessel like this instead of bringing the ship to a halt.

The weather was very favorable at the time of the emergency and the sea was all but flat, thank goodness. Anyway, I was really impressed with the entire operation, Irish Coast Guard, the emergency crew on board our ship and the captain's handling of the vessel, as well as him keeping us informed.

We all hope for the best for the lady and many a prayer was said for her as well as for all those directly involved in such a dicey and dangerous rescue at sea.

As a consequence we lost about 10 hours, so the captain is laying the whip to her, hoping that we can sustain at least 20 knots until the sea gets too rough for that."

--For almost the first week of the voyage we noticed no smoking, to the point we wondered if a new rule had been created making this ship a totally non-smoking one. As it turned out there is a limited amount of smoking in the Casino and within a fenced off portion of the Terrace Pool, Deck 17, and in a tiny enclosed lounge called "Churchill's" dedicated for smokers only. There might even be a short section of deck on the starboard side of deck 7 which allows smoking but I never saw any smokers there. It appears smokers shun this Princess ship or refrain from lighting up on it. That is good.

--I use the hot tubs everyday, there are six good ones, four around the fountain pool and two at the Retreat Pool. Unlike our sad experience on the Coral Princess in January there were always towels everywhere all the time, and I mean all the time, no exceptions, good going. In the retreat area you didn't have situations where the kids of guests were using the hot tubs to learn how to swim.

--It appears to us the buffet area (Horizon Court) has improved in quality of food as well as service over that provided on the Coral in January and to some extent over that on the Royal. Of course, like all buffets there is crowding at times but 3 out of every 4 of our visits to the buffet there has been ample seating room and waiters to take care of you. Wife says though she misses the custom made omlets of the past, now all you get is a pretty much generic omlet, take it or leave it. Also, the crew must bring you a juice drink after you locate a table, this is okay but the problem is that the glasses they serve you the juice in are half the size of what they used to be. What is next, orange juice in a shot glass? And whatever happened to the fresh squeezed orange juice, or was that on HAL? One thing that impresses me is that their smoked salmon has been excellent, it is cut into thin filets for lox instead of the thick slabs found on Regent and HAL.

--Some of the musicians playing at various times throughout the ship were outstanding, for instance, in particular, four young lady violinists from the Ukrainian playing on the main floor of the grand atrium. Not to mention a lady's excellent grand piano work in the same general location.

 

GOOD--As previously mentioned, we sailed on the Royal a year ago and the Coral in January. The main dining room experience on the Royal was tolerable but definitely needed some improvement. The Coral MDR however was a complete debacle, although we enjoyed the ship and cruise. The Coral experience was so bad we stayed away from the MDR on the Regal (by using specialty restaurants, the buffet and Alfredo's) until about a week into the cruise. Maybe because we expected the worst we were pleasantly surprised when we finally did go there. On the Coral the MDR was beset with a myriad of problems due to both understaffed kitchen and service personnel. Food quality was significantly better on the Regal and the waiter staff didn't appear to be so harried and disorganized. Now, if they can only get their passenger wine bottle inventory under control. Tip: Order a bottle and take it with you after, this practice is okay with them and most do it now, for obvious reasons, don't put yourself through a lot of grief before dinner while they run around for 30 minutes frantically trying to find your bottle, sometimes blaming their guests for part of the reason it is lost, or usually, in the end, blaming some low level employee, like a waiter, for a failure of their system.

--Shore excursions were all well organized and good, at least all those we took, which involved every port. The best one though was St. John's, Newfoundland; every once in a while you really hit a home run by visiting an interesting port. This was one of them. People who live in this area are really nice, probably one of the cleanest cities in North America too, even their vehicles are all in good shape, like new. You should see how well taken care of their homes are. Since it was a rather historic occasion due the Regal being the largest ship ever there, they had a celebration of sorts about the time we left, all the vessels in the port blew their horns for about 5 minutes straight. Then when we departed it seemed half the 100,000 who live there turned out to see the big ship leave. In the pictures I took of the hills around the picturesque but very narrow channel as we exited, people look like swarming ants. They even had a muzzle loader salute for us as we passed by.

--The before dinner Exclusive Elite Lounge for elite and platinum guests where hors d'oeuvres and half priced cocktails are available is much appreciated.

--After we began to get some sea days to do it on, Princess provided a good variety of enrichment lectures by Phil DeMeulenaerre and destination lecture Peter Coyle. DeMeulenaerre did an outstanding presentation and research on the Panama Canal in a two part lecture, covering both historical and contemporary events there. Princess has always done a pretty good job in my opinion of providing for good lectures, this often is one of my favorite aspects of the voyage.

--We used Princess Air, Princess transfers and Princess hotel accommodations at the beginning of the cruise. Were well satisfied with each.  No problems, that is, going to Europe, however, on our return at New York we had the Princess transfer from the ship to the airport which didn't work out as well, as they took us all to one terminal, the wrong terminal, for the airline we were traveling on. However, that wasn't much of a problem, what was a problem was our flight didn't leave until after 5:00 PM and they kick you off the ship at a little after 8:00 AM. Meaning a long wait at the airport, but what they never informed us was that they had come up with a New York City tour for four hours in conjunction with the transfer, which would have been ideal but we were not informed of its availability.  Princess has a problem in that regard, they do not disperse information regarding options very well, ie. dining, travel, excursions, captain circle perks, etc.

--Princess Stateroom large flat screen TVs on the Regal are great. I certainly appreciate receiving BBC, MSNBC and CNBC instead of being relegated to watching radicalized FOX right wing TV. In addition, their selection of free movies is excellent, first time I have ever watched cabin TV movies.

--The ships main desk personnel and its shore excursion personnel were very knowledgeable and due their hard work and attention handled most awkward situations professionally.

 

POOR---We don't attend the theatre productions very much anymore in order to see the comics, jugglers, and dance entertainment groups. One thing I do not care for is the crowded theatre in the evenings where some of the rows have close to 30 seats in them; many people come early and grab the isle seats compelling those coming later to squish by the knees of as many as 13 people to get to a open seat, furthermore, these people are reluctant to stand when someone walks by and there is not much more than a few inches between their knees and the seat in front. If one chooses to order a cocktail while seated like that, forget it. I miss the theatre layouts from before, although there is one advantage with the Regal's in that there are no ceiling posts to block views.

--Apparently the company now relies on passengers to glean info regarding the daily progress of the vessel from their cabin TV's. It is true that technology has allowed for this but what ever happened to the navigation charts posted throughout the ship and updated regularly? There were none to be found anywhere on the ship during this voyage and the info on the TV is not all that informative. Maybe most passengers don't care where they are or what surrounds them, position wise, channel wise, country wise, etc. Not me though, I miss the old days?

--Not certain why Princess has significantly reduced the number of hand sanitizer stations once found abundantly throughout the ship. Are they going back to the era of mass epidemics or do they know something we don't about sanitizing? Certainly hope it is not another cost saving ploy.

--The very tiny library on the Regal is a joke. It is quite obvious that they didn't intend to use the Regal on long world excursion style voyages, hence the lack of a decent library.

--The internet system on the Regal is very good and one of the fastest we have experienced on ships, additionally, we get the signal on my laptop almost anywhere on the vessel. Pricey, but we have some internet perks due to our "elite" status so that helps. But their Internet cafe is very small. Something like the library, not designed for long voyages or many people attempting to use it, like when trying to get airline boarding passes printed 24 hours before disembarkation, however I had no problem printing our boarding passes. Tip: Take your own lap top, except for printing, you won't need to use the internet cafe.  

--Trying to use the elevators during disembarkation can be pretty stressful as they are not adequate. Thankfully, our stateroom was close to the forward elevator tower where they do have a public staircase, so we used that, if you don't mind walking down many deck levels that is. If we had been at the midship elevators there is no public staircase option there at all.

 

UGLY--Princess just can't seem to get a handle on developing a functional system under which they can locate passenger wine bottles stored between meals. Not only do they have a huge problem between the different meal venues in that regard they consistently lose bottles within a given restaurant. It didn't use to be that way on Princess. Last year on the Royal they seemed to have came up with a solution half way through our voyage, after undergoing considerable hassles, it involved a paste-on-sticker of sorts where the passenger received a receipt and it worked good. Three months later we were on the Coral and the lost wine situation was worse than ever, on the Regal they lost our bottle both times when we have tried to hold it over. They did not learn a thing from the experience gleaned by their own sister ship, the Royal. It is not just us either, we have witnessed similar wine debacles taking place at tables near us on this cruise.

--I am not at all satisfied with the emergency procedures, facilities for such and the drills etc, or the lack thereof, needed to cope with a disaster at sea involving a vessel of this size. The complexities of such give me the chills when I contemplate the potential of a catastrophic accident at sea involving fire, collision or other seagoing eventualities, particularly if the vessel experiences a rapid list to one side or the other. It doesn't appear to me that Carnival Corp learned much from their Costa Concordia sinking.

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Coral Princess

January 2015 - 11 Night Panama Canal Partial Transit (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Coral Princess

Really like the layout of this ship and enjoyed the cruise with one big noticeable exception.

Coral Princess in the Caribbean----The Good, Bad and the Ugly.

VERY GOOD:

---We found the Coral Princess to be a vessel I really like, particularly the decor throughout most of the public space and lounges, sea and marine pictures everywhere, dark rich oak beams and molding backed up with lighter backgrounds. I'm tired of pastels and nonsensical modern art hung everywhere on ships. Excellent lounges, lots of room with rich furniture where peace and quiet is found, which makes it a simple enjoyment just to sit and relax in one. Also, super is the abundance of getaway nooks and crannies throughout the ship. The passenger to space ration is great but actually is even better than the numbers suggest. Nice to have some elbow room for a change, for instance the three elevator and stair towers were not ever crowded, even during the first boarding day. Contrast this to the new Royal Princess, where the stairway towers were claustrophobic with consistently long elevator waits; for instance a midship public stair case is non existent. Maybe Princess should begin having the French build and design their ships (Coral) rather than Italians (Royal). Like the good old days of yore, the Coral has a complete wrap around teak promenade deck, fairly wide in many stretches where old fashion reclining deck chairs are provided. The two level Lotus Spar area is great at no extra charge, two well heated hot tubs by the pool and lots of quiet areas above and below, to read and relax in. 

GOOD: 

---The specialty restaurants, particularly Sabatini's, but also the Bayou Cafe and its special "Crab Shack" luncheon were exquisite.  Meals in these venues, which you pay extra for, represent top of the line gourmet dining. Well staffed by knowledgeable and friendly personnel and your dining experience takes place in a wonderful, quiet, well decorated environment.  Unfortunately, the main dining room(s), are not so good, stink. 

---Ample public hot tubs, five in all, the three by the main pool though were usually a little on the cool side and occasionally youngsters using them as swimming pools was not good.---We had a mini-suite, nice decor and fairly large balcony on deck nine. Our cabin attendant was pretty good and very amenable and friendly even though he was probably burden by way too many cabins to service which often does not translate into fine personal service. Complimentary laundry service was excellent.  

---Staff, for the most part were very friendly all over the ship and tried to help, whatever the need or problem. Unfortunately, some areas like in the main dining room, were grossly understaffed.

---Horizon Court, the main buffet area had adequate seating, unlike on the new larger ships, Regal and Royal. Food was mediocre but the friendly and helpful staff partially made up for  lack of exceptional quality food. In this case the buffet did not appear to be understaffed, so, in all, it made for a worthwhile dining experience. In fact, out of frustration we abandoned using the Main Dining Rood and chose this venue for dinner instead whenever we decided not to eat in the specialty restaurants.

---TV--Nice to have MSNBC and BBS and not just FOX News--One of the things we like about Princess they understand not all guests are cut out of the same political persuasion cloth.

---Internet and library--Very fast and ample bandwidth and easy to use, staffed by an internet guy who knows his stuff. Wish the rates were lower but then, not all that bad if you are an elite like we are as you get some free time plus a good deal on more time if you buy it the first day or so. Library is very large for the size of ship, perfect layout for an exploration type voyaging ship.
---Interdenominational Church Services---Two Sunday services on sea days this voyage. Really enjoyed both, thanks so much for the opportunity to fellowship, Princess.   

---Enrichment lectures---One of the things I like best about cruising is the theme lecturers the three lines we frequent usually have on board. Princess used to be super great at this, slipping a little though as of late. During this cruise they had---Dr. Dean Papavassiliou, an historical expert on the Caribbean as well as the famous Pacific navigators, his presentations brought on an impressive crowd. But the only other lecturer they had was a half retired airline captain---Captain Ted McCourt---His subject was not anywhere close to the theme of the voyage, so why was he there? Perhaps because everybody, almost, had to fly to get to or from the ship, so maybe it was an okay subject for some, attendance indicated few were interested though. For me, I was born and raised and made my career in the airplane game, so I found his lectures of interest. His creditability could be challenged from time to time due factual errors, but then subjects this complex are very hard to make a delivery on without making mistakes here and there. Other than that, I leaned a bit, would dearly have loved to hear a rebuttal though to some of his points as they were certainly argumentative. In short, his presentations were not ideally suited for the average cruiser booking this voyage. Only a few guests are airplane buffs, industry types and age old pilots like myself. Princes should have put on another cruise specific lecture, instead.

BAD:

---Theater, okay for daytime lectures, I attended many in the theater, but that is it. For evening shows, count us out. No balcony but good steep stadium seating, unfortunately all isles have only two stairways so that those wanting to sit in the higher levels at mid-theatre had to tip-toe past up to 12 already seated if they were caught having to work into the middle of a row. First comers for the evening shows usually showed up very early, then they took the isle seats and were generally "very" reluctant to even standup in order to allow somebody else to occupy a vacant seat beyond them in the same isle. One nice feature was the little tables on each seat which pulled up, sort of like some first class airline seats do, don't know what they were there for though unless you brought your own drink, no service and hard to get to if there were waiters. All in all, for the big shows, the theater was terrible, we never did take in a top line performance due to this jumble, too bad as some shows were pretty good, we were told.         

---Over the last 15 months we have been on 5 cruises counting this one, Regent, HAL, Princess, Regent, Princess, 115 sailing days. 5 captains. Coincidentally, on each voyage unique circumstances developed, such as man overboard one time, un-commanded turn on another requiring emergency reverse thrust and dropping the anchor to avoid hitting the beach, etc. The situation was somewhat the same on this voyage as a lady went missing for the better part of a day, the crew scoured the vessel, of course all passengers were aware due all the announcements asking her to call. Turned out she had been hiding. Anyway, except for this captain, the other four captains were exemplary in their efforts to familiarize the guests with all developments thusly reducing the anxiety factor originating over concern for a fellow passenger. This captain was anything but a plethora of information. A day after the lady was found the ships grapevine made everybody aware she had not went overboard. On other occasions the captain would come on and attempt to explain what was going on with missed ports, etc. but most often one had to read between the lines in order to figure out what he wanted to say and what had happened. Very nice person if you meet him at a Captain's Circle event but he needs to do a lot of work on articulation and diplomacy. Perhaps, put him under the tutelage of the captain who commanded the Royal Princess in September 2014, for a stint.

UGLY:

---Princess has now completely adopted the business model of all the large mainstream cruise lines, we are witnessing what is either going to be the success or the degradation of this trend. From a profit motive standpoint it is likely to last. The concept leans toward building more and more very large vessels. The Royal Princess is 3.5 times the size of the Titanic and can hold 4610 passengers, the Coral, about 2000, to procure a vessel like these huge investment dollars are required. In order to fill up these ships most lines have adopted a policy of getting passengers on board for a very low initial fee. Then charging extra for just about everything except the basic stateroom and food served in the main dining rooms and the buffet areas, also there are pizzerias and hamburger grills with no extra charge. The ships function more or less like large floating resorts, with all sorts of premium type restaurants and other meal venues where additional payments are required, not to mention all the boutiques and other retail outlets trying to sell you something. By cutting down the size of, quality of, and service within the main dining rooms and other no extra charge areas, guests are more or less forcibly channeled into the nickel and dime game. 

----Up until this voyage the Main Dining Room on Princess was still tolerable, this time though, either we experienced a fluke or cost cutting has caught up with Princess rendering their product in the MDR undesirable for us. We have never ran into a situation like this before even though the "hand writing was on the wall" that it was bound to come. In my opinion this results from understaffing of both service and kitchen personnel. Each time we tried to use the MDR we were told there was a 40 minute wait time. They gave us a pager, but on the three occasions we decided to carry on and eat in the MDR the wait was only 10-15 minutes, which was not a problem. We don't like traditional seating for a variety of reasons, one of which is we hate being relegated to eating at either 5:30 PM or 7:45 PM., even if we secure a table for two, we usually try to get there by 6:30 using anytime dining. The principal problem(s) trying to eat dinner in the MDR was the lack of service and poor quality meals. For instance, there used to be a sommelier to take your wine order immediately after being seated, this practice gave way to no sommelier--instead head waiters were given extra training in wine selection then that gave way to what you have now, wine only if you are lucky enough to get someone's attention and forget about ordering a bottle to be carried over for the following evening, they will lose it for sure. You usually sit there waiting and watching a harried flurry of activity by the understaffed help forging a losing battle trying to keep up. Made dressing up in my tux on formal nights and trying to dine there a joke. So, in order to continue enjoying the cruise we made do, by booking dinner in one of the excellent specialty restaurants on board whenever we felt inclined to really enjoy dinner or simply going up to the Horizon Court buffet.

I have a theory that there will be a drift completely away from providing MDR service on the major cruise lines in the future. Instead cruisers will experience more of and larger specialty extra charge venues and expanded no extra charge buffet area service. We only use Princess, HAL and Regent. Regent being an all inclusive voyage, but ironically, the food and service in the specialty restaurants on HAL and Princess are much better than those on Regent which you can hardly ever get into due no extra charge. However, the MDR on Regent is far superior to those on HAL and Princess.
 

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Seven Seas Mariner

October 2014 - 10 Night Iberian Tapestries (Rome To Lisbon) Cruise on Seven Seas Mariner

Royal Princess

September 2014 - 17 Night Spanish Passage (Ft. Lauderdale To Barcelona) Cruise on Royal Princess

Even though I prefer smaller ships, this was a decent cruise for me.

For the budget minded, I recommend cruises like this one. Even though I prefer smaller ships, this was a decent cruise for me and I'm certainly not ruling similar ones out in the future.

  VERY GOOD:

----This was the largest ship we have sailed on, the 11th largest ship in the world; we recently passed the 1.5 year point of being on the sea in cruise ships. Only one year old and still the entire ship is like brand new, sure nice to have a stateroom that is not worn with stains here and there, for a change. Best balcony we have had, mostly due to the portion of it that looks and faces forward as well as to the side. The balcony size itself is 30% larger than the norm for an equivalent mini-suite stateroom, albeit they gave us one of the better balcony cabins.

---This is the first ship we have been on where the heating system/air conditioning has worked almost perfect throughout the entire vessel. It always seems that on most ships the theatre is either too hot or too cold. For the morning lecture in the theatre it almost always is very cool, I can't understand why somebody doesn't turn up the heat before morning events begin. But on this ship they do it right. Also on other ships you continually hear people complaining of stateroom temperatures, we have never really had a problem like that, but our cabin on this ship has been perfect. Also, on this ship the cabins are very quiet, about the best we have ever experienced, and for 3 days the captain ran at over 24 MPH in relatively choppy seas, that's about the fastest we ever have sailed and the ship handled it without much motion.

GOOD:

---Meals were slightly above par for a ship operated by one of the top 11 big mainline mass market cruise lines, in fact, I would say the meals were slightly better on average than those we experience on Regent Seven Seas Cruise's ships, a high end so called luxury line. After a rough start for us getting a table for two in the main dining rooms, second night out, anytime dining for us the rest of the voyage proved excellent and without hardly any wait ever we always got a table for two. The specialty extra charge restaurant, Gelato, was very good.

The buffet area on the Lido deck (The word Lido means, open air swimming pool, almost all ships have their main buffet restaurant on the deck where their largest outdoor pool is), called the "Horizon Court/Bistro" also was above par, food quality wise. If you want to go there without all the hustle bustle and difficulty finding a seat, then go at off hours, like early in the morning or after the noon rush. Having suggested that things are a little cramped on the Lido, in fairness one must recognize that outdoor temperatures have been slightly cool on this voyage so that the outdoor tables have been rarely used. If warmer temperatures should occur, things could be entirely different from an available seat standpoint, as, by my estimation, the outdoor seating would add well over 30% to the overall capacity. Also, the Horizon does a late afternoon conversion so that the tables are all set with cloth tablecloth, fine wine glasses, good silverware, etc which makes for a more quiet dining experience.

Of the three lines we cruise on Holland America (HAL) has Princess and Regent beat for making sandwiches or omelettes because they do it while you wait. I'm a sucker for tuna melts and can only get a good one on HAL. Princess annoyingly toasts bread, bagels, English muffins, etc, in advance then stacks dozens of them on heated trays, where they dry out and taste not so good. HAL and Regent prepare toast and these other items while you wait. Princess some times overdoes the military chow line mass feed concept.

We usually utilize the main dining rooms for dinner instead of the Horizon but prefer the Horizon over the dining rooms for breakfast and lunch.

One night we had one of the best meals ever on a voyage. It cost extra but not a lot. They call these meals "Crab Shack" and it is mostly shellfish. They only have them a few times per segment. We had King crab and shrimp mixture, you had to crack it yourself, lots of it. It wasn't crowded and we had a big table all to ourselves. Kind of messy but with all the good appetizers and stuff we were really full when we left. Good job Princess.

---Shore excursions were all pretty good with knowledgeable guides. Exception, motor coaches were filled to 90% of capacity most of the time, the saturation point has obviously went up in recent years. Princess, like HAL currently does, used to keep their loads to around 50-60%. Muster station shore excursion personnel did excellent control, most of the time, and manipulated the masses even though herd instincts motivated guests to cheat, push and rush for the coaches, typical of queues on most all cruises. All in all, I was rather surprised that Princess was able to handle the ports on this voyage when providing quality shore excursions as well, considering the massive size of this vessel and the number of passengers.

---Crew was very friendly in almost all aspects of the ship and voyage, not saying though they were always so knowledgeable pursuant to the subject matter they were suppose to be intimate with.

--Hot tubs on the main pool deck (4 of them) were excellent. Well maintained, water consistently just the right temperature. Wish there were more of them since during good sea conditions there was a lot of demand. The huge, huge, outdoor theatre screen makes taking a hot tub on this ship another experience indeed.

---Great was the ship's multi pitch horn system on the Royal Princess, never heard anything like it, from deep base all the way up to a high pitch, sounding off with a prescribed melody. Princess gets an A plus for this feature. It was a lot of fun when the Royal and a sister, the Ruby crossed paths at the harbor entrance and engaged in a horn duel (When we were leaving Iceland). One of my favorite times on every cruise is the sailaway, this Captain had no compunction using the horns and at most ports we were the final cruise ship of the season and sometimes the largest that had ever visited the port, these were super sailaways. We were getting tired of Regent with their "castrated canary" sounding fog horns, which they rarely use, obviously due embarrassment.

---I do appreciate the excellent large flat T.V.s (2) in our stateroom and the selection of live news and other shows. I particularly like the MSNBC and BBC. For too long with HAL and Regent we were relegated to the extreme right wing TV news source called "FOX News".

---We like attending a protestant church service on Sundays. This is the first of our voyages with Princess where they have really done a good job of putting on a quality service.

---The Royal Princess has an excellent fitness center. 17 deck levels up with plenty of cardio exercise machines and beautiful vistas of the sea from each one. I never was in the gym when it was overcrowded and always found an elliptical to work out on.

BAD:

---Princess has now completely adopted the business model of all the large mainstream cruise lines, we are witnessing what is either going to be the success or the degradation of this trend. This concept leans toward building more and more very large vessels. The Royal Princess is 3.5 times the size of the Titanic and can hold 4610 passengers. A ship's officer reportedly said we were only carrying 3500 this voyage though. In order to fill a three quarter of a billion dollar investment like this ship cost, the lines have adopted a policy of getting passengers on board for a very low initial fee. Then charging extra for just about everything except the basic stateroom and food served in the main dining rooms and the buffet areas, also there are pizzerias and hamburger grills with no extra charge. The ships function more or less like large floating resorts, with all sorts of premium type restaurants and other meal venues where additional payments are required, not to mention all the boutiques and other retail outlets trying to sell you something. By cutting down the size of, quality of, and service within, the main dining rooms and buffet area, guests are more or less forcibly channeled into the nickel and dime game. Talk about a negative resulting from new age industrial tourism.

-----One of the things I like best about cruising is the theme lecturers they usually have on board. This cruise was billed "Iceland & British Isles Explorer" as advertised in their brochure titled "Your History in the Making". Whoever arranged for the speakers certanly didn't coordinate with their brochure staff. I really wasn't enamored by the lectures this time as they had nothing to do with geography or local history. One was a gal from Britain who is an expert on Google. She talked for 10 minutes then went into a question and answer mode where she carried on one on one conversations with folk in the front row. The theatre reportedly seats approximately 1000. No matter how many times people asked her to repeat the question she just kept on talking to the person in front of her, people began getting up and leaving. Another was a stock broker who had a good delivery and was interesting, but once again, we were on a cruise of the British Isles, Iceland, Norway and the Canadian Maritimes, not Wall Street.

Of course, like all lines, port lecturers usually make the pertinent excursion pitches sometime before arriving in said port. On this voyage they had an exceptionally good lecturer, Loie Lennon, who did provide a modicum of area historicity when she made her presentations, but she was not an historian. Now, if I were to do the scheduling of speakers on this cruise I would have selected at least two others who specialize in pertinent history, geography, or a marine naturalist. I would also have kept the stock broker.

----A minor complaint of ours was that room service procedures and standards are too complicated for the staff to understand and assimilate. For instance, our refrigerator had a normal size ice bucket, which is good. In order to fill it we had to contact "room service" not the room steward. (They won't let you fill it yourself, which we would gladly do.) They brought a huge 2 gallon size bucket filled with ice. We explained all we needed was the little ice bucket to be filled. We talked to the room steward but he couldn't do anything about it. So, every afternoon they would bring this huge load of ice, we would take a little out of it to fill our bucket then they would have to throw the rest away. (Maybe this procedure was on purpose in order to eliminate repeat calls for ice, strange though.)

---In my opinion the limited waiter services during breakfast and lunch, not dinner, in the Horizon could be put to much greater efficiency if items like Ketchup, orange juice, Tabasco sauce, etc were placed where guests could use them directly without having to wait on a waiter. Also, silverware could be wrapped in a napkin, like they do now, but laid out where one could take them individually without expecting a place setting. More than once I wanted to go out to the open air tables and stay out of everybody's hair, but couldn't find silverware, Ketchup, orange juice, etc.

---The theatre is great, in that the stadium seating angle is decent and steep enough so you can see over most heads in front of you; also there are no posts to block views. But even with three shows, it is too packed and not large enough. The rows are just barely wide enough for one to walk through when people are already in their seats, unfortunately, only one end of the row offers access and egress on many rows and the first who take seats sit next to the isle meaning they should stand again when someone wants to get by. But few stand, and their knees and feet get trampled on. Lots of ugly stares, moans and harsh feelings result.

----The library and internet room are separate which is good but they are very small rooms. A 450 passenger Regent Cruise line ship has twice as much space for both these functions. It is obvious the Royal Princess is not designed for exploration type voyaging but meant to sail in warm climes more or less functioning as an ocean going resort.

---I do miss the morning newspaper Princess used to put together for its guests. The ship location info on the TV is a joke. What happened to the days where we got continuous water depth, vessel speed, lat. and long., wind across the bow conditions, marine navigation charts posted around the ship showing sailing and route detail, etc? Having said that, the captain on this voyage is good and gives an excellent 24 hour run down, if you have the opportunity to catch his noon report that is. Being on the Royal is not much different than having a nice hotel room in a small city though. They don't treat the voyage like actually being on a ship at sea hardly at all.

--- I'm really not enamored by the looks of most of these new huge new ships. They appear to be floating huge condominium complexes and manifest a doubtful sea worthy appearance. The Royal Princess may be slightly superior in this regard over some of them but I notice they are careful not to take many pictures of it from above where its short stubby bow would be prominently portrayed.

The Cunard line is a sister line to Princess and they have the Queen Mary ll, which is slightly larger than the Royal Princess in terms of gross tonnage but carries about 1500 less passengers, which is represented by its greatly superior space to passenger ratio compared to that of the Royal. Now, even though the QM ll has a lot of condominium unit looking cabin balconies it is much more streamlined looking than the average ponderous vessel now coming out. Plus, it has a beautiful looking rakish bow that makes it look like it belongs on the sea. Of course the QM ll is the only true ocean liner sailing today, it has a top cruising speed that exceeds 30 MPH and can move in reverse faster than most ships can go forward. She is the way I think ships should look.

UGLY:

---I do not agree with the life boat drill procedures and arrangements or lack thereof, for both passengers and crew. Leaves too much up to conjecture on the part of the passengers and precise coordination among crew members in the event of a real emergency. Just hope and pray an emergency doesn't involve a large list to port or starboard or an onboard fire. I would think Carnival Corp. would have gone to great lengths to improve emergency drills, facilities and procedure in light of their dismal failure on their Concordia, operated by COSTA, sister line to Princess.

----The marine architect who designed the Royal must have flunked out in the passenger flow portions of his/her studies. There were three groups of elevator shaft alleys. The forward and aft alleys had four elevators each with wide public staircases, while the midship alley had 6 elevators and no public staircase. After returning from shore excursions it was virtually impossible to get on an elevator on the gangway decks. Persons with walking difficulty and boarding mid-ship had an endless wait and even though they decided to climb the stairway, this option didn't exist for them as there was no stairway at mid-ship. Particularly in the mid-ship area the elevators were continually over packed with guests most any time of day and many guests waited for extended periods of time to get into one. Since there were no alternative stairs, midship, other than walking to the forward or aft elevator & stairway alleys, consider too the ship is over 1000 feet long, there is no option but to stand and wait. This was particularly exasperating if one accidentally got off on a deck directly above or below the intended deck, since there was not a set of nearby stairs to walk up or down on. Doubling of the elevator capacity is necessary.

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Seven Seas Voyager

August 2013 - 12 Night Northern Lights and White Nights (Stockholm to London) Cruise on Seven Seas Voyager

One of our best voyages ever.

A 22 day back to back begining in Stockholm, down the Baltics to Southhampton then circumnavigate the British Isles ending in Southhampton again. 

 

This also was one of the best if not the best voyage we have taken.

After 20 years of cruising we discovered Regent in 2010. We are going on 100 days of voyaging with them now. This Baltic and circumnavigation of the British Isle cruise we just completed in September was outstanding. We had been cruising exclusively with Princess and HAL prior to that. We toyed with the idea of giving Silver Seas a shot but received a hint that their quality was on the ebb, the debacle on the Silver Shadow in Southeast Alaska this past summer confirmed that. Of Regent's three ships, we like the Voyager the best.

 

We have never had a cruise that we didn't enjoy, although, as with anything in life, there was an occasional blemish. We prefer the longer excursion type voyages, three weeks or more. The longest was on the Prinsendam for almost three months. In May 2010 we happened upon Regent. Would stick with them exclusively but they have only three ships which limits their itineraries. For a while we hardly even glossed other's brochures and offers but since have taken two cruises with HAL and have just booked another on HAL plus one on Princess this September followed by one in October on Regent. So we do cruise, and have passed the 500 at sea day milestone. My wife discovered the first cruise on Regent, to Alaska, on the Navigator. She really likes the absence of nickel and dimeing on Regent, which is turning into a joke on the major lines.

 

For us Regent stands out in these areas:

 

---Quality of shore excursions. (They go to lengths to arrange numerous and detailed itineraries while assuring knowledgeable guides who one can understand and most of the time limit the coaches to about 55% capacity).

---Quality and size of suites. The size of their D thru H suites are almost unsurpassed. They have walk in closets that serve as dressing rooms as well, the bathrooms are huge with walk in showers plus a separate large bathtub, on this recent cruise we had four large suitcases but only used about 35% of the drawers, hangars and cupboards. Their suite categories are smaller on the Mariner than on the Voyager and Navigator, although the Mariner does have extra large Penthouse suites.

---Outstanding demeanor of all the crew, i.e. room stewards, bar tenders, waiters, wine stewards, officers, etc.--Staff to guest ratio.

 

---Ship design, size and condition. (The Mariner and Voyager have pod propulsion which offers a noticeable absence of vibration and noise, particularly in the stern area where most conventional shaft ally powered ships have that negative)

 

---I particularly appreciate the dining arrangements, no waiting, no assigned seating unless we ask to be with someone else and we almost always get a table for two. Food is good, sometimes outstanding.--Wine is free (as are most spirits) and the selection is above average. They have two speciality restaurants which do not charge extra, the Prime 7 is pretty good. We weren't too enamored with the Signature though, on this last voyage. The reservation lash up for the Signature and Prime 7 needs some work and improving. However, on this trip, their regular dining room, the Compass Rose, was outstanding (better than the Signature even). What we have taken to doing is to determine right off which head waiter we want, then stick with him. Then, we "always" get the type table we want and the waiters know exactly our tastes, our names and how to set up the table. Beats the old traditional seating all to pieces, you know, the old way where you run the "luck of the draw" for tablemates and take a chance on getting stuck with nimrods for the entire voyage.

 

Free and relatively fast internet with an excellent and large internet cafe (which is the best we ever experienced)---Good selection of free newspapers delivered every morning (I like the New York Times & USA Today) and their TV news channels offer an excellent ideological selection, from left progressive to hard core right wing, (MSNBC is my favorite.)

 

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Ryndam

April 2011 - 21 Night April in Spain and Normandy (Tampa to London) Cruise on Ryndam

Great ship, clean, good crew, good chow

Left Tampa Bay on HAL's Ryndam, suite 171, great ship, clean, good crew, good chow. 12 ports of call. Really liked the stateroom and patio. Some of the entertainment (particularly the four young female Ukrainian violinist, in a nice quiet lounge, just before dinner) and cruise pertinent lectures were excellent. Captain did a super job as we ran into a storm, mid Atlantic, he went far south, almost to the equator to get around it. Put us a little behind schedule but no big deal. Entire trip, the ocean was like a mill pond.

Particularly liked the eat any time feature. First time on HAL where we that option. No getting stuck with the same political bores every evening at the dinner table. Never had a delay getting a table either, usually ate by ourselves. We used the Pinnacle Grill three times, it is the best of any lines alternative dining options the we have been on. First became aware of the Pinnacle quality on the Prinsendam during a three monther. Also the Canaletto alternative (no extra charge) was great. We used that one at least 10 times. Tables were a little too close but other than that we certainly liked the cuisine and table staff.

I like the Ryndam, just the right size ship and well taken care of. Shore excursions were all good. HAL does a great job on these, but so does Princess and Regent, the only other two lines we use.

One of the best port excursions C.C. ratings don't even have listed here. St Malo, France. France. Great day, a rare super surprise, visited Mont Saint Michel and toured that historic little island and then stopped at Cancale for oysters and local white wine. Best oysters I have ever tasted. Same with the wine and I'm a red drinker. Beautiful little fishing village where we were served. I give that day a five plus rating.

Don't list Cherbourg,France either. Normandy beachheads. Wow, best long one day excursion ever, and we have been cruising for over twenty years on the high seas and I missed that until now. Be sure and do Omaha Beach, don't take just Utah Beach tour. Also Mulberry B and the museum there are a must. Five plus plus. Not enough space here for me to tell how great it was, you have to see that yourself.      

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Seven Seas Mariner

October 2010 - 12 Night Mediterranean (Rome to Istanbul) Cruise on Seven Seas Mariner

Really lucked out on being able to book this voyage, after years of trying.

We had been to the eastern Mediterranean once before on a cruise ship, including Greece and Turkey; we had also been on a 73 day circumnavigation of Africa during which we toured Egypt and transited the Suez Canal for the first time, south to north. But I had always wanted to see the Holy Land(s). For years I had been watching the HAL and Princess itineraries but neither offered anything remotely comprehensive.   Fortunately we had been on Regent's Seven Seas Navigator in May 2010 so we were receiving their colorful brochures regularly. Then one day this offering appeared for October 09, 2010, it was actually a back to back titled "Mediterranean Medley" beginning in Rome, then at Istanbul, "Passage of Antiquity" this 30 day cruise ended in Dubai, where we began our long flight journey back home to Anchorage.   A cruise of a lifetime on a very high end exploration size vessel for which the price was right. Ports involved: Florence/Pisa, Sardinia, Sorrento/Capri, Sicily, Tunisia, Malta, Santorini, Ephesus, Mykonos, Istanbul, Cyprus, Jerusalem (Sea of Galilee--Nazareth---Bethlehem--etc.), Tel Aviv, Cairo, Suez Canal transit (north to south), Luxor, Petra (Ancient City of Petra), Salalah Oman, Muscat Oman and Dubai.   There wasn't one blemish that sticks in my mind, close to a perfect voyage, it is most likely the finest cruise we will ever undertake.                

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Seven Seas Navigator

May 2010 - 14 Night Alaska (San Francisco to Vancouver) Cruise on Seven Seas Navigator

A super nostalgic cruise and a very good one. It introduced us to up scale cruising as well.

I say this cruise was "nostalgic" because that is exactly what it was for me, a 75 year Alaskan. More enjoyable than I imagined it would be. Born and raised in Alaska, when I was young my mother would take us out to visit kinfolks in the 48 states, Alaska was a territory then. We would always travel to Seattle, from Cordova, on Alaska Steamship Company. (That is until the airlines took over and Alaska Steam quit passenger service in 1954)  When first getting on a cruise ship, the smells, odors and sounds harken me back to those early days of traveling to/from Alaska and of sailing throughout Alaska’s Panhandle.

On this cruise we began in San Francisco and ended in Vancouver B.C. got as far north as Valdez in Alaska's Prince William Sound (Note: we live in Anchorage now but I was born and raised at Cordova in Prince Willliam Sound), we visited 10 ports total, six in Alaska, two in Canada, one in Oregon, one in California. Plus, we did the Tracy Arm glacier and Hubbard Glacier on separate sea days only, where we stopped in front of the glaciers for hours. 

At the time of the cruise we were just shy of one year total on the high seas. Many of our cruises have been one month or more. We prefer smaller ships and exotic ports. Throughout this we have almost exclusively sailed on Princess and HAL. This was our first trip on one of the more high scale lines. We did really enjoy it, but doubt if we could have afforded it at regular rates. Including insurance and most everything we paid, $10,000. Normally it would have ran about $35,000-$40,000. Most shore excursions were free although there was an extra charge for a few of them.

The big pluses were: (1) The “staterooms” were super. Best by far we have experienced. (I call them “staterooms” as that is what they were called when I was a kid, Berlitz says the correct term is “cabin”, I disagree). The patio wasn't all that big though, we experienced better patios on both Princess and HAL where the cabin prices were much less.

(2) Sure nice to be not nickel and dimed like on HAL and Princess. Booze was included, most excursions were free, hardly any extra charges for anything.

(3) A week before we departed they upgraded us, for another $800. to “Butler Service” and a stateroom on the upper most highest class in their regular suite category. On the trip, the butler was great, but so was the room stewardess. For almost a grand a week, I wouldn't go the butler route or the higher category cabin again and that was at the super discounted rate. The suites on the Navigator are pretty much all the same, in my opinion. And that is, they are excellent.

The downsides were few:

We did the no extra charge specialty restaurant, Prime 7, one time, you couldn't really get in very often as it was so popular, probably due to no extra charge. Hard to believe they had waiting lists, as we really thought the meal was not very good at all, and honestly, I am not normally very picky in that regard. Also, we didn't often care for those extra charge specialty restaurants until we tried HAL’s "Pinnacle".

 

 

 

   

 

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Star Princess

January 2010 - 16 Night Antarctica & South America (Buenos Aires roundtrip) Cruise on Star Princess

The Frozen Continent--As seen from Star Princess

 Sail Date: January 2010Destination: South America & AntarcticaEmbarkation: Buenos Aires

We were around the Horn 11 years ago with HAL and had pretty good weather at the Cape. Not as good as we had the other day though. We were really fortunate on this trip, as the Star Princess had ran into some pretty foul stuff coming around the Horn just prior to our voyage and they had to cancel the Falklands. We stayed overnight in the Intercontinental at Buenos Aires, just before we headed for the ship passengers came in that just got off of her. They were a pretty depressed bunch. One gal told me that "everything that could go wrong went wrong". Fortunately for us everything that could go right went right. I notice the recent trip comments on C. C. pretty much reflect our views too.

Actually, I was a lot more impressed with the trip than I thought I was going to be. It was a super great voyage. There were a lot of folk really into spending time on deck and taking in the marine life. And the biologists Princess provided were super and spent countless hours with everybody. I know The "birders" were in all their glory. Albatross everywhere.

We had to cough up $131.00 each in Buenos Aires. We found out though this is a fee for Argentina and is good for ten years. Like we will be going back again soon. Anyway, We paid out $459 dollars for port and government fees plus the $262.00 for Argentina. I'm not certain, but since we stopped in Punta Arenas maybe we had to pay that $100. each, for Chile. Anyway, those who complain about Alaska's $50.00 head charge are simply not paying attention.

Thursday, (January 14th) to Seattle, Friday to Buenos Aires, Argentina via Houston on Continental. Saturday afternoon we boarded the Star Princess for 16 days. For a voyage directly to Antarctica, 4 days cruising in and around Antarctica, then back up the coast all around Cape Horn and into the Beagle Channel making stops at Ushuaia Argentina, Punta Arenas, Chile, then out the Strait of Magellan into the Atlantic cruising on out to the Falkland Islands, then north to Montevideo in Uruguay, then back to Buenos Aires and then fly home via, Santiago de Chile, Los Angeles, Seattle, then home late Feb. 4th.

On the sea we traveled a total of 5503.9 statute miles.

Princess Cruise line has a promotional film out for the Antarctic. It starts with something that goes like this: "Imagine a place where time ceased to exist, a place of unspoiled and unforgiving beauty. A place of quiet. Where peace is everywhere. Imagine no more. The Frozen Continent."

That pretty much sums up what we witnessed down there.

The Star Princess. In 2002, when new, this was the largest passenger vessel in the world. However, it is quite a ways down the list now. 109,000 gross tons, 950 ft long, 118 ft wide, max speed 23.3 knots, cruise speed 21 knots, 3100 passengers max (we had 2600) plus a crew of 1200. But I did notice that their deck layout schematic is goofed up, so is my Berlitz guide to cruising with respect to the "Star". But then, my guide is 2007. Fortunately for us, the mistakes worked in our favor, we were on the Caribe deck in a balcony cabin. Except, our balcony was twice the size of those on any other deck as far as regular cabin or mini suite cabins go. The balconies on the Caribe were twice as large as those on the Dolphin deck, and the Dolphin deck has all the mini suites. The mini suites were just like ours except they cut the balcony in half and extended the room onto the cut our portion. Most full suites were all on our deck, and all they simply involved was two regular cabins with balcony's, like ours, with the wall removed. Berlitz says you can see down onto the Caribe full suite balconies from above. Not true, half the area of those balconies have a roof.

Quite a mix of nationalities on board. Us Yankees were about 45%. I like it that way, gives one exposure to what others think and do. Unfortunately, we don't all speak the same language. There were a lot of South Americans on board as well. The cruise lines have resorted to really cutting rates in order to fill the ships.

Another nice thing, the crowd was much younger than we are used to. As we get longer in the tooth we tend to become more curmudgeonish. The Star was by far the largest ship we have ever been on. Almost three times the size of the Titanic. I did not think I would care for a vessel this large but I was pleasantly surprised.

Orca, (Killer Whale) just like home came right down the port side of the ship and our patio was on the port side. I got a good picture. This occurred in Gerlache Strait.

We had three naturalists on board. One fellow had worked in the arctic since right after world war ll, he gave a fantastic lecture on Shackleton. He had met and spoke to a number of the Shackleton crew who were on the Endurance in 1914 when it got stuck in the Weddell Sea. He wrote a book which I bought, "Antarctica from South America". The other two were biologists as well, with doctorates and had spent many years at stations in the Antarctic. They say that it is a myth to believe warm waters harbor more marine life.The opposite is true. Cold waters contain more oxygen, meaning more zooplankton and nutrients like "krill" which provide the basis for all life in the arctic regions. Hence, large mammals thrive, like whales, such as the Blue and Fins, millions of penguins, seals and birds. Nothing lives on shore though. It is all a marine life show.

With humans now harvesting krill in unregulated huge fishing boats in this area, an ecological disaster might be in the making for all life in the Antarctic.

About as far south as we got was 65 degrees south latitude. It was pretty cold on deck some times, mostly from the wind moving across it.

Actually, we were still almost 1800 miles from the south pole. And over 3000 miles to the ocean on the other side of the continent.

Antarctica is not the smallest continent. It's land mass is larger than Europe or Australia. In fact it is twice the size of Australia. It is 98% covered by ice. We were sailing in and around the Antarctic Peninsula. They say that 96% of the continent's coast is ice cliffs. But on the peninsula you can see beaches and rock outcroppings. They also say that during the Antarctic winter the size of the continent almost doubles if you include the winter sea ice. There is also thousands of square miles of permanent sea ice, like in the Weddell and Ross Seas which are not included as part of the official Antarctic Continent either.

There is an east and west Antarctic. They don't know for sure yet because of the ice depth, but it is possible that if the ice melted there would be two continents instead of one as the low land between the east and west highlands would be a sea channel.

On average, it is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent and has the highest elevation of all the continents. However it is the interior of the continent which is technically the largest desert in the world. The coast does get quite a bit of precipitation, however.

The U.S. and Russia both have stations in the interior. The U.S. right at the pole. Russia's is higher up and colder though. They say a structure built at the pole will survive for decades with little snow around it, while a station on the coast will be covered by hundreds of feet of snow just after a few years. So, on the coast, they now build on stilts and keep adding to them as it snows in order to keep the buildings on the surface. That way they don't have to continually plow and move snow.

The ships five swimming pools were covered with nets, which means "no swimming today". Even though we had one very sunny and beautiful day down there, the temperature was still around 34. That is the same latitude as Fairbanks except Fairbanks is north latitude, also in Fairbanks it would have been July 22nd. It snowed one day for a bit, I love to take hot tubs in the snow, but for some reason they closed those also when we were there.

I took many shots of ice bergs. The huge tabular bergs were amazing. They break off the huge continental ice shelves and there are thousands of them around. I understand they sometimes go for over a hundred miles on top. They float around the ocean for decades. Sometimes their flat tops are over a hundred feet above the sea, and they reach down 700 feet below the surface of the water. There are also millions of smaller ice bergs. For many years they have called some of these "Bergy Bits", Britt speak. But they aren't being cute when they do so. Smaller ones than that are what they call "Growlers", hey, big surprise in Alaska, but there is a reason for this designation. The smaller bergs are what the crew is most worried about as they can't pick them up as well on radar at night and they can do considerable damage. Star Princess has a double hull. The huge ones are no problem to see and avoid.

The Star Princess had an "Ice Captain" on board. He was retired Coast Guard and had captained our nation's largest ice breaker, the Polar Star, on scientific expeditions in the Antarctic for years. He spoke to us a couple of times. Right after we left and headed into Drake's Passage he said something interesting "I don't get into these "Global Warming" arguments because I am not a scientist. However, I will tell you this, my first summer here was in 1984, no way we could have taken a ship this size back then into the areas where we have just been. There was so much ice then that even a consideration of doing so would have been ridiculous."

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Cruise Tips

HAVANA, CUBA

Had an enjoyable visit in Cuba and the countryside there. Visited a coop type farm out in the rural areas, this farm paid taxes and was not government operation. Very clean with very smart and knowledgeable guides. Far ahead of the dozens and dozens of 3rd world countries we have visited before.

Honolulu, Oahu

Did a two day one night post cruise hotel and transfer package. Nice hotel, Waikiki hasn't changed.

Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

Quite a trip, a recent volcanic eruption had destroyed some roads so our 9 hour excursion took 10.5 with 9 hours being in a good coach on high mountain roads as we visited a Maya ruins site, 9000 foot elevation

Kahului, Maui

Spent two days and one night here, more than scheduled due to a hurricane that caused us to miss Cabo San Lucas and San Diego. Drove to the top of Mount Haleakala and went over to Lahaina and took the Atlantis submarine excursion, which was outstanding. Don't know why I never tried that before during previous Maui visits.

Seven Seas Mariner

Seven Seas Mariner

Regent is a so called luxury line. But don't expect too much because of the classification, some go away dissatisfied since they wanted an utopian voyage or something whimsical--- Lower your expectations.

Suva, Fiji

Been here before, took local tour excursion, pretty good. Very hot day again.

Bay Of Islands, New Zealand

Although our segment involved mostly sea days, the shore excursions we did take were good, typically we never go the independent route on shore excursions but use those provided by the cruise line. One in particular illustrates how Princess stands out here----"We were confused about meet times one morning at the Bay of Islands, so when we showed up for our muster time they told us our excursion had already left. Anyway, bummer, but then, the shore rep said you can get on "this one" if you want instead, which was leaving just then. We took it. We were supposed to be on a rain forest type hike and glow worm cave visit, which we were regretting due to all the rain. As it turned out, the alternative was much better and dryer, plus the one we were to be on they didn't even get into the caves as they flooded and during the rain forest hike portion everybody got soaked. Mistakes sometimes turn out for the better.

Auckland, New Zealand

We did the Sky Tower and Kelly Tarlton's aquarium. Foggy at the tower so didn't see much but the aquarium was excellent. Gentoo and King penguins were outstanding.

San Pedro (Los Angeles), California

Embarkation port----Often I'm not certain what the pre and post cruise hotels cost as we like to use the cruise line transfers and hotel package(s) which are lumped together price wise. Normally I believe the entire package is reasonable----this arrangement has really come in handy in the past when things got confused the day before embarkation due lost airline luggage or other problems. Nothing more comforting than to have an agent at a strange airport with a sign and your name.----If I had to do this over I would have booked two nights at Long Beach in the Princess Hotel selection as I didn't realize there was so much to do here.

Honolulu, Oahu

One day here, did the Hop on and hop off which we bought through Princess. Also did the balcony dinner since we left late in the evening.

Sydney, Australia

Disembarkation port, but took the Princess port to hotel to airport transfer and stayed in their hotel three days two nights, "Four Seasons".

Pacific Princess

Pacific Princess

Since we were on part of a world cruise it gave me an opportunity to evaluate the merits of these since this got me to focusing on the merits and dismerits of booking the entire package if we had chosen to do so. We have never booked a "world cruise". Our longest cruise was one just shy of three months, which was 95% Africa ports. Most likely the reason we haven't booked longer voyages is that by now we have visited just about every port offered on those, many, multiple times. My advice to those just beginning cruising careers, if they can make it work, take a world cruise as soon as you can, that way most ports on the itinerary will involve first visits making the voyage that much more enjoyable. I did note on this voyage over 80% of the guests were taking the entire 111 day world voyage and out of those there were a lot who love to do this time and time again regardless of the number of visits they may have had at the same ports. We met couples that have been on more than five and often they were friends with others that had been on the same voyages. Camaraderie was a big inducement factor. Obviously, cruising is not the same for all, there are many types and variations. However, we see now the world cruise probably isn't for us. We do love sea days and you do get a lot of those on world cruises, which is a plus for us. But It seems to me that the industry is rather coy in describing "world cruises" or "world voyages" as these are somewhat misnomers. The one we were just involved in was indeed a cruise that went all the way around the globe, beginning and ending in Florida. However, to call this a "world cruise" is rather disingenuous. 20 of the 47 ports are all in the Mediterranean, there is no Africa, no South America, no---Indonesia, Asia, Malaysia, Baltic, British Isles, Holy Land, Antarctica or Arctic or much more, most all of it is confined to traditional tourist haunts within the Northern Hemisphere, with the exception of a jaunt down the Pacific to Australia and then back north. One fellow, on his 5th world cruise, told me he was "bored". My preference now would be to get more bang for my buck by booking separate cruises of four or five week durations each, maybe lumping two together as a back to back (B2B).

Regal Princess

Regal Princess

On this cruise we ate dinner at Sabatini's (5). Crown Grill (1), Seafood Terrace (2), Crab Shack (2), MDR (2). Alfredo's (3). We like this arrangement, if the MDR or another venue doesn't pan out, one has a lot more to choose from.

Caribbean Princess

Caribbean Princess

If the MDR becomes objectionable, try to eat as many meals as possible in the specialty restaurants and other venues, such as on "Crab Shack" nights. The buffet isn't all that bad either, except of course when the crowding there is severe and service is limited, which is often, due to the relativel

Regal Princess

Regal Princess

Be advised to keep track of what is going on in other eatery venues, since some of them have specials that you will only know about by reading the daily "Princess Patter". Order a bottle of wine and take it with you after, this practice is okay with them, having them hold it often is a mistake.

Cruise Hubbard Glacier

Probably the best glacier caving viewing in the world, from a ship.

Cruise Inside Passage, Alaska

The one negative I didn't like was Regent didn't do hardly any inside passsage, stayed out in the Gulf all the way. Very smooth sea but I wanted to be on the inside channels for the views. Particularly the Canadian I.P.

Astoria, Oregon

Took an all day tour to Mt. St. Helen, the volcano, one of the best tours ever.

Seven Seas Navigator

Seven Seas Navigator

This was a two week cruise to Alaska, from San Fran to Vancouver Canada. Crossed the Gulf of Alaska twice, going as far north as Valdez in Prince William Sound. One week north and one week south. Different ports both going and coming. That is the way to cruise Alaska.

Coral Princess

Coral Princess

Stay away from the MDR--Instead budget for multiple dinners in the specialty restaurants (excellent dining)--when not there use the Horizon Court buffet.

Seven Seas Mariner

Seven Seas Mariner

If doing a back to back, make sure you have a cabin key card that doesn't become obsolete the second segment otherwise you may find yourself off the ship and not able to get back on.

Royal Princess

Royal Princess

Try and not use the midship elevators whenever possible as there is no alternative stair case there, instead favor either the fore or aft staircase and elevators.

Seven Seas Voyager

Seven Seas Voyager

For the main dining room, try to stick with the head waiter assigned to a group of tables. We prefer table for two and always get it.

Statendam

Statendam

Dine non-traditional but try to get used to dining room staff so you get same location/table, about every evening.

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