How about a Princess Review?

Discussion in 'Royal Caribbean' started by tidefan, Jul 13, 2018.

  1. tidefan

    tidefan DIS Veteran

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    If OK, I am going to post my review of our Alaska sailing on Emerald Princess here as there is not a "Princess" forum...

    So, we went on the Emerald Princess 7-night Seattle R/T Alaska cruise. This is billed as an "Inside Passage" cruise, however, I don't really consider an Alaskan cruise as a full Inside Passage cruise unless it goes out of Vancouver (and thus on the east side of Vancouver Island). We picked this cruise as we were at a conference in the Seattle area and it ended at noon on Sunday. So, in order to go out of Seattle on a Sunday, our choices were A) Emerald Princess, B) HAL Amsterdam, or C) Norwegian Pearl. We chose the Emerald Princess as we had sailed Princess before and we got a pretty good rate on an inside cabin.

    One quick note, we sail DCL quite a bit, but have also done a cruise on RCCL (Serenade) and Carnival (Sunshine) within the past 3 1/2 years. Anyway, here were our thoughts and comparisons:

    Embarkation:

    I find this to be more port specific than cruise line specific. In Seattle, we left out of the Smith Cove Pier 91 cruise terminal and it was very efficient. From our Uber drop-off, to porter getting our luggage, to security, to check-in, to boarding the ship, the process was maybe 15-20 minutes. Really easy.

    One thing I really liked about Princess was that your room is ready when you get on the ship. I very much appreciated that instead of the usual DCL wait until 1:30... Also, they don't bring the luggage up the passenger elevators in the Centrum shutting off most to passengers (looking at you, Serenade!)

    Emerald Princess in Smith Cove Pier 91 (Seattle)
    EmeraldArrival.JPG

    Seattle from the back of the ship...
    SeattleFromShip.JPG
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2018
  2. tidefan

    tidefan DIS Veteran

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    State of Ship

    Emerald Princess is a nice ship. She's around 3,000+ passengers, so she's also a good size. Public areas were nice and clean. The hallways maybe looked somewhat more dated than on the other lines, but maybe that was just me. Overall, the ship was shiny and clean. The Piazza in the middle of the ship was nice and elegant. I must say that I always get a feeling of understated elegance on Princess. Just that, for the most part, it's not over the top, but very well done. Think lots of teak and brass. We really liked how they had the various clubs set up. We only went to the theater a couple of times (it doubled as a movie theater late at night), but it was nice as well. Our favorite part of the ship, by far, however, was the high decks aft of the ship. It's a bit awkward to get to (mainly accessed through the buffet), but the view back there is great. Plus, Princess is nice enough to put a bar, 2 pools and a hot tub back there! (Quick note: For some reason, one of the aft pools was never filled on our voyage. Not sure if it was a leak or whatever - never could get an answer)

    Emerald Princess Aft:
    BackofEP.JPG
    LookingAftSeaDay.JPG

    Emerald Princess Elevator Lobby:
    ElevatorHall.JPG

    Hallway (Shutters Photo and Crown Grill):
    EP_Shutters_CrownGrill.JPG
    next... Cabins...
     
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  4. tidefan

    tidefan DIS Veteran

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    Cabin

    So, I mentioned that we got an inside cabin. I failed to mention that we had 4 people in said cabin. That made it quite a spectacle as we had to have the "double bunks" layout in our cabin. When I first got there, it was a bit horrifying. I thought "how in the world is this going to work"!

    Fortunately, upon getting used to the cabin, it really worked out nice. So, in the Princess cabin, there is no sofa. It makes the room look smaller than it is IMHO. However, what Princess uses that space for is a HUGE closet facing the bath (think of it as the back wall of the closet was the front wall of the sleeping area). There was also shelving and a safe adjacent to that area. Additionally, there were shelves in the two end tables between the beds. We were able to easily store all of our clothes and not use all of the cubbies on the side of the closet, as our steward brought us about a zillion hangers. So, it looked like a bad situation upon entering, but we all enjoyed having the huge closet area. Plus, the closet doesn't have doors, so that space between the closet and the bath feels very open and it doubles as a dressing area.

    The bath was nice, but the shower was just as small as the one on the Serenade and perhaps even smaller than the one on the Sunshine. DCL wins the bath category almost every time...

    Lastly, like DCL, there is a refrigerator in each stateroom. That was very nice to have as we kept our bottled water that we brought on nice and cold.

    Food

    So... Food is a subjective topic and Princess was very hit and miss. So, I'll just summarize it that way:

    Hits:

    Pizza - Princess makes it's pizza from a hand-tossed dough and is far superior to DCL, Carnival, and especially RCCL (at least the Serenade), where the Pizza was in the Windjammer Cafe
    Grill - The poolside grill was very good and would also serve additional items from day to day like chowders, ribs, wings, etc.
    Dining Room - With the glaring exception of the lobster, the Dining room food on Princess was excellent. On a couple of nights, the head waiter would additionally make up some concoction right there in the dining room al fresco for diners. He did Bananas Foster one night and a spicy pasta dish one night that may have been the best Dining Room meal at sea that I have had.
    Pub Lunch in the Wheelhouse Bar - So, on sea days, Princess turns it's Wheelhouse Bar into a British Pub lunch eatery. The pub lunch is complimentary and very good. I had a serving of Fish and Chips and Prawns and Chips. Both excellent.
    International Cafe - This was the coffee and 24-hour salad/sandwich place in the Piazza. We all thought it was really good. In addition, we had the Princess coffee cards and enjoyed daily lattes from here.
    Cokes - Yes, you have to buy the coke package (or Drink Package) to get them, but it's the first line where the diet coke from the gun actually tasted like diet coke (Sorry DCL - yes it's included, but the taste is off...)

    Misses:

    Buffet - Granted most cruise buffets are misses, but the Buffet on the Emerald, with one notable exception, was nearly inedible. It may have been the worst buffet I've had at sea (either this or the Serenade). I actually thought Carnival's was OK and DCL's is generally pretty good. Neither Breakfast or lunch were very good. They burned the bacon regularly and had an odd mix of things to choose from (no grape jelly?). I missed the donuts from DCL (fortunately, you could get donuts at the International Cafe). We never ate at the buffet, rather choosing to eat at the other venues with the notable exception of Victoria night. So, we are docking in Victoria at 7pm for a 5-hour visit and we didn't want to hurry a Dining Room meal, so we were going to get pizza, but the back elevators put you out in the buffet and we found that it was Mexican night. So we tried it and it was fantastic. I have no idea where the people that cooked this came from, because they weren't there anytime prior during the week...
    Ice Cream - The ice cream itself was fine, however, on Princess, it's next to the pizza place and you go to the counter and a crew member makes it for you. This would be fine if the crew members could make a soft serve cone that was over 1/2 inch above the cone. It was almost comical. I understand the hygiene and all, but give me the self-serve machines on the other lines...

    We did not do either of the specialty dining venues as our opinion is that specialty dining is a waste of money (YMMV).

    Service

    Service was generally good. Our steward was excellent. Also, the people in the International Cafe were really good. I am not sure what it is about assistant servers, but our head server and main server in the dining room were excellent whereas our assistant server was boorish, teetering on obnoxious. On one occasion, our friends did not make it to dinner. They have a 6 year old that would order apple juice each night. So we told our asst. server that they weren't coming and my wife mentioned that she would be happy to take the apple juice. "NO! Apple juice is just for the children", and with that he took it off of the table and went off. We did not write him a good review...

    I will also say that the buffet servers seemed a bit taxed. One thing I like, but I don't like on Princess is that they will get your drinks for you at the buffet. While this is a nice thought, a couple of times, I ended my breakfast (usually just a waffle as that was all that I really liked at the morning buffet) before my drink ever got there. Sometimes, I think it's just easier to get your own. (Note: I did find that I could hit the bar outside the buffet at the rear of the ship and get diet coke in a large plastic cup. That became my go-to for the whole ship...

    Kids Club

    This is just limited to what my DD (15) tells me. She says that this was her favorite cruise. I asked her if it was the club, and she said that club was OK, not bad, not great, but that it was the mix of other teens onboard that they all had a blast. I specifically asked her about the Vibe on DCL and she said that the Vibe is nicer as far as the area, but this was her favorite because of the other kids on board. It probably helped that she took one of her best friends with her...

    Entertainment

    Since it had been so long since we had sailed with Princess (2005), we weren't really sure what to expect. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the entertainment offerings. We only went to a main show one night (Broadway @ Sea) and it was meh... However, there were tons of things going on all around the ship. Up to this point, one of my favorite things about our Carnival trip was the cruise director, Jamie Dee, who is by far the best cruise director on any ship I've ever been on. Quite honestly, on the DCL ships, I hardly ever notice the cruise director (unless it was Brent from Australia - we all loved him). Our cruise director was Alexander and he was fantastic. If Jamie was a 100, Alex was a solid 85-90. Lots of game shows, both family and adult, which were quite good. They did one a couple of times where they tried to get a passenger to say "Yes" or "No" in a 3 minute period that was really entertaining. Also, the music was good. We particularly enjoyed one called "the Rolling Wave Duo" that played predominately Irish music. They had an "Irish Sing-a-long" night one night in the Wheelhouse Bar that was extremely entertaining.

    Of course, it wasn't DCL, but it was very good and I never felt bored as I did on the Serenade. Also, it was a similar, but different feel than Carnival, whose entertainment was good as well...
     
  5. tidefan

    tidefan DIS Veteran

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    Ports

    We really enjoy Alaska as we had been on the DVC Member Cruise on the Disney Wonder 3 years ago, which we consider our best cruise we've ever done. This cruise was enjoyable as well. It didn't hurt that the weather was fantastic. It was mid 70's in Ketchikan and low 80's in Juneau and Skagway. Funny, I looked this week and one week later to the day, Juneau was a high of 57 and raining. We picked the right week...

    One note: For those going into Tracy Arm, ships can't get right up next to the Glacier right now due to a large amount of ice in the water that has calved...

    We didn't do much in port save repeating a Mendenhall Glacier/Whale Watch with juneauwhalewatch.com that was just as fantastic as the last time we did it. We got to go out again on the jet boat and it was just about 16 of us on the boat. A far cry from the hundreds we saw on a couple of the ship excursion boats. We didn't do much in Ketchikan (went to Safeway to go to the Starbucks there to get the Alaska mug - they had their 4th of july festival going on in the parking lot, so that was fun) other than walk creek street and wander about town. In Skagway, we went around town as last time we were picked up and dropped off at the ship for our excellent Yukon tour (tntours98.com) that we did back in 2015. We also enjoyed Victoria as we had not been there before. The only problem here is that we were only there from 7pm to Midnight...

    Here are some images:

    Heading into Tracy Arm
    TracyArmDay.JPG

    Ketchikan - Creek Street
    Creek Street.JPG

    Ketchikan - King Salmon heading upstream
    SalmonRunning.JPG

    Ketchikan - Emerald Princess docked
    EPinKetchikan.JPG
     
  6. tidefan

    tidefan DIS Veteran

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    Juneau - Nugget Falls near Mendenhall Glacier
    NuggetFalls.JPG


    Juneau - Mendenhall Glacier from the Jet Boat
    MendenhallByBoat.JPG

    Juneau - Orca
    Orca.JPG

    Skagway - An old friend is berthed along side us!
    WonderInSkagway.JPG

    Skagway - Street View
    Skagway1.JPG

    Skagway - Another majestic view
    Skagway2.JPG
     
  7. tidefan

    tidefan DIS Veteran

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    Victoria - Empress Hotel
    Empress.JPG

    Victoria - BC Parliament Building
    BCParliament.JPG

    Victoria - Chinatown Gate
    VictoriaChinatownGate.JPG

    Victoria - Parliament at night
    ParliamentNight.JPG

    Victoria - Getting back on the Emerald Princess after a whirlwind in Victoria
    BackonEP.JPG

    Seattle - Mt. Rainier from the aft of the ship on morning of arrival
    Rainier.JPG

    Seattle - Safeco Field - Mariners 6, Rockies 4
    Safeco.JPG
     
  8. tidefan

    tidefan DIS Veteran

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    Conclusion

    So, how would I rate Princess? Is it DCL? No. Nothing really is. However, I paid much less than I would have paid had we gone on the Wonder. We had a really good time. I would rate the cruise as good to very good. So, what holds it back? The buffet is a main gripe. It was horrible. Also, we felt the service was uneven (something we also felt on RCCL). The ship itself, while not DCL level, was just as nice as the Serenade or the Sunshine. If I were to go on a cruise and money is no object, I'm choosing DCL every time. However, for me, at least, money is an object, so when we don't cruise with the Mouse, I think that we prefer a Carnival ship with 2.0 upgrades, then Princess, then RCCL, though quite honestly, I'd go on any of them again..

    One big thing though that I will say would tilt me back to DCL, even at higher cost, for Alaska is that they are one of the very few ships (there may also be a Celebrity one) that does a Vancouver round trip. I found the experience of sailing the EAST side of Vancouver Island to be very different and a much better cruise than sailing the WEST side of Vancouver Island, where your sea days are just that... (Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not near as spectacular as going the other way). Now, you can cruise one-way's out of Vancouver on any line and get that whole inside passage route, but like I said, pickings are slim for Vancouver Roundtrips, but I do think that they are worth an extra cost over the Seattle sailings...

    (Note: One other big plus on Princess, just like DCL, you do not have to check out towels and there is no charge for room service).
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2018
  9. earfulofmagic

    earfulofmagic cranking out magic and assembly line whimsy

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    Great report! Thanks for sharing.
     
  10. Frozen2014

    Frozen2014 DIS Veteran

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    Great review and comparison to other lines.
     
  11. Denise W

    Denise W Disney Veteran

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    Nice report, but a moderator recently posted on this forum that only Royal and Celebrity cruise posts were acceptable, as Dreams Unlimited only sells RCCL cruises.
    Denise
     
  12. tidefan

    tidefan DIS Veteran

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    Seriously? I posted because I saw someone post Celebrity, so I assumed this was just a catch all for other cruise lines...
     
  13. msjprincess

    msjprincess DIS Veteran

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    I think Celebrity is allowed because Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity are both owned by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.
     
  14. tidefan

    tidefan DIS Veteran

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    As is Azamara. I got that part. I am just surprised that they wouldn't book all cruise lines...
     
  15. starvenger

    starvenger DIS Veteran

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    In an ideal world, they'd do it. But if they're not getting enough traffic for a cruise line it makes sense to drop them and focus on other cruise lines. Also, given that DU is generally focused on Disney vacations and Disney cruises, it makes sense to keep the main focus there and focus on perhaps one other cruise family.

    Now with that said, I think the mods are, generally speaking, pretty lenient with us concerning non-DCL/RCI posts, especially if you're comparing apples to apples (or trying to figure out a comparison when it's really apples to kumquats).

    And I do appreciate the comparisons to DCL as it gives me a bit of a frame of reference to go with. As you've been on the Serenade, I was hoping to get some more comparisons to that as well. You mentioned you were bored on Serenade, so I'd love to hear how Emerald Princess did a better job here, or if the cruise itinerary helped here.

    Was this your first trip to Alaska? If not, how does it compare to previous ones?
     
  16. DnA2010

    DnA2010 Rope Drop!

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    Thanks so much for this review! I just booked DH and I the Vancouver to LA 4 nighter in October on Emerald Princess! Our first little trip away from our DD who will be 2 in Sept. Couldn't beat the price of an inside ($765 Canadian, around $580 US for both of us!) and we can drive to Vancouver, and are probably going to sneak a Disneyland day in before we fly back to Van.

    Noted to stay away from the buffet..we don't tend to eat much there anyways. Very jealous of your weather in Alaska, my mom took us on a HAL cruise last year and it poured the whole time. We had a nice trip of course, but the constant rain was annoying.
     

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