The cruise to Sydney via Vietnam (3 ports), Indonesia (1 port) plus Darwin and Brisbane commenced in Hong Kong.. Expectations were high as we had heard positive things about Princess line and we had been assured by our travel agent that we would have an excellent time with all our requirements being met.
We ate in the "Steakhouse" on the first night out of Hong Kong. By paying a surcharge to dine in a steakhouse one would assume you would be eating steak! But no! Steak cost an extra surcharge on top of the surcharge! However, the seafood and service was excellent.
We had been assured that there would be no trouble in obtaining a table for two in the main dining room. WRONG! It took three days of arguments, disinformation and misinformation before we were able to obtain the required table. In the meantime we shared food in the buffet with hordes of (quite often) inconsiderate and rude (mainly Asian) travellers. Tables were at a premium at normal dining time. Food was adequate.
The Regency Dining Room has an excellent menu with excellent staff. Service was amazingly efficient and we would recommend it for any meal - IF you can get the table you want.
Shore excursions were overpriced and poorly organised. It took literally hours to get guests off at Ports where tenders were required. This impacted on the time left to actually do the tour, and we had one tour cut short as a result - but there was no monetary refund. Disembarkation at Australian ports was amazingly efficient. We didn't even attempt to get off the boat in Bali when we saw that only three lifeboats plus one charter boat were available to offload the 1500 plus passengers for their tours. Simple maths would have told the organisers that offloading and re-loading would take up to five hours on an 8 hour stopover!
Internet access is available - at $25 for 24 hours (using your own computer). The internet speed is incredibly slow; it drops out quite often; and if you cross a time zone, your 24 hours is reduced accordingly.
We were woken at night, on three occasions, by the overpowering smell of sewage. On checking, I found the smell spread throughout the entire deck area. This also happened on several occasions during the day (various decks) and the early evening - including in the bar area on deck seven on one occasion.
Entertainment was great at first, but after a couple of weeks we became tired of hearing the same music played by the same musicians every day.Other daytime entertainment was provided by a tired (looking forward to a new contract with the cruise line in Alaska) Cruise Director.
Evening entertainment was, at times, quite puerile. Enough said.
A cooking 'exhibition' in the Princess Theatre was spoiled by the infantile acts of the Maitre d'Hotel.
A wine tasting 'experience' was just that - an "Experience" - one we hope we can forget. Chateau Cardboard would be far better than some of the wines proudly displayed by bored staff - but for which you had to pay for the priviledge of tasting.
The cabin (apart from the sewage smell) was o.k. The Steward was perfect. There was ample room although the late night parties in some cabins were a bit hard to tolerate.
The class/caste system proudly promoted by Princess is almost intolerable. Sure, reward regular Cruisers if you want, but don't continually point out that the "plebs" will need to cruise 'witrh us' x number of times before they, too, will be elegible to attend free cocktail; evenings, rub shoulders with the shipboard gliterati etc. I have absolutely no desire to be 'entertained' with tales of other peoples' prior cruises or the amazing talents of their incredibly (no doubt) intellectually gifted grandchildren - thus attendance at such events (and dining at a table for 10) is not on my list of priorities.
The cost of alcohol is totally exorbitant. $13 for a glass of wine that can be purchased on shore for $15 per BOTTLE.
I doubt that we'll be lining up to cruise with Princess Lines ever again.
This was the starting point for the cruise.
Having been to Halong Bay before, we did not wish to pay an exorbitant amount to see something with which we were already very familiar - and, just as well we didn't! The offloading procedure for those passengers going ashore were excruciatingly incompetent.
A reasonable stopover. No tenders were required to disembark but the process was still painfully long - interrupted frequently by almost intelligible announcements.
The shopping section of this tour basically did not eventuate because of inordinate delays in getting OFF the ship in the first place.
We have visited Bali previously and had no desire to add to those experiences. P:LUS, knowing of the processes involved in disembarking from the Sun Princess, we stayed on board and simply listened to the complaints from returning tour participants.