Hi Vickie, here is my review of our last cruise. Hope you like it.
7 day Norwegian Fjords Cruise from Southampton on Caribbean Princess starting 29th August 2015:
Ship in General:
We were on the same ship transatlantic in April this year and reviewed it then. No change with it still being a lovely ship.
We opted for an Inside Guarantee and were allocated B325, which was Mid Forward. The closest stairway was forward, but there was not much difference if we went for the middle stairs.
The cabin was nice and quiet with adequate space. We moved the little table to the wardrobe area to give us more space (a tip picked up from Vickie) and hooked up our power block to the socket behind the TV to power all our gadgets (another tip from Vickie).
Our Steward was Marvin and he did not disappoint. Robes and extra hangers were requested and delivered promptly. Robes were the old waffle types and not the new ones. We were celebrating my Birthday on that date and he had put up the cabin door sign. He apologised that there were no balloons, but he had put them up earlier and some disembarking kids had taken them. We laughed about that and he replaced them later. We mentioned that the plug plunger in the bathroom had its top missing, but Marvin had sorted that out by the time we came back that night.
The bed was very good and not as hard as our trip earlier in the year. No day cushions though.
The overall standard of the food was as good as we always find on Princess. We opted for Anytime dining and, unlike our trip earlier in the year, there were no lengthy queues when we wanted to dine at around 6.30 to 7pm. Queues did develop later in the evening though. Two dining rooms were available exclusively for Anytime Dining and they checked our cruise card on the first night, which has never happened before. We only had to take a pager once, but we did request a table for 2 that night and we only waited 20 minutes.
Due to hearing problems, we will only share up to tables of 6 and refuse tables of 8. The staff accommodated this for us and it was never a problem.
We dined in Crown Grill on the first night to celebrate my birthday and it was superb. Service was great and we had the usual singing waiters and cake, which they wrapped up for us because we were too full.
We wanted to book again in Crown Grill for the second formal night, as I had spilt something on my dress shirt and only wanted to wear smart casual. When we went to make a booking the Head Waiter told us we must wear formal attire in Crown Grill on formal night. We had dined on previous cruises without having to dress up so we queried this, but he was insistent.
As it turned out, they did not have times that we wanted, so we went to MUTS and ate Burgers and Hotdogs instead. A response we got from Vickie’s page confirmed that we were right and most people felt specialist restaurants were not included in the formal night dress code. I have emailed Princess to ask for clarification, but have not had a response yet. (here is a link to Princess' info. that formal attire is only required in dining rooms - Added by Vickie)
One change that we had not seen before was that the Trident Grill and Pizza Prego were relocated to Café Caribe after 5pm. The downside of this was that there was a gap in service between 5pm and 6pm. Not a problem unless you want a burger at 5.30pm
A great bonus was that on the first sea day they turned Sabatini’s into Alfredo’s Pizzeria at lunchtime. It was the menu we have had before on the Grand Princess and was delightful. Sadly, they did not do it again any other day, including the second sea day. I would like to see this rolled out regularly.
Reading Vickie’s blog has made us much more adventurous. We have always been a couple to stick to a routine. Breakfast in the stateroom, lunch in Horizon Court and dinner in the MDR. This time we mixed it up. We eat in the MDR for lunch on 2 days and were bowled over by the attentive service and friendly welcome. They seem to have more time and more staff per customer than in the evening.
The menus were great too. We took Burgers and Hotdogs back to the cabin one night and just chilled and, as mentioned before, ate outside at MUTS. We also did lunch at International café and went for afternoon tea (we have not done this for a couple of years after a disappointment in the service, but it was back to its best).
The takeaway special coffee was served in the new style polystyrene cups and this was fantastic. No more burned hands on the long walk to our seats. The china has not changed yet and they are still using the old design.
We have done Norway before, but this time we were blessed with good weather. The trip out via the North Sea was very calm and the only real rough conditions were for about 8 hours on the way back. Captain Nick Nash was great and really entertaining. One of his weather updates was “I am sorry but it is going to be a bit roly poly, but more poly than roly”. Make of that what you wish.
Stavanger was warm and partly cloudy. We decided to just walk around the edge of the sea as far as we could get and got some lovely views of the fjord. We then went on a walk around the old town with its pretty white wooden houses. A nice day that cost us next to nothing,
Olden was stunning. We had been here before, but were inexperienced cruisers and did nothing. This time we queued at the tourist office as soon as we got off and purchased 2 return tickets to Briksdal Glacier for 700 NK.
This was around half the cost of the ship’s tour. Within 20 minutes we were on our way for the short drive to the glacier through stunning scenery. At the glacier, you can take the troll car to the foot of the glacier (an extra cost) or you can hike (about 30 to 40 minutes each way). We hiked and again the scenery was breath-taking. We got closer to the glacier than we did in Alaska and took some nice pictures. Wifi in Olden was not that good, but the coffee shop at the glacier has excellent wifi and we uploaded a few pictures.
After returning to the ship for lunch, we took one of the many hiking trails near the dock (map from the tourist office). We walked for almost 3 hours there and back to Mount Hauron (very hard climb) and I took some pictures of the ship way down in the dock. What a wonderful day and wonderful weather.
We had a sail by the next day at Hellesylt, where only passengers with booked tours could get off. We then proceeded up the fjord to Geiranger and passed the famous Seven Sisters Waterfall. Again it was just stunning. We were tendering at this port and, as usual, people were queuing at the dining room for tender tickets way before the advertised time. This caused jams in the International Café and so we went and sat elsewhere until the chaos died down.
We had pre-booked a bus trip to the Flydalsjuvet viewing point and Mt. Dalsnibba via the Geiranger Fjordservice website. Again it was half the cost of the ship’s tour. The bus was at 2pm and so we headed to the dining room just after 12.00 and picked up our tender tickets. We were ashore before 1pm and had a wander before boarding the bus. Once more the views on the 45 minute journey were stunning. The Flydalsjuvet viewing point is a bit of a bear pit, but the views are great.
The road to Dalsnibba is full of hairpin switchbacks on a mountain, so if you are nervous of heights read a book! The top was cold and windy, of course, but the views fantastic. Weather was not quite as good today but still OK.
Our last port was Bergen. When we were here last it poured with rain and we got back on the ship. This time was a complete opposite. With blazing sunshine and high temperatures, it was t-shirt weather. There was a free shuttle out of the port and into the town. We then walked to the Fenicular and joined a queue that took about 45 minutes to get to the front of. The viewing point at the top is famous and we took the photos that you see from all visitors of the ship way below us.
We shopped for souvenirs in the gift shop and then headed back down. There are lots of hiking trails at the top and we would have loved to walk one or two, but it was a short stay in port and we did not have time. We wandered to Bryggn, which is one of the most photographed vistas in Norway and then through the town back to the pick-up point. There was a fantastic food market on, which would have been nice to sample if we had more time.
Overall a stunning itinerary made better by good weather.
Embarkation and Disembarkation:
We sailed from the Mayflower terminal at Southampton, which has recently been refurbished. It was quick, efficient and had plenty of seating. We arrived early and were given a ticket and asked to take a seat. We waited no more than 20 minutes before boarding started and were on the ship within half an hour. Horizon court was surprisingly empty compared to other times we have boarded. We took a seat on the aft terrace and picked up our food from Café Caribe. No stress and our holiday had truly begun.
The disembarkation at Southampton was also smooth and ran ahead of schedule. We were off and away according to our plans.
Plusses and Minuses:
On the plus side, the itinerary, service, food, ship and Princess experience was all fantastic and up to the standard we come to expect.
On the minus side, the decision by the Crown Grill to enforce formal wear was bizarre. Furthermore, I thought I would raise it with the Captain’s Circle Host to see what she thought. I was shocked to find she was not interested and just brushed me off. She said she did not need to know as it was nothing to do with her. My view is that if you are responsible for your most loyal customers you need to know anything that is bugging them.
The only other minus was the Lotus Spa. We went to the raffle draw but did not win. Later in the week my wife picked up a note in our cabin that said she had been awarded a supplemental prize of a facial. We had been out all day and were just getting ready for dinner, but she called the spa to reserve her space. She was told that it was only available for that day and that she had missed out. Her mood changed from excitement to disappointment.
However, these small minuses failed to put a damper on a wonderful cruise.