I sailed B2B (back-to-back) on the Sea Princess and will do separate reviews to make for easier reading! The first was 7 days, Spain, Portugal, France and Guernsey.
Due to cost of flying to England, home from New York, I did my air through Princess. I usually do my own, but the cost of sailing single, length of cruise (21 days), I let Princess handle it. Everything went smooth, left O’Hare on time, arrived at Heathrow, did immigration, picked up my bags, walked through green lane for customs and there was a girl from Princess. She explained there were others nearby and we’d walk to the bus together. Very efficient and organized.
Bus ride to Southampton was interesting in that the expressway was jammed so the bus drive took us through the countryside, giving us a little rundown on Windsor along the way, an added treat plus we missed the traffic tie up!
The terminal at Southampton was already packed at 12:30, long lines but only 2 people in the Platinum line, a plus for me. Off the bus and onboard in 10 minutes flat, such a deal! Found out later for this cruise, there were 1,700 new cruisers! Captain Circle was small, they had one at 7:30 and in one of the lounges, just like the good old days!
I really liked the Sea Princess a lot! Great layout, I think. One drawback but not major and not an issue in warm climates. For cold weather cruises, a retractable roof over the pool up top would be nice and would ease some of the crowding in the interior areas. There were times finding a place to sit and read was a chore, people were in every possible available spot.
I had an inside cabin on Plaza deck and thought the location was super! Around the corner from the Purser’s desk, Explorer’s bar, easy on and off the ship in ports, no need to wait for an elevator, I loved it. It was noisy at times but necessary noise when the ship is docking or tendering. I had a cabin more square than rectangular, one less closet but bigger shower in the bathroom, which is a plus.
Getting into the theater for shows was an issue at times, didn’t quite understand the logistics or why shows were so packed with no space available. The shows I saw were good, I really enjoyed Piano Man. I didn’t really care, shows aren't a priority but both cruises this topic came up at dinner.
Speaking of which, I enjoyed my meals, choices. I love lamb, veal, pork, fish so I was happy and I did eat beef twice, which is an exception for me but did not have chicken. I don’t do chicken out as I eat more than enough at home. The lobster was excellent as was the rack of lamb (had that twice)! I really felt that Princess has improved the presentation on the plate since my 2002 Golden cruise. I don’t care about the way it looks but that was also a topic of discussion during dinner. If it tastes good, the right temperature, not rubbery, tough or like mush, I am happy. Cutesy tied up bundles of carrots aren’t necessary but people seemed pleased by the way things looked!
Deserts were good but not spectacular. I think it has to do with the type of ingredients and quality of what they buy. I could be wrong but there is a major difference in real vanilla and generic, taste wise and dollar wise, also with various types of chocolate. I had the Love Boat Dream one time and it was not what I remembered. Other deserts were ok but some on the bland side.
We visited Vigo, LaRochelle, Lisbon and St. Peter Port on this cruise. I enjoyed all the ports, did tours at 3, and hop on/hop off bus in Lisbon. Lisbon is one of those places you could spend several days and find plenty to do. I just took the ship shuttle in, saw a trolley, purchased a ticket for 13 Euros and I was good for almost 2 hrs. It was rainy but by the time I was done, nice enough to walk to a square for a snack and a glass of wine. I ran into two ladies from the bus ride down to the ship so I joined them for lunch.
Vigo is an industrial looking town but on the bus ride to LaBayonne, I saw nice shopping areas, a very big arena, beautiful beach, boats in a marina, a different side of Vigo. The half day tour was worth it to see some countryside, to see more of Vigo than just the industrial port area.
I toured in LaRochelle for the same reason just to get out in the countryside and see a little bit of France. I went to the Green Marsh area, which was very interesting. These old towns have a series of canals and this is why the area is called “Green Venice”. The tour also included a stop for a tasting of local specialties, cheeses, wines, etc. It was good. When I was done, I took the shuttle back into town and LaRochelle is interesting, too. I walked around looking at some churches, the old fortress, taking some pictures, checking out the street vendors, having an ice cream, the usual things I do!
Guernsey was great, I did a tour and was glad for the overview and history of the island, which was a major German stronghold during WW11. We also stopped at the Little Chapel made out of glass chips and Dresden porcelain, very interesting. Guernsey is very nice, very expensive in terms of real estate and not just anyone can buy there (if they had the money)! Only drawback on Guernsey was the return tender, the absolute worst I’ve seen out of all my cruises, everyone was complaining, it was very ugly.
The Aurora was in port also and the pier set up did not allow for more than one tender from each ship. When all the tour buses got back and dropped us off, it was the longest line I’d ever seen! No exaggeration, hundreds and hundreds of people, 6 abreast and from both ships! Tempers were really flaring, I saw a few yelling matches and all I could think of was, tonight we fill out comment cards! Typical of me, I said something about those of us early dining versus late seating (I was joking)no one thought I was funny but then my dry sense of humor doesn‘t always go over well!
I had a great cruise and stay tuned for the second installment, Transatlantic via Iceland/Greenland.