Having just been on the the Emerald last week I though of a few observations to share with everyone.
The ship was a typical Princess ship- no better, no worse that all the others. Since it's one of the larger ones, I didn't enjoy it as much as say the Island or the Sun but it was still enjoyable even though there were over 3,000 aboard.
We managed to sail without having droves of kids aboard since it preceded the vacation Christmas cruise & New Years Eve sailings. I'll just enumerate some of my observations here so don't take them as being complaints, but just differences.
We were thinking of using the dining room on Embarkation day but found it unnecessary since the Horizon Buffet was not crowded & they had one of our favorites – Hot carved turkey & both myself & my wife managed to get a leg each. I've hear lots of comments from other people (not on this ship that the buffet food was cold or lacking in choice. We found that the food in the buffet to always be great considering the amount of people to be fed.[/list]
We found this ship to have more of a smoke problem than other Princess ships. Again it might have been due to the larger capacity of the ship or maybe there were more smokers on this voyage. Our main complaint was in the lounges that offered entertainment & smoking. The smoke problem in both Club Fusion and the Explorers lounge made it impossible to enjoy so we had to skip events that we normally would have attended. The ventilation in both lounges needs improvement & we felt shortchanged missing those shows because of it.[/list]
The International Cafe offered a better selection of items during the day as opposed to the Horizon. Especially in the mornings when I would get danishes to go. Items like marzipan which we've always had as a free item are now sold in little packages as well new things like candy apples although I don't recall seeing anyone eating any.[/list]
The more exotic teas (each in individual boxes) are no longer free & must be purchased.[/list]
On this ship be prepared to get to the show lounge at least 30 to 45 minutes before the start in order to get a seat. They've also shrunk the width of the seats in the Princess Theater to the point of being as small as that of a 3 grade school desk. They're so tight the person on either side spills over into your seat & makes it impossible to sit comfortable through the shows. If you get there early enough an end seat is desirable since you can at least hang you arm out in one direction. (another feature I dislike about larger ships)[/list]
From my observations (this was a 10 day cruise) Princess has cut back on the total entertainment budget. On all of our previous cruises there were always a different shows in the Princess Theater each evening. They've reduce it to the equivalence of a 7 day cruise with repeats on the other evenings. At first I thought it was because of the large number of pax aboard but I've heard other people comment that the number of shows on 7 day cruises are now like 4 days cruises. Note- we did not find this reduction on previous cruises this year.(This was our 4 th cruise in 2008. )[/list]
I realize that this is a trivial comment, but the cruise director has a morning show televised at 6 AM on this ship with a silly question of the day. You put you answers in a box in the Library. The people who answer it correct can win a prize. Not quite! They only select up to 3 winners from the people who answer correctly to get a prize. A water bottle! Wooooo. Not that I need or want another water bottle, but for a company the size of Princess you'd think they could afford a few extra prizes for participating. I though it rather cheep.[/list]
Using you digital camera for still photo's in the Princess theater (without flash) will attract the attention of the stage production crew & they will highlight you camera with a red laser during the show. I continued to shoot thinking it was a wise guy in the audience until they finally sent one of the crew to my seat during the performance to inquire if I was shooting a video. (which I was not)
On subsequent evenings I made it a point to approach them before the performance to let them know that I would be shooting only still photo's.[/list]
The quality of some of the meals in the dining room has declined again. This may be due to the preparation by galley cooks or the decline in quality of the food itself. Not to say that all the food was bad, it was not by any means. There were two meals that were a total mess up. Both my wife & I ordered the sliced duck & it was so tough it was impossible to even chew. On another evening I ordered Eggplant Parmesan and it was brought to our table with an actual burnt crust around the edge of the dish & so dried out that I only ate a few bites of the whole meal. The same eggplant was served at the Cafe Carib that evening & it was great. I guess it was just a bad night for the cooks.
Our waiter wasn't one of the best. Another good reason to go with anytime dining. He never would tell us about other specials that were prepared in the galley until I'd see others eating them at an adjacent table & would question him. Such a Escargot, which surprised me that it wasn't listed on the new menu's.[/list]
One evening in order to attend a show at the Explorers lounge, we had to get there 45 min earlier in order to get a seat & listen to band perform. What should have been an enjoyable 45 minutes turned out to be 45 minutes of torture since they had the volume turned up to max. Even with earplugs it wasn't tolerable and the shameful part or it was that they were a decent band.[/list]
Another thing I've noticed (my wife thinks I'm nuts) is the Princess ice cream. This is an item we do not eat at home but I do enjoy when cruising. Maybe it's only me, but I noticed that there's been a change in the ice cream additive that their using lately in the dining room & buffet. The stuff is what I can only describe as having a marshmallow consistency without lots of flavor. This may be only be on the Emerald Princess & not the other ships. I have yet heard anyone else comment on it so it may well be only me. I'll have to compare it to the Crown & Ruby next month.[/list]
Very good overview, Rich; I appreciate all your comments. I agree completely on the Horizon Court Buffet. Two years ago I was ready to give up on the buffet altogether; but they have done a complete turnaround. On our last two cruises we took more meals than usual in the buffet. But the dining rooms still seem to be hit-and-miss, as you say; both in service and in food preparation. I would like to see more consistency.
I don't know if there is actually more smoking onboard, or if we are just noticing it more as we are exposed to it less and less on land. I would really like to see it eliminated on the balconies. It is not right to pay for a balcony and then not be able to use it because you have neighbors that smoke.
The only repeats of the production shows on the ships we were on were the next afternoon. I was not aware of any reduction in the number of shows. The trend that bothers me is the use of entirely "canned" music. I saw two production shows this year with no live music. For years they have used "canned" music to augment the live orchestra (or maybe it was the other way around); but a completely pre-recorded soundtract really ruins it for me.
As for the ice cream, I don't think you are nuts; they put some kind of thin marshmallow sauce on the ice cream that it does not at all need.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Rich. I'm curious about the shows, though. Was it only the big production shows that were repeated, or others also? When we were on Diamond Princess in 2005, the two production shows (Piano Man and Undercover, at the time) had three performances each -- two on one night, and one on a third. We were told the additional show was to accommodate those who had selected Anytime Dining.
LisaP, I know your question was to Rich, but I'll just share that the production shows were the only shows repeated on my last four Princess cruises--two shows on one night and one show the next afternoon.
The productions shows were repeated (I think it was on 3 evenings) as well as repeated from the on board entertainers. I can't recall how many but we went to 2 thinking they were different & found them repeated. I realize that they have to repeat the shows since all the people can't possible fit in the Princess show lounge in only 2 showings, but this to me represents another cutback.
Rick- I know what you mean about the smoke situation on the balconies & can appreciate the smokers view point BUT when I get excluded from attending performances due to the clouds of tobacco smoke drifting thought the lounge because that have a smoking section on one side it really irritates me. Their more interested in selling drinks that providing entertainment.
The ice cream difference I was referring to was not a topping but an additive their using when preparing the ice cream. Maybe I'm crazy (as my wife says) but I find it very unappealing to get 2 scoops of this marshmallow consistency stuff they call ice cream for dessert. It's hard to explain, you have to taste the stuff to see what I'm talking about. It's not like the vanilla from Breyers or Hagen Das. At first I thought it was a bad batch one evening but they made it the same on other nights also & in the Horizon cafe. If I'm going to eat ice cream & get fat in the process I'm going to eat something that I enjoy.
The performance utilized a live band for most numbers & when they didn't it was apparent & they didn't try lip syncing to the music. The volume in the main show lounge wasn't overly loud but in the Explorers lounge it was deafening loud. If we didn't have our earplugs we would have had to leave. Maybe it's a generation thing with me but my days of loud music have long past.
Thank you Rich for your candid review.
I am going on the Crown in a couple of weeks, so I will be watching for some of the issues you mentioned here. My friend and I have chosen Anytime Dining so I feel good about that now. I also like ice cream when on holiday so I will be sure to try some and let you know the outcome.
Rich, thanks for your review. It's ironic that several of your comments are comments I've read about other cruise lines as well. Cutbacks in staff, in food quality, etc. seem to be getting more prevalent in the "mass market" cruise lines. I guess everyone is trying to save a buck these days...
Let me say again that my wife thinks I'm nuts and I haven heard one other person say anything bad about it, so maybe it is me. We've traveled on two other Princes ships in June & Oct so why would this be any different unlessthey're changed their additives.
Please let me know so - for peace of mind.
I'll be checking on the Ruby & Crown in Jan/Feb & will report on them also.
We will be on the Emerald starting March 20, for 10 days. We chose this cruise because our first cruise on the Crown Princess back in 2007 was teriffic in every way, including the food and entertainment. I hope services haven't been cut back too much that makes the trip disappointing.
We're also in the process of planning excursions...some rainforest hiking, kayaking and snorkeling. I suppose I should look in the destination forum for advice on that.