2015 World Cruise – Sea Princess – May 22nd to Sept 4th (104 Nights)
Sitting here watching the planes take-off at the Sydney Airport Rydges Hotel, awaiting our flights home tomorrow, there is no better time to sit down and reminisce about our recently completed magnificent voyage of discovery.
This summary is solely based on our opinion, and is our personal views and recollections of the just completed World Cruise. It does not reflect the views of our many other fellow passengers; therefore, I encourage readers to read blogs written by fellow passengers, to attain a more balanced view.While endeavouring to base the summary on facts, once I discuss our personal opinions and impressions I recognise they may be overly generous or overly critical, compared to the thoughts of others. I write this review, primarily to provide Judi and I an ever lasting summary of what we considered from day 1 of the planning stage, as the holiday of a lifetime, There is absolutely no intent to sway the opinion of others, as we simply wish to have a record of our experiences on this magnificent voyage, while they are fresh in our minds, that we can review with family and friends, in the future.
Our daily posts have covered the activities aboard Sea Princess and the many spectacular ports of call, so in the summary I will endeavour to focus on our impressions of the individual components and the cruise as a whole, including answering some of the many questions we have been asked.
Planning, Planning, Planning
Why a World Cruise? Isn’t it like a busman’s holiday? These are but a few of the questions we have been asked throughout this entire adventure, especially during the lengthy planning stage.
Well, we wanted something big to celebrate entering the retirement phase of life, but in addition, something that had meaning for the both of us. We both love travelling, originally meeting aboard the magnificent SS Oriana, during a voyage from Vancouver to Sydney, back in December 1977. Judi was one of many young passengers that embarked in Vancouver and I was but a lowly deck cadet, or trainee navigator. Basically she was paying my wages.
After lots of discussion we settled on the idea of a World Cruise and on reviewing many potential itineraries we liked this one, which tied in nicely with having met on a P&O/Princess ship bound for Australia.
How do we book cruises? Lots of passengers utilise the services of travel agents, however, Judi and I up till now complete the research ourselves and book direct with Princess. When aboard Emerald Princess in 2014, we visited the future cruise consultant, receiving a reduced deposit of 5% and a 3% discount on the fare. Having previously checked prices at a number of travel agents, the pre-discount price from Princess was consistent with that offered by various travel agencies. Therefore, we gained a 3% saving by booking aboard a current cruise. The downside is we don’t receive the little goodies provided my many travel agents – bottles of wine, additional on board credit (OBC), etc.
In the period between booking and the cruise we dealt with Princess Reservations department on a couple of occasions, primarily from being waitlisted for a cabin in fire zone 4 on Deck 9 or 10. We are extremely pleased with the service provided and found every agent knowledgeable, pleasant and ensured we were satisfied before ending the call.
In summary, we are extremely pleased with the planning and pre-cruise phase, but for future cruises, once we determine which cruise we want, rather than booking direct with the cruise line, I will further research prices and offerings from a variety of travel agents.
In reviewing the cruise, first let me start with the company and the frequent questions of, “Why do we always travel with Princess?” The tongue in cheek answer is that I used to work for them, our son worked for them and we have “Elite” status, so the benefits are hard to give up. In selecting a cruise line you need to match your needs and expectations with those on offer. There are many cruise lines and they vary to the extremes of pricing, dining options, entertainment options, activities, etc. To avoid disappointment, complete the research and find a cruise line in the niche market that meets your needs. Our preferences are:
- well maintained ship with quality crews
- longer cruises, which tend to have minimal to no kids and an age profile more consistent with us
- traditional dining at a fixed time and table, with the same table mates and waiters throughout the cruise
- Low key daily activities, we’re not interested in wall climbing, surf riding, water slides, etc.
- Enrichment and port lectures
- Good quality meals with a Steakhouse option. Not interested in a multitude of additional fee restaurants.
- Quiet areas to relax around the pool, library or lounges
- Production shows with singers, dancers and a variety of costumes and detailed stage props.
- Variety of guest entertainers providing easy listening, country and rock n roll music, comedians, etc.
- On board language preference is English.
Based on the aforementioned criteria, this eliminates Carnival, NCL, Disney, P&O Australia and lately RCCL. My heritage also eliminates the smaller ship luxury brands, so that basically leaves Princess, P&O UK, HAL and Cunard, which are all under the Carnival umbrella. For language reasons we don’t consider the European brands MSC, Costa, Aida, etc.
All four of Princess, P&O, HAL and Cunard meet all of our preferences, and although all owned by Carnival, their loyalty programs are individual. Therefore, if we elected one of the other three brands, we would be back at the new customer level. By staying with Princess we received:
- Complimentary laundry, a huge benefit for 104 days to escape the regular battle grounds, also known as passenger laundry facilities.
- Complimentary 4,000 minutes of internet time (almost 67 hours)
- 25% discount on the Reflections Video of the entire cruise (22 disks)
- 10% discount in the shops
- Discount on Princess travel insurance
- Multitude of additional non-monetary benefits
Is Princess Cruise the best cruise line in the world? A very difficult question, as it depends on your expectations. We believe Princess is a good middle of the road brand, vastly superior to the mass market, short cruise budget lines, but below the small ship luxury lines. However, being regular cruisers, we are well aware of the constant erosion of quality and standards, in the past 5 or 6 years, not only by Princess, but probably most cruise lines, as they attempt to fine tune their product in a cost conscious consumer world.
Will be cruise with Princess again? I think the answer is most definitely yes; however, will we consider other cruise lines? – probably, but we also recognise that other lines are also embarking upon similar cost cutting ventures.
Starting with Summary Volume II, I will look at each area of the cruise and discuss how it met our expectations.