Number of Cruises: First Cruise
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Royal Princess
Sailing Date: July 10th, 2001
Itinerary: Northern / Western Europe
Pre-cruise: We flew into London four days before our ship left, and did London on our own. We had a terrific time. We booked a room at the Marriot Maida Vale and stayed there on an Internet rate of 90 pounds per night. The food in London that is ethnic (Italian, Thai, French, Polynesian, etc.) is all good. If you eat fish and chips bring your own stomach pump. Sorry old bean, but English food is what really drove the Mayflower people off the banks of the Thames. We went to Phantom of the Opera (a DON’T MISS experience) and we saw Les Miserables (yawn). We went to the Hard Rock Café and the catsup and bbq sauce is not up to USA standards. We saw all the touristy stuff (Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, etc.). The best place was the Cabinet War Rooms, which are also a DO NOT MISS experience.
Itinerary: We had a terrific itinerary on the Royal Princess for my first cruise and my wife’s second. We took the 10 day tour through the North of Europe going to Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Amsterdam, Germany, Belgium and France. This is a marvelous itinerary, and one I would recommend.
Ship: Although older than many of Princess’ current ships, the Royal Princess is well maintained. Every time my wife and I went for a walk on the deck, there was someone cleaning, painting, or fixing something. The carpet is worn in places, the bathrooms don’t all work as planned, and there is a huge dent in the side of the ship where the ship came loose from a mooring during a storm. But aside from what I consider to be very minor problems, the ship is very well maintained.
Quarters: Our quarters were a private mini-suite, and we loved our balcony. During the sailing from Oslo, and again during our entry into Amsterdam, we were able to sit on our balcony and watch the world go by. At one point a woman stopped her Volvo as we traversed the Oslofjord and took our photo as we waved to her. At the same time, I was shooting her picture. It seems humorous now.
Dining: We had excellent service. The captain, Jose’ was wonderful and took care of our every whim. We ordered two and three deserts every night, and no one cared. We sometimes had two entrees, and you could get anything from the menu if you asked for it 24 hours ahead. We were blessed to sit at Late Dinner with the Staff Captain and his wife, with a couple from Minnesota, and a couple from California. These folks became our friends and in many ways, our mentors, helping us by suggesting things to do in different ports, or how to solve ship-board problems. It was the very best part of the cruise (the people, not the meals – and the meals were pretty darned good!).
Ports of Call
Scotland: Great tours were offered. We did the walking tour and had a great time. Lots of pictures, lots of wonderful things to see, like Holyrood Palace. We had a wonderful time. It was rainy, however, and rumor had it that the gypsy in Scotland foretold that we would have that rainy day, and the rest would be sunny. Her prophecy became our history, and though we never met the woman, were quite pleased at her soothsaying. We bought woolen blankets and stuff for our golf-loving friends at this port, and the highlight was sailing out under the Forth of Firth Bridge where there was a clearance of only 2 feet between the bridge and the top of the ship! We have it on video, and it was awesome!
Oslo: Definitely do the Viking Ship Museum. We had a wonderful time here, but would have liked more time in the port. We bought a troll as that seemed to the native souvenir.
Amsterdam: Make sure you do the Anne Frank house. It is not to be missed.
Copenhagen: Another wonderful Nordic port, and we had a wonderful time there. We had Danish pastries, shopped, bought trinkets and tacky souvenirs, and generally had a wonderful time.
Frankfurt, Germany: Go to the bathroom BEFORE you get on the bus. I walked around for an hour with a bladder the size of a basketball because I failed to do so, and the toilets “over there” are all pay as you go. Not conducive to good urinary tract health. Our guide was very excited to show us the red light district. In fact, at every stop she would say “You vill be shure to be back at 4:00 sharp or you vill miss zee red light deestrict!” We called her Frau Blucher! (but not to her face).
Belgium: We bought lace and chocolates, and had a wonderful time seeing the sights in Bruges. It was an experience I would like to repeat. I would, however, make sure not to store the chocolates in the refrigerator where my children would pig out on them.
Paris: The Louvre is not to be missed. It is my favorite part of France. Lunch at the Eiffel Tower was… well… it was chicken breasts in Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup over rice. No, I am NOT kidding. But, hey, the view was terrific!
Overall: I would go again tomorrow. The only thing I would change would be the smoking policy. I would prefer that smoking be banned from common areas, and violators drawn and quartered. But other than the pervasive smell of tobacco at every turn on the ship, I have to say I had a wonderful experience. The best part of the cruise was the time we spent at our evening meal every night with people too wonderful to describe here, with whom we developed a great friendship.