It is nice to cruise into Fremantle and we scored a good deal for 3 adults sharing. We had enjoyed several trips on Sun Princess and were fully aware of its advantages and issues.
I will tell it as it is, with credit and brickbats where appropriate.
You only get one chance to make a good first impression and Princess Blew this one badly. We had Platinum seniority and swished past the queue to checkin until the local agents handed us our cards - then there was some problem and they ushered us aside to a holding area "for a few minutes". After almost an hour I told them to inform the ship that they had several dozen furious guests and they needed to get somebody ashore to take charge.The Singaporean Immigration officers were quite happy to allow us to board on the confirmation of the local agent staff that we had been accepted for boarding but Celebrity Security refused.
There was NO security issue - simply Celebrity's inability to print boarding cards.This portrayed nonchalent contempt for senior loyal repeat guests who deserved better. They should have been capable of reprinting cards and there should have been a responsible officer down there to take charge and facilitate our prompt boarding. We should have been relaxing onboard while they sorted out THEIR mess. Some people had visa issues but at least two couples were sitting there with one anothers' cards. We never got to see ours and there was some suggestion that we were simply being delayed while they sterilised our rooms.
We met the Guest Relations Director at the top of the gangway and I told him very angrily that it was a disgrace and there should have been a senior presence to take charge ashore. He said that there was - he had been there 20 minutes earlier! This was when the new cards finally appeared (he probably brought them down?) and the immigration process began. He thereby tacitly admitted the fact that there had been nobody down there for 2 hours before that when something could and should have been done. I acted on my assessment of whether it would be worth spending any more time with him and headed straight in for lunch - at a quarter to 4pm!.
We knew by then that Nora Virus was already rampant on board. This happens occasionally in the best of cruise lines and Princess were obviously taking every possible step to reduce the spread of the disease. Sun Princess has had a long record of issues with shipboard waste plumbing - I was not aware of any such during this trip but it would have given a huge leg-up to the spread of any disease like Nora if there were any leaks.
New infections gradually reduced but we docked in Fremantle with code Red still in operation, which was disturbing and very inconvenient in that it meant that staff had to serve everything to guests in the buffets.
There was one other irritation in that Princess had switched the prepaid coffee cards onto the current cruise cards which were valid only for the current trip. We had a brand new $35 card from a previous cruise. It was a No Brainer that Princess should have switched our credit to the new scheme but . . . NON. They viewed the old card (which was clearly and specifically designed to extend into subsequent cruises) as expired and valueless and presumed to just appropriate the unused value. That amounts to something resembling Theft in my book and is not the way to reward esteemed repeat guests - or to earn glowing reviews!
We were lucky to find a young man from Brazil in Guest Relations, who began with a textbook perfect version of the standard Princess . . "we regret that you began with an unfortunate experience and we hope you will be able to get over it" etc. However, he was prepared to listen and he accepted the validity of our concerns about being dumped in a barn for 2 hours and having our coffee card stolen. In brief, he upward-managed an arrangement with his supervisors which left us reasonably satisfied that we had been heard and compensated. Thank you Mauro. This is a young man who is worth cherishing and grooming for fasttrack promotion (in my view as an MBA and experienced manager).
Overall, I have downgraded the total cruise experience from my previous Very Good to Average, taking account of the age and condition of the ship and the frustrations, but I would have chosen 3.5 Good if it was available as an option. The architecture still appeals, the Cruise Director and staff were still good and the Trivia in particular were very well run, as were the exercise sessions.
The Princess bedding - and particularly the fabulous Pillows! are worth special mention. It is also a pleasant change for Australians to be free of the usual shipboard nonsense of 18% "service fee" (which does NOT go to the staff - you reckon the Balinese massage girls would get US$40 tip for a typical signature massage?) and "automatic gratuities" of $20 a day per guest for waiters and room stewards.
The food had slipped from my previous assessment of "Best at Sea" 3 years ago. Still quite good but not outstanding. The whole industry is cutting costs and seafood and steak is less and less common. I must say we had a steady stream of very good Prawns/Shrimps. The desserts were relatively boring after the previous triumphs. It is still very pleasant to sit in one of the bars and lounges with a coffee or cocktail and enjoy the assortment of music options. Movies under the stars was very pleasant and there were a lot of excellent movies in cabins and the big screen.
The entertainers all seemed to be comic jugglers or juggling comedians.. The American comic who boarded in Bali was utterly unfunny. The singers and dancers were good without being brilliant and they recycled home in Fremantle. The sets for the production shows were drab and uninspiring.
The gym equipment was ok although the walkers seemed to be largely out of action. You could stay in shape if you wanted to. I noticed a few people swimming short laps in the pool.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Curtis Stone "Share" restaurant which is well worth a $35 fee. Try it. Such a blend and assortment of taste sensations which cry out to be . . . yes "Shared"
It needs to be said that other cruise lines are getting Australians ashore in Vietnam and Cambodia for Aus$10 per head - so why are Princess charging $80 in each country???. Also (and this applies to all cruise lines) most of the ports in those parts trend to be a long way from the supposed destinations (Hanoi Bangkok etc) and you are looking at hefty fares to get to those cities.
It is worth mentioning that some years ago Princess continued to charge Indonesian visa fees (US$25) to passengers after they were fully aware that the fee had been discontinued. The fee first appeared on guest accounts on the final afternoon - several days after we left Benoa. They seem to regard this sort of conduct as fair game.
And WHY, sweet Jesus, are they going to Cambodia at all???? The Captain apologised for the complete disappointment of what I will remember as "SianYuckVille" - some people paid for an "excursion" to a seafront building site at which there was nowhere that anybody would have considered eating or drinking anything. There are plenty of places in Asia where you can see and do something interesting without having to buy an $80 visa, presumably also a port fee, and then an expensive excursion to Nowhere featuring Nothing. A Sloppy Ripoff Princess!!! Shame on you. Get this nonsense off the itinerary NOW. Most of their cruises seem to stop there but most other cruise lines do not!. It is typical for there to be fewer events on board on Port days but on this cruise it seemed to be even lighter than usual.
Would I try Sun Princess one more time - just maybe but only at WAY less than the cheapest fares being offered. There is a perceived premium for any cruise starting or ending in Perth. I would take some encouragement if Princess came out and declared that they have finally, once and for all, fixed the sewage problems. At least the engines and the lifts and the laundries kept working this time.
And that is how I saw it. Our next two cruises will be on Celebrity.
large enough for 3 adults sharing. Plenty of cupboards and shelves