After spending 15 days aboard the Emerald Princess, which is a ‘Crown Class’ ship, we feel qualified to provide some commentary and ratings on the ship’s services and activities. Note also, the passenger capacity on the ship is 3,114 but there were approximately 2,000 on our sailing. Therefore, some comments / good ratings may be because the ship wasn’t full. We did provide many of these comments in our Princess Survey, a link to which was emailed to us as soon as we disembarked (seriously, we were still on the pier when it arrived!).
Housekeeping staff/housekeeping: Amazing. We aren’t sure if it was the medallion system that allowed Lawrence to always come by when we weren’t there, or if we just weren’t in the room that much, but our housekeeper was great. He refilled our ice bucket twice a day and kept everything tidy throughout the 15 days. From what we understand, there were 19 cabins assigned to each steward, and there was only one steward per room. In the past there were two per room (possibly with more rooms assigned). Rating: 5/5
The room was comfortable, big enough with a lovely balcony that came in handy often.
Main Dining room staff: Other than one dinner on day 2 of the cruise when Erwin was overrun, our DaVinci dining room staff was very good and service usually wrapped up within 90mins. Olena from Ukraine was a favourite and we asked for her when we thought of it and we were accommodated in her section every time we asked. The noise level was always pretty low, notably they do a good job of clearing tables quietly. Ambience was good and level of chit chat with staff was as expected, pleasant but not over the top. There were no weird staff singing or dancing on any of the nights that we were there, though we did miss some kind of production around baked alaska on one night. Rating: 4.5/5
Main Dining Room: MDR was available for full sit down multi-course meals daily. On all days that I noticed, it was open for at least breakfast and dinner. On sea days it was open for breakfast, lunch, tea time and dinner. Food was usually above average and with a daily rotating menu, it was always possible to find something you wanted for each course, even if it was one of the mainstay ‘Princess favorites’. There were 3 ‘formal’ nights (all sea days) that we didn’t participate in. Rating: 4.5/5
World Fresh Market (Lido Buffet): Lido is the buffet that is more or less open from 6am to 10pm daily with short breaks to switch over service from breakfast to lunch to dinner to snacks. The variety of options is large. There are always vegetarian, gluten free and other ‘specialty’ diet options (ie sugar free dessert). Along with fruit, cheese, cold cuts, salad, soup and bread/pastry options, there is a rotating selection of ‘mains’ and ‘sides’. There is literally something for everybody here and it’s always hot and tasty. Rating: 4/5
Pizza/Cones/Hotdogs/Burgers/Tacos: these outlets are open on Lido during the lunch and dinner hours and offer nice alternatives to the marketplace and dining room. Anything we had was good and as expected. There was almost no wait ever, other than possibly for a few minutes at lunch. Pizza can be picked up in seconds. Pizza is the thin crust variety with standard options of Margarita and Pepperoni as well as a rotating daily special. Rating: 4/5
International Cafe: open 24 hours on deck 5. Offerings were a little limited and some things cost extra (gelato and coffee, for example) but certainly a suitable option if you had a hankering for a Sandwich or pastry when the primary dining options weren’t available. We did get gelato one day on the way back from the Huatulco excursion ($3.25USD for 3 scoops) and it was delicious. No comment on the coffee options since we don’t drink it. Rating: 4/5
Room service (24hrs): one day for dinner on a formal night we decided to give room service a whirl. Happily, there were quite a few options so it was a good time to try a few things we hadn’t already. Ordering was easy from the app and it provided a real-time order status. Delivery took about 25 mins and all was good except one of the items was missing. John called and they sent that up maybe 15-20 mins later. We ordered ‘free’ items but there were also paid for options including from the specialty dining restaurants. Rating: 3.5/5 (go out if you can!)
Specialty dining: for a (reasonable) supplementary fee you could dine in a specialty restaurant. Options are Sabatini Trattoria for Italian ($25USD), Salty Dog Gatropub ($12) and Crown Grill ($29) for Surf and Turf. We felt we had enough other options, we didn’t need to book specialty dining, so no comment other than Salty Dog was virtually empty every time we walked by (at least once daily as it was on 7 midship) and it shared quarters with the Wheelhouse Bar, plus we could never find the price or the menu while on board, I heard it was $12 afterwards. Rating: N/A
Notable absence: any kind of midnight buffet ~ chocolate or whatever. It wasn’t really ‘missed’ and frankly almost no one would have been up to enjoy them at midnight. Some other ships we’ve been on have done them earlier (like 9pm), which seems like it might be met with more success with the older crowd.
On the second last day of the cruise there was a (funny) cooking demo in the Princess Theatre, and a short galley tour. As the theatre was quite full, we bypassed the tour as we have done it on other ships.
Entertainment / Cruise Director staff: We weren’t impressed with the cruise director, Dave or the assistant directors, Georgia and Andrew (all were British). Maybe because we are more used to the style of Carnival’s John Heald (British but very funny) or maybe they just weren’t very dynamic, either way we didn’t go out of our way to interact with them. The ‘Wake Show’ was pretty boring – not much more than reading the Princess Patter which was delivered each night in paper format. DJ Manuel from Portugal was a bright light amongst the entertainment staff, he was super funny at Trivia though we never went to his late night club DJ’ing. Rating: 3/5
Hired talent: Magician, Comedians, Singers, etc. that flew in just for the one or two shows that they did. Other than one comedian that we didn’t find that funny, all other entertainers that we saw were very good. No complaints. Rating: 4.5/5
In cabin: there were plenty of in cabin options to choose from including NFL Football, MSNBC, Fox News, BBC and some miscellaneous European sports channels and a few other ‘repeat’ type channels. Also there were on demand movies and on demand TV shows (notably Love Boat and Cheers) which could fill in if you didn’t like the live options.
Around the ship: The Princess Patter kept everyone up to date on the ship happenings including in the Main theatre (musical productions, comedians, bands, magician, cooking show, enrichment talks, etc). There was a lot of Live music around the ship and there was always plenty of other activities including things like Trivia, Line Dancing, Karaoke, Cards and daily Sudoku’s and crosswords.
Movies Under the Stars: There were many different shows on the big outdoor screen, Movies, NFL, concerts, etc.
Casino: Whenever we walked through (rarely) it was almost dead in there, but notably there was no one smoking ! That was a pleasant surprise.
Ports / Excursions Excursions:
We did two Princess excursions in Costa Rica and Hualtulco:
Costa Rica ~ Port was non-descript, excursion : Rainforest Tram and Animal Rescue Centre: Rating: 2/5. If not for the driving issues we’d bump that up to 3/5. Refer to Costa Rica day for details.
Huatulco ~ Port was nice, though most shops closed, excursion: Flavors of Colorful Mexico: Rating: 4/5. Refer to Huatulco day for details.
We’ve blogged about these locations already on the days we visited them, but haven’t rated them:
Cartagena ~ had an amazing port area, full of macaws, peacocks and other wildlife = A great way to enter the country. Rating: 4.5/5
Fuerte Amador (Panama City) ~ tender port, which are generally a real pain in the arse, and it was, small port area was okay. Rating: 4.5/5
Puerto Vallarta ~ Rating: 4/5
Canal Transit: as expected this was the highlight of the cruise. This was already covered in two posts. Rating: 5/5
Notes for future cruise booking cabin selection:
⁃ Do not book near the lido pools – doors are always open and it’s hot in the halls.
⁃ Be aware of how close or far the laundry is (if applicable).
⁃ Be aware of what side of the ship the afternoon sun will be on for the majority of the days (sea especially). To fully utilize the balcony it’s better (for us anyway) to have morning sun and afternoon shade.
⁃ A level or two below lido is great for easy access to Lido but not too far away from the promenade/piazza stuff.
Medallion Application (for iPhone):
We both work for a software company so made a few notes to help with the app enhancements (most of which I provided in my Princess survey):
⁃ Chat is almost useless. No alerts, no date / time sent on chat, it should be on top of the first page of the app, or better yet have it on the bottom toolbar or even a configurable layout by user preference. Chat typing is super hyper on line 1 (flickering) until enough is typed to get to line 2
⁃ Why isn’t there a list of activities per venue available? Journey view is clunky and not user friendly, performance is poor and takes a long time to reload every time it’s accessed. Why do the journey event bars go longer than the event does? Why can’t all events for a single location be in the same swim lane / line?
⁃ Shipmates locate feature doesn’t always update with current location (though admit it is a very nice feature when it works).
⁃ Menus aren’t available online unless you have a reservation booked, we never did figure out the cost or what the menu was in the Salty Dog Gastropub 😦
⁃ Port guides weren’t available at the excursions desk so we were told they must be screen-shotted to be used in port as without internet they are not accessible. Ideally, you should be able to download a .pdf so it can be used without internet. Alternatively print them yourself before you leave home. Plus the screenshots are very compact and hard to read.
⁃ Explore the ship view should have an option to hide the icons as they often block the names of locations.
⁃ ‘Ship information’ option doesn’t have a map view showing where the ship is, nor was the knots updated regularly (often it was 0 when we were clearly moving).
⁃ Connection to Medallion-Net drops regularly (every 24hrs?) for no reason, requiring the steps to reconnect to the wifi network.
⁃ There should be clear instructions to medallion-net about logging out and back in once on ship. Issues arise if it still think you’re ‘off ship’ when you’ve embarked.
⁃ Why isn’t there a page or icon on upcoming port weather?
⁃ Reorg the main page to have the most used options at the top of the screen instead of having to page down and down. We used: dine my way, chat, journey view, find shipmates/compass. The rest were much less frequent.