I finally got around to finishing the review of the ship. I'll add some comments and photos about the ports soon.
The ship was in reasonably good condition.
There were some rust stains and wear and tear marks on the outer hull, not surprising as she had just completed a world cruise with over 60 sea days. Work on the outer hull can only be done in port and (I assume) on the side of the ship next to the wharf so keeping her looking good must be a real challenge on long cruises. At every docked port they did work on the hull on our cruise.
The interior and decks were fairly good, again with ongoing maintenance occurring during our cruise. We had some very heavy rain just before and during our Suva stop and there were a few leaks in odd places, including in Crooners.
We love the wide promenade deck on Sea (and Sun), both for walking, and for sitting when the weather is a bit showery. We managed to get loungers on a couple of occasions but tended not to stay there for more than an hour or so each time.
Our cabin had brand new carpet, in lovely grey and white tones. It felt so nice underfoot.
We had an inside cabin and chose to have the beds in twin configuration to give us more useable space. The plush top layer of the beds made the edge of them very soft and it took a few nights before I stopped waking up thinking I was falling out of bed.
The inside cabins have great storage, even for a chronic overpacker like me. One thing I really love on these ships is the wire mesh drawers in the wardrobe which are the perfect places to keep shoes and swimwear. There were plenty of other drawers and shelves for other stuff so we managed to keep our cabin quite tidy.
The bathroom has a very small amount of counter space around the handbasin which is an issue for us ladies trying to put make-up on. The shower cubicle was a comfortable size so my elbows are unscathed. The cold water pressure was low, and the cold water was tepid, so a full “cold” shower was almost too hot at times.
The air-conditioning on the coldest setting was a bit too warm for me for most of the cruise. Around 22-23C, which is what I would expect the mid-point setting temperature to be. This is a regular problem on Princess these days so I had a fan with me to help blow the limited amount of cool air coming from the air-con vent towards my bed.
We had Anytime Dining. This is the first cruise of any length on Princess that we have opted for this option. It worked very well for us. Some nights we chose to join a shared table but other nights we just wanted a table for two. We only had three nights on the whole cruise where we had a short wait, no more than ten minutes, for a table.
The quality of the food was excellent. Even the crispy bacon was not the usual cardboard, it was tasty and not too greasy. The menus were fairly standard but someone needs to plan the use of them better so there aren’t items that are too similar two days in a row. At one point we had souffles for dessert three days in a row!
Service was excellent but we missed getting to know our waiters as per Traditional Dining. We seemed to end up in different sections every night so didn’t really get to know many of the waiters well.
We thought the new wine list was fantastic, and the prices were reasonable for the quality of the wines on offer. They were comparable, if not cheaper, than Sydney restaurant prices. In fact some of the Italian wines were comparable in price with our local pizzeria. One wine, the Prunetto Barolo is actually dearer by the single bottle at Dan Murphy’s! We mostly drank European wines that we normally don’t get a chance to indulge in at home.
We tried the Pizzeria one lunch time but were disappointed by the poor quality of the pizza – dry and tasteless. Admittedly we have very high standards as we live near one of Sydney’s top Neopolitan-style pizzerias.
We also tried the Sterling Steakhouse one night. The food was excellent but the ambience was dreadful. Harsh lighting, and too much noise coming over from the side of the buffet that was still operating. I doubt we’ll bother going to Sterling Steakhouse on Sea or Sun again. It was much better on Diamond.
I love Crooners on this class of ship as it extends right around the atrium so there is plenty of seating. It was popular all day, for coffees and for drinks. Service was a bit slow at times. It seemed understaffed although some of the delays were in waiting for ordered drinks, not in ordering.
The Wheelhouse Bar is also a good size, with a decent dance floor which was well utilised by some very good dancers (not us though). Service was usually very prompt here.
La Patisserie was often crowded, especially when there were various games being played in the atrium. It was sometimes hard to find a waiter but once ordered the drinks arrived promptly.
The Nook whisky bar is small but popular in the evenings, and a great quiet place to sit during the day when it wasn’t open.
Topsides Bar was fantastic to watch sunsets from but otherwise very quiet.
We didn’t go to any of the other outdoor bars.
Although the interior bars were crowded on some days we usually managed to get seats for coffee or drinks when we wanted them. Most people were moving on after a time and not hogging the seating too much.
There was something for everyone. Usually if we didn’t like the entertainment in one bar, we were usually happy with the music in the other bar and, if not, went to the Nook.
We enjoyed the production shows especially British Invasion which is always fun, and Encore was fantastic. The Show Band was excellent and often doubled as a jazz band in Crooners or the Wheelhouse. There were some great guest artists too, many doing two different shows. We’re not comedy fans so I can’t comment on those acts.
There were plenty of activities during the sea days although we only went to trivia. We like to just relax and read so used the Sanctuary when the weather was good enough.
It was a great cruise and I’d happily do it again sometime.
The weather was a bit variable at times but we had some very nice days. We ran into some moderate to heavy seas in a few places. Not enough to bother us but we did end up with a late arrival in Auckland as the ship had to slow down to avoiding bouncing passengers out of bed. We also missed going ashore at the Bay of Islands due to high winds making the tender operations unsafe.