Peter once again wrote a great review of his 7 day Scandinavian Cruise from Southampton on Emerald Princess in July 2016
Although the drive to the port is only 2 hours away, we have been caught out before by problems with traffic so we always stay at a budget hotel the night before. Travelodge is our preferred choice because they offer a decent bed with no frills at a very low price.
We chose to park away from the port and take a shuttle bus in. It is about a 20 minute journey and is less convenient than port parking, but much cheaper. We prefer to spend the money we save on the ship and so do not mind the slight inconvenience.
The baggage handlers are right there at the kerbside when we get off, placing luggage on the conveyor belt. Unlike in the US, nobody seems to be tipping them. I, however, decide to give the handler a tip because it is what I would have done automatically in Fort Lauderdale. Good job too, because the handler spots that I have dropped my luggage at the wrong conveyor belt. I offer to take my luggage back and move it, but the handler says no problem and takes it to another conveyor himself.
We are early but are welcomed by the Princess staff. There is no queue for preferred boarding and we are seen straight away. We are given a numbered boarding card and asked to take a seat as they will be starting embarkation is a short while. After about 20 minutes they start calling the numbered cards in order and we are on the ship about 15 minutes later.
Ship in General:
We were on the Ruby Princess a few months ago and so we feel instantly at home, as the Emerald is almost exactly the same. The ship looks good and we will be sad to see her leave Europe when she heads down to be based in Australia at the end of this year.
Our favourite relaxation area has had a makeover. Just above the Terrace Pool at the aft of the ship is a section of artificial grass and a couple of water features. It is outside the Share restaurant (which was Sabatini’s). The chairs here were a sort of wrought iron with padded cushions. The cushions used to get wet when it rained and then had to be dried off before you could use them again. They have replaced these with a range of new tables and chairs with no cushions. They are still comfortable, but can be dried off with a quick wipe. They have also introduced more tables and chairs and have removed the smoking section that was here last time we were on this ship. This is now a no smoking area, which is great for us, but squeezes the smokers into fewer areas on the ship.
Our cabin was an inside in the aft of the ship (Baha 717). For the most part it was a good cabin. We moved the table into the wardrobe area to give us more room, but we had no lack of space. The down side was noise and vibration whenever the ship used its manoeuvring thrusters. I do not know whether this was a problem with the ship or just the location of the cabin, but we have never felt this level of vibration and noise in any other cabin on any other ship. It only lasted for short periods throughout the cruise, so did not bother us too much.
Our Steward was Kim. We met him almost straight away as he was still vacuuming his allocation of cabins as we arrived. He was up to the high standard we have become used to, but we did not see very much of him at all. Everything was done as we would have expected, so I think it was just that he was in different places every time we came in and out of our cabin.
As we had found on the Ruby Princess earlier in the year, the new Princess bed was wonderfully comfortable. We have sailed on Emerald Princess a few times in the past and have always found the beds a bit too hard. Not this time.
Added by Vickie - to see pictures of cabins on the Emerald click here.
We opted for Anytime dining and usually turned up to the Michelangelo dining room around 6.30pm. We were asked if we wanted to share a table and said yes most nights, provided the table was no larger than 6 (due to hearing issues we both have). They were happy to organise this for us and we were always seated straight away. Others who wanted a table for 2 were almost always given a pager.
Mario Propato was the Maitre D’ and he was always there helping to organise and direct. We found by chance that we were sat with a nice couple from the US on 3 or 4 occasions during the cruise and joked that we seemed to be stalking each other.
The food was wonderful as always in the MDR, although one dish that we always order was a disappointment on this trip and that was Pad Thai Noodles. It just did not taste the same as we had experienced before.
On sea days we ate lunch in the MDR and found that nice and relaxing. On port days we either ate ashore or in Horizon Court. This was the first cruise we have taken on Princess where I did not have a pizza at any point. I will have to make up for that next time.
Our Travel Agent gave us a surprise by leaving a voucher in our cabin for a bottle of Champagne to be redeemed at any of the dining venues on board. To celebrate, we booked the Crown Grill on the second formal night. They allowed diners to dress smart casual on formal nights which suited us, as we only really want to dress up in formal wear once on a 7 day cruise. Our meal was fantastic and the service excellent. I opted for New York Strip Steak and my wife had the Veal Chop. Both were cooked to perfection and we finished the whole thing off with the Chocolate Fudge Obsession. The relaxed pace in Crown Grill allowed us to polish off the champagne between us.
Something we have not done for a while was Afternoon Tea. However, we skipped lunch one day and gave it a go. It was well worth it with nice sandwiches, cakes and biscuits all topped off with warm scones. We were not rushed and were offered more tea, coffee and food if we wanted. Very civilised.
We did not see any of the production shows on this trip, as we had seen them all before and preferred to do other things. We saw 2 tribute acts, which were both very good. One was Robbie Williams and the other was Elton John. Our favourite act in the bars was a singer/guitarist, but he was on at the wrong times for us. Only once did he appear between 8pm and 10pm, when we are looking to sit down and listen to some music. Other times he was on too early or too late.
Vickie here, if you want to see pictures of the Emerald Princess you can check out my album here.
Southampton – We were the first of 3 cruise ships to leave port and it was a good job we left when we did. Our ship was bathed in sunshine and if you looked forward you might have been sailing in the Caribbean with blue skies and sparkling seas. Behind us was a big black storm cloud and you could see the ships following us out being rained on by that big black cloud. We kept ahead of that rain all the way out.
|passing Cowes on the Isle of Wight|
It was quite windy and we had to make a sharp turn just off Cowes on the Isle of Wight, where we were surrounded by small sailing boats all out for a Saturday afternoon sail. We looked across the deck and the turn had made the ship list to one side quite heavily and it looked like the deck was going downhill. Henry the Eighth’s flag ship the Mary Rose sank on its maiden voyage in these waters while performing a similar manoeuvre, so we were quite relieved as the ship straightened up.
Zeebrugge for Bruges – This was our second cruise of the year and we had been to all the ports before, so we had decided to cut costs as much as possible. We had not purchased any local currency and had decided to put anything we wanted on a credit card. Last time we were here, there was a free shuttle to Blankenberge where you can get a train into Bruges. Princess Patter arrived to say that the shuttle was 10 Euros per person and that this could be paid in cash only. Because of that we decided to stay on the ship and have a relaxing day reading.
The little spa pool area only had a couple of people on the loungers, where it is normally full, so we laid there and soaked up the sun.
Copenhagen – After a relaxing day at sea we arrived in Copenhagen and were awoken by the thrusters. Having been here before, we knew that you can walk to most places if you are reasonably fit. We set off in a mixture of sunshine and cloud along the seafront and past the Little Mermaid. We did not stop as there are always crowds around this statue and we have seen it before. We instead headed for Kastellet, an old castle which is still an operational army base. There were some nice buildings to wander around before we headed back along the waterfront to Nyhavn with its nice cafes and colourful buildings. We stopped for a coffee and a snack while we watched the world go by.
We then headed for Rosenborg Castle, where they keep the Danish Crown Jewels. We used a credit card to pay for a ticket and to get a 25 Krona coin for a locker (bags are not allowed in the castle). The rooms are all fantastically ornate and packed with antiques. On the top floor is a huge throne room where the Kings and Queens of Denmark would have held court. Back down in the basement are the crown jewels, which are displayed so that you can get very close.
Once we came out of the castle it had started to rain, so we took the shortest route back to the ship. The rain came on very heavily in the afternoon and would have soaked anyone still out in it. We decided we did not want to dress for dinner and so went to the Platinum/Elite Lounge in Skywalkers for a cocktail and a snack, before grabbing a burger and a hotdog up on deck later.
Helsingborg – We left Copenhagen in the early hours of the morning and awoke to be advised that Helsingborg had been cancelled due to high winds. It is a tender port and they thought it was too dangerous to operate tenders in that wind, so we were going to sail slowly to Oslo (our next port) instead. Another day at sea was fine by us, particularly as when the early poor weather had cleared, it became a lovely sunny day. More reading and sitting in the sun for us was no hardship.
Oslo – The weather was fantastic in Oslo, sunny and warm. When we were here previously, we were docked beside Akershus Castle just 5 minutes from the central quay. This time Regal Princess was in that spot, so we docked on the other side of the fjord at Filipstad. This is more of a container berth, but still has nice views of the city and fjord. It is a little further away from the central quay, but is only a 10 to 15 minute walk. We had a walk around and sat down at a quayside bar for a coffee and a croissant. The service was friendly and the view was nice.
One thing we did not do on our last trip here was visit Vigeland Sculpture Park. We looked on the map and decided to walk rather than take a taxi or bus. From the central quay to the park took us 30 minutes at a reasonable pace.
|the Regal Princess still at her Berth|
We had another wonderfully relaxing time on board. This trip was not about the destinations, it was more about just being on the ship and having a restful time. Princess was top for service yet again and we have already booked a back to back in the Caribbean for next March. This will be another first for us. First time back to back and first time opting for traditional dining. We can’t wait.