neonbubble

neonbubble
Second Mate

Hometown: Portsmouth
Joined: 03/22/2017
7
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6
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20
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256

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neonbubble's Past Cruises

Ventura

November 2017 - Ventura to Europe

Azura

October 2017 - Azura to Scandinavia

Azura

March 2017 - Azura to United Kingdom

Set your expectations accordingly

This was a weekend cruise from Southampton to Zeebrugge then back. As such, the demographic was heavily weighted towards groups of friends or work colleagues or hen parties so for us as a couple used to mostly couples-based, longer trips it was a bit of a change but we pretty much expected it to be this way. The ship was a Grand-class ship, similar in layout to several of the Princess line that we'd been on before so the layout was familiar although the darker decor made the ship feel a little more claustrophobic and more like a floating hotel. Service was distinctly hands-off; things we were used to such as being served tea/juice at breakfast or having food cooked for you at the poolside were replaced with already prepared, help yourself offerings instead which disappointed us as we expected a little more than just a floating hotel with some entertainment for the price we were paying. Food quality was average and the service in the dining room across the two nights couldn't have been more different; on the first night it felt like we couldn't be shifted out of our seats fast enough whereas the second night dragged. Bar service was generally good, if just a little too impersonal (with one exception). The pub, Brodie's, had a good range of beers although a lot from the menu wasn't available which I'd understand if picking up the ship in the Caribbean but found more disappointing since it had been berthed in its home port. Loved the wall displays in the Planet Bar. We felt the cruise line deserved another chance to see what it would be like on a longer trip, away from school holidays, away from the sunshine, just to see how an older, more couples-based cruise would pan out so will be trying them again but even if it was exactly the same it would be okay if taken with the attitude that it was to be a cruising experience at the lower end of the refinements scale.

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Royal Princess

September 2016 - Royal Princess to Europe - Mediterranean

Great ports and history let down by poor staff and ship design

Note: this was a 7-night cruise from Rome to Athens, not the 14-nighter it keeps choosing instead.

 

This was a pretty last-minute deal, our fourth cruise, all with Princess, and the first to not be on a Grand-class ship; as such there were a few surprises in store and mostly not to our liking. To start with, the things about the ship we liked: the food offerings in the buffet area were excellently laid out, plentiful, varied, and difficult to fault; the adults-only pool area was a great place to get to on most afternoons if you fancy an uninterrupted swim like us; embarkation was swift; the interactive TV in the state room was larger than expected and more useful than expected too. Now for the things we didn't like: the TV studio wasn't very useful, had poor chairs, and meant there was no Explorers lounge; balconies were woefully tiny; the Crown Grill was tacked onto the Wheelhouse Bar making it noisy and bright and losing all its specialty status; food service in the Crown Grill was slow, indifferent, and they got my order wrong; service everywhere was generally slow and unfriendly with none of the experience of the staff getting to know you and your habits we'd had on other ships; no promenade deck; SeaWalk was a gimmick and one that served to mostly block out views and impact on privacy for many cabins as far as we could see; Club 6 was a poor substitute for Skywalkers and became a corridor whenever the theatre kicked out; the relaxing atmosphere of Crooners was destroyed by the constant din of activities rising up from the large atrium. We weren't fans of the ship, as you can tell, but it was the really poor service that was the worst of it all with little interaction from the bar staff at all. The ports we stopped at were fantastic, each one steeped in history. For a short cruise it was port-intensive but that's the Mediterranean for you. Kotor, Montenegro was apparently a late replacement for Ephesus, Turkey and it was a stunningly gorgeous, standout replacement in our minds, making a nice contrast from the Greek/Roman history elsewhere with a fantastically beautiful, medieval setting. We could definitely see ourselves cruising the Med again to see more of the many historical places but it would have to be a hell of a good deal to get on a Royal-class Princess ship again.

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Star Princess

February 2016 - Star Princess to South America

Excellent cruise, fantastic staff

Our first trip to the Southern Hemisphere and it was fabulous. From meeting at the airport to checking in and hitting a bar as soon as we got on while we waited for our luggage to catch up with us everybody we met from Princess was on top form, smiling, friendly, helpful, showing off, making us feel special. As we'd been saving up and planning this for a long time we went for a mini suite this time so that we could gaze up at the stars around South America and that didn't disappoint either. Every stop was great - although the coach trip to see the penguins was dull and long - and we were happy to get into the Falklands which not every ship manages and to experience a little bit of the rough seas we were hoping for around Cape Horn. Ushuaia was stunningly beautiful and the trip down the Beagle Channel to see the seals, though bitterly cold, was unforgettable. Managed to tick off loads of amazing experiences on this trip: ate Argentinian steak, cable car above the clouds up a volcano, Falkland Islands, Chilean glacier, Cape Horn, penguins in their natural habitat, whales passing the ship, a dolphin jumping alongside the tender boat, an albatross flying around the promenade, rode a steam train, danced with a Uruguayan tango dancer. Loved riding the escalator to Skywalkers every night and every member of waiting staff we encountered were the best they could possibly be.

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Crown Princess

August 2013 - Crown Princess to Europe - Northern Europe

Superb late deal

Our second cruise came almost five years after our first and happened because we had a good, late deal emailed to us offering us an outside cabin upgrade for the price of an inside one. As the cruise departed from Southampton (30 minutes from our house) we took up the offer. Getting on board I became giddy with excitement at discovering we hadn't just got an outside cabin but a balcony instead. The Crown Princess was familiar in its layout since it was a Grand-class ship like our previous trip on the Diamond. Being a shorter trip it had more families and felt busier overall but we discovered that the adults pool outside the Sanctuary had a current machine (it's present on all the Grand-class Sanctuary pools, I believe) which replaced swimming laps in a crowded pool satisfactorily. We enjoyed the art auctions and puchased a piece by an artist we'd appreciated on our first cruise but been not quite well-off enough to buy at the time. Ship's decor was familiar and light, dining was good, service was very good, and the excursions we took were all fantastic even if the hike up to and behind the waterfall at Geiranger was a little more strenuous than we'd presumed. But we made it and were glad we did.

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Diamond Princess

November 2008 - Diamond Princess to Other (Asia/Africa/Middle East)

Fabulous first cruise experience

This was our first cruise - indeed, our first holiday outside the country together - and was for our honeymoon, chosen for the itinerary, not the ship or company of which we had no prior knowledge. We'd booked the cheapest cabin (an inside), figuring we wouldn't spend much time in there (which turned out be true) but everything far exceeded our expectations. We were by some way the youngest on board and soon discovered that nearly the entire ship was deserted of other passengers by the middle of the evening; this left us to wander around from bar to bar, checking out venues, having the run of the ship and exceptional service from the staff who would sometimes almost fight one another to serve us first. The Wake Bar was a great little discovery but we spent most of our time up in Skywalkers where the DJ would play anything we wanted as there was almost never anyone else around. The feeling of being the centre of attention especially at night was great but it carried through fabulously into the days as well as we'd often wander into a lounge, catch the eye of a waiter, and have our usual drinks brought over without any further interaction needed nor any need to present a cruise card because we were obviously so memorable. Ship's decor was great, service excellent, excursions fantastic; nothing could be faulted.

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neonbubble's Tips

Gdynia (Gdansk), Poland - Another beautiful day, another lovely excursion to see Gdansk, wander its streets and take in the sights. Fascinating to see pictures of the place following the war and what it looks like today. Lots of souvenir shops. Interior of St Mary's Church was really quite impressive when compared to its exterior.
Stockholm, Sweden - Top rating for this port for the Vasa Museum on its own; wonderful piece of history, like something straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. City Hall and Gamla Stan were very good too although the excursion felt a little thrown together at points. Stockholm looked like it would be a good place to come back and see for a long weekend.
Zeebrugge (Bruges), Belgium - Second visit to Zeebrugge but first time in Bruges for us. Very nice, probably not quite as good as Ghent for us. We did a walking tour and canal trip with the latter retracing some of the former's route through the city which was a tad repetitive although obviously it was presented from a different viewpoint.
Helsinki, Finland - The heavy rain may have had an impact on this port but the city didn't seem to have a lot of appeal for us. It was pleasant enough and we visited the Sibelius monument and the rock church before making our own way back to the ship (via a bar) but compared to other stops on this cruise this felt the least interesting. Artisitcally, there was something to be said for the city: there was an art display in the main square featuring seals painted by artists to raise money for ecological reasons; near the port there were some fantastic street art pieces to see too.
St. Petersburg, Russian Federation - Well, a weekend is not enough here. Fabulous place, great history, great architecture. Took in most of the typical tour options. Church of the Spilled Blood looked lovely with its onion domes; St Isaac's was gorgeous inside; nice meal at the Academia Banquet Hall including red caviar, questionable vodka, some decent folk singing; Hermitage was overwhelming in its size and amount to see (easy to get tired of it but the trip was just about right in length); ballet was absolutely incredible (go for the upgraded option to get into one of the older theatres); second day we settled for a canal boat tour which was excellent. Tip: don't buy hats or dolls from street vendors; the souvenir shop as you enter the port has better prices.
Copenhagen, Denmark - Ignored Copenhagen in favour of an excursion out to see Frederiksborg Castle, Fredensborg Palace, and Kronborg Castle along with a stop for lunch. The first of these locations was stunning beautiful and our group was the first in as it opened allowing us to see the rooms without crowds in front of us; this pleased our guide. Kronborg had a reasonably interesting tour by a Hamlet actor.
Tallinn, Estonia - No excursion here as so easy to walk into the old town from the ship in under 30 minutes. Beautiful place that was amusingly overrun with Belgian football fans in good spirits. We had a good wander around and enjoyed a few local beers in a couple of different places to recover from the heat. Good souvenir places just outside where the ship docks on the walk back.
Buenos Aires, Argentina - If you get a chance to eat Argentinian steak then do so, but only if you're going to treat it with respect and eat it rare.
Flaam, Norway - Wonderful brewery situated in the small town where the ship docks. Expensive, but gorgeous beer.
Crown Princess Crown Princess - If in the small, adults-only Sanctuary pool there's a current machine you can switch on by pushing bar situated between the two hot tubs.

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received a helpful vote on their Diamond Princess cruise review - Fabulous first cruise experience

received a helpful vote on their Azura cruise review - Set your expectations accordingly

added Nov 10, 2017 cruise on Ventura to their profile.

added Oct 3, 2017 cruise on Azura to their profile.

received a helpful vote on their Royal Princess cruise review - Great ports and history let down by poor staff and ship design

received a helpful vote on their Crown Princess cruise review - Superb late deal

received a helpful vote on their Diamond Princess cruise review - Fabulous first cruise experience

received a helpful vote on their Crown Princess cruise review - Superb late deal

followed a discussion, Cruise picture challenge, on the cruiseline forum.

replied to the discussion, Cruise picture challenge on the cruiseline forum.