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Old July 2nd, 2012, 06:58 PM
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Default New to Princess - what do we need to know?

Okay...it's still a LONG ways off, but we just booked our first cruise on Princess for 2014. Friend had a TA w/ group space on Star Princess California Coastal (LA-Vancouver) and a reduced deposit so we decided let's give it a try. We are definitely not new to cruising (24 cruises - mostly Carnival, but also Royal, NCL, and Disney), but since it's our first time on Princess is there anything we need to know?

Thanks in advance!
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Old July 2nd, 2012, 07:08 PM
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I have my 11th coming up on Princess. Love them! Feel free to ask whatever you like.

You can take on wine, you can buy a bottle of hard liquor for your room, corkage (important on a wine cruise) is $15. They have both traditional and anytime dining. The pools are fresh water. Highly recommend the Sanctuary which is an adult only area but not sure how warm it would be on a coastal.

Specialty restaurants are great if that's your thing. There's a new wine package coming out but right now it's only on cruises of 10 days + so hopefully they'll expand it before 2014.

They have an Ultimate Balcony Breakfast which is enough food to feed an army. It comes with a 1/2 bottle of sparkling and is a lovely way to start a sunny day.

Are you booking a balcony? Caribe deck balconies are bigger and are half covered and half open.

Ask away.
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Old July 2nd, 2012, 07:33 PM
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We are in a balcony and the TA put us on Caribe. Just read a great thread about that deck, so it sounds like she's got us in a great spot!

I really like what I saw w/ the Sanctuary. How hard is it to get passes for that though? I read somewhere you have to get up early to even have a chance? We are NOT early birds, so if that's true we'll probably miss out on that.

It looks like Princess is a little stricter on their dress code than Carnival. Course we started cruising when Carnival had a similar dress code and have had to almost force ourselves to pack less and go more casual. We normally fly SW to our cruise ports so we can take extra luggage, but w/ ending in Vancouver not sure what we'll do. Did find a bus to Seattle though that might be less than paying for bags though.

Ultimate Balcony Breakfast sounds wonderful! Will have to check that out. Other than that, how is the room service menu?

I'm sure I'll have tons of questions as we get closer....still got a LONG way to go before this one!
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Past Cruises -
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Royal Caribbean - 2 cruises, 10 days (Gold)
Norwegian - 2 cruises, 10 days (Bronze)
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Old July 2nd, 2012, 07:39 PM
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Dress Code: we have a tendency to avoid formal nights and eat elsewhere but I've read lots of reports of a long sleeved shirt and tie will get you in and certainly a blazer. I've seen a lot of guys just in a blazer.

Sanctuary... we've only used it on the Coral and my DH really needed shade, that we had a hard time getting if not at 7:00 am but we were on a Panama Canal Cruise, on a coastal you might be ok, probably not as much call for it.

Room Service Menu, for lunch and dinner, it's not bad. You can't order off the MDR's dinner menu the way that you can on Celebrity. I think they've added the hot breakfast sandwich on to it since our last cruise which would be great!

I think a lot take the bus back down to Seattle for cheaper flights. You can also book this on Princess usually. But there are a lot of alternatives to get down there if you don't want to fly out YVR which I totally agree, it can get expensive. Our last 4 flights we've crossed the border and flown out of Bellingham.

Oh..Princess's Pizza is EXCELLENT Get one through room service one day for $3..it's the only room service item they charge for, totally worth it.

Are you looking at the 6 day Star cruise in May? I might be on that one
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 10:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Trackypup View Post
Dress Code: we have a tendency to avoid formal nights and eat elsewhere but I've read lots of reports of a long sleeved shirt and tie will get you in and certainly a blazer. I've seen a lot of guys just in a blazer.

Sanctuary... we've only used it on the Coral and my DH really needed shade, that we had a hard time getting if not at 7:00 am but we were on a Panama Canal Cruise, on a coastal you might be ok, probably not as much call for it.

Room Service Menu, for lunch and dinner, it's not bad. You can't order off the MDR's dinner menu the way that you can on Celebrity. I think they've added the hot breakfast sandwich on to it since our last cruise which would be great!

I think a lot take the bus back down to Seattle for cheaper flights. You can also book this on Princess usually. But there are a lot of alternatives to get down there if you don't want to fly out YVR which I totally agree, it can get expensive. Our last 4 flights we've crossed the border and flown out of Bellingham.

Oh..Princess's Pizza is EXCELLENT Get one through room service one day for $3..it's the only room service item they charge for, totally worth it.

Are you looking at the 6 day Star cruise in May? I might be on that one
Yep...that's the one! Would be cool if you were on it too...we could plan together for the next 670 days. Yikes that's a long ways off!!!

Would be great if Princess offers the bus to Seattle! Would just make it SOOOO much easier, even if it's a little more than booking direct.
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Past Cruises -
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Royal Caribbean - 2 cruises, 10 days (Gold)
Norwegian - 2 cruises, 10 days (Bronze)
Disney - 2 cruises, 8 days (Silver)
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 11:12 AM
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Nice to see you spell your name right

That one falls over my B-Day so we were looking closely at it. It's a great itinerary and far cheaper than the 7 day version.
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Trackypup View Post
Nice to see you spell your name right

That one falls over my B-Day so we were looking closely at it. It's a great itinerary and far cheaper than the 7 day version.

Are you a Tracey too????

Sounds like a great birthday cruise! The travel agent we're booked with is setting up winery tours at each port. Apparently she did a similar one a couple years ago and was able to do that for $99 total. Might be a little more now, but still a good deal. If you are interested, PM me for her details.
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Past Cruises -
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Royal Caribbean - 2 cruises, 10 days (Gold)
Norwegian - 2 cruises, 10 days (Bronze)
Disney - 2 cruises, 8 days (Silver)
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by ChiTownCruiser View Post
Are you a Tracey too????
Yep and with an E
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 01:20 PM
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Talking Princess cruises

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiTownCruiser View Post

Are you a Tracey too????

Sounds like a great birthday cruise! The travel agent we're booked with is setting up winery tours at each port. Apparently she did a similar one a couple years ago and was able to do that for $99 total. Might be a little more now, but still a good deal. If you are interested, PM me for her details.
We love Princess!

Our very favorite place is Sabatini's, the extra charge Italian restaurant. They are also experimenting with Canaletto's, a no charge Italian restaurant for dinner, and we like that too.

That California coastal cruise is a wonderful one! In fact we did it for MY birthday a few years ago! We arranged several wine tasting tours, both independently and through the ship. One of our favorites was the Wine and Chocolate Tasting in Victoria:


You can read our whole review here: http://www.bully4.us/paccoast.html

Have a GREAT cruise!!
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by MercedMike View Post
We love Princess!

Our very favorite place is Sabatini's, the extra charge Italian restaurant. They are also experimenting with Canaletto's, a no charge Italian restaurant for dinner, and we like that too.

That California coastal cruise is a wonderful one! In fact we did it for MY birthday a few years ago! We arranged several wine tasting tours, both independently and through the ship. One of our favorites was the Wine and Chocolate Tasting in Victoria:


You can read our whole review here: http://www.bully4.us/paccoast.html

Have a GREAT cruise!!
Mmmm.....Chocolate!!!!
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Past Cruises -
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Royal Caribbean - 2 cruises, 10 days (Gold)
Norwegian - 2 cruises, 10 days (Bronze)
Disney - 2 cruises, 8 days (Silver)
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Old July 3rd, 2012, 01:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MercedMike View Post
We love Princess!



You can read our whole review here: http://www.bully4.us/paccoast.html

Have a GREAT cruise!!
Just read your review. Did you do the wine and chocolate thru the ship or was that one on your own? May need to give that to the travel agent to look into.
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Past Cruises -
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Royal Caribbean - 2 cruises, 10 days (Gold)
Norwegian - 2 cruises, 10 days (Bronze)
Disney - 2 cruises, 8 days (Silver)
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Old July 4th, 2012, 07:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiTownCruiser View Post


It looks like Princess is a little stricter on their dress code than Carnival. Course we started cruising when Carnival had a similar dress code and have had to almost force ourselves to pack less and go more casual. We normally fly SW to our cruise ports so we can take extra luggage, but w/ ending in Vancouver not sure what we'll do. Did find a bus to Seattle though that might be less than paying for bags though.

Although most people do dress up in the dining room on formal evenings you'll find that Princess isn't all that strict about how formal people adhere to the policy. You can certainly get by with less than true formal attire such as a long sleeve dress shirt for the guys even without a jacket and a dressy top with black pants for the women. They want everyone to enjoy their cruise experience.
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Old July 4th, 2012, 09:32 AM
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Talking Wine and Chocolate and Butchart Gardens

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiTownCruiser View Post
Just read your review. Did you do the wine and chocolate thru the ship or was that one on your own? May need to give that to the travel agent to look into.
That particular tour was through the ship.

We always consider ship's tours first, and then look at independent tours, and decide which best suits our needs. Since I walk with a cane, many times it is better for us to go independent, but this particular tour involved essentially independent time at Butchart Gardens followed by the tasting at the winery, so it allowed me to go at my own pace and it made sense to take a bus between places. I don't think it is possible to do this particular tour independently.
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Old July 4th, 2012, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by MercedMike View Post
That particular tour was through the ship.

We always consider ship's tours first, and then look at independent tours, and decide which best suits our needs. Since I walk with a cane, many times it is better for us to go independent, but this particular tour involved essentially independent time at Butchart Gardens followed by the tasting at the winery, so it allowed me to go at my own pace and it made sense to take a bus between places. I don't think it is possible to do this particular tour independently.
Will have to look for this one when the excursions become available. I'm assuming that'll be sometime late next year for a May 2014 cruise??

I'm not sure how the TA is doing the tours - i.e. can we pick to join per port or is it a package and will she have stuff for each port? All I know is as long as there is wine involved, I will be happy!
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Past Cruises -
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Royal Caribbean - 2 cruises, 10 days (Gold)
Norwegian - 2 cruises, 10 days (Bronze)
Disney - 2 cruises, 8 days (Silver)
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Old July 5th, 2012, 12:12 PM
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Talking Booking excursions

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiTownCruiser View Post

I'm not sure how the TA is doing the tours - i.e. can we pick to join per port or is it a package and will she have stuff for each port? All I know is as long as there is wine involved, I will be happy!
There are many ways to arrange shore excursions for a cruise. I will repeat here advice I have often given.

The first, and often the simplest and most convenient, is to simply use the ship's excursions. The general excursions available in a port are normally on the cruise line website. For example go to princess.com, click LEARN ABOUT OUR CRUISES and then PORTS AND EXCURSIONS. Select California Coastal and you will get excursion lists for every port. As your cruise gets close, sometimes as often as six months before, you will get an exact list of all the excursions with prices and departure times and can book online.

The second way is to have your TA book excursions for you. This can vary from wonderful to horrible. If you know your TA well and they know you well and can arrange for your particular preferences and design excursions for your party exactly, it can work very well. If your TA is just going to pick from a list of "preferred suppliers" for a standard package -- well -- who knows?

The third way is the way most experienced cruisers do it. By now, we know how to read the descriptions of tours, both in the ship's book and from independent guides, and be pretty sure we know what we are getting. You can start searching the internet with phrases like "Santa Barbara shore excursions" or "Santa Ynez wine tours" and find a lot of sites. Now it becomes your responsibility to sort through them and decide whether they seem reliable and reasonable. Using boards like this one, as well as TripAdvisor and Frommers, can be a big help.

You can also use places like shoretrips.com or toursbylocals.com who are packagers, and frequently make up your own package just on that site.

It depends on how comfortable you are with doing your own research and taking your own responsibility.

Take another look at the website I put up at http://www.bully4.us/paccoast.html and you can see that in some cases, such as Santa Barbara, we booked independently for our small group. The tour company we used there was wonderful, and in the end it cost us less than the ship's tour would have and took us more places. Notice the comment I made that Nick and Renée helped choose the wineries we visited. You can't do that on a ship's tour!

In other cases, such as San Francisco, we used the ship's excursions and they worked very well for us. In Seattle we booked the Pikes Place tour independently on the Internet and took a taxi there. In LA we designed our own route and had a limo service take us there. So by now, knowing what we like and how to find it, we usually have a mixture of tours. I start months before the trip with research and email and wind up with a package that is right for US! Not everybody will do that much work.

Just booking the ship's tours is easy and convenient, and you are pretty much guaranteed of quality tours. Having your TA book them depends on how much confidence you have in your TA. When you say "I am not sure how the TA is doing the tours," that is sort of a red flag to me. I would suggest that you need to find out more details about what they are doing for you.

Any of these methods can work well. Which is right for YOU?
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Old July 6th, 2012, 05:00 PM
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Love Princess cruises (they come in 2nd to Holland America Lines which is our favorite)
We never attend the formal nights to eat as the same food is offered upstairs at the buffet
So those nights (longer nights have several) we eat elsewhere. Never would we pay extra to eat in one of the restaurants that charge...what is the need as the others are great!
Their shore excusions are great but a lot of time we go ashore to explore on our on. Be careful booking outside shore excusions because it the bus breaks down and you do not get back on the ship in time...you have to pay your own way to the next port as the ship will not wait on you. Have seen this happen several times with different cruise lines so make sure you return when you are suppose to.
The pizza at the free pizza restaurant near one of the pools is always fantastic so need to order and pay for one from room service. You can eat as many slices as you want up there...the ice cream is good also.
Have a great cruise and enjoy the great free entertainment and food.
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Old July 7th, 2012, 01:08 PM
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This was a great post so I want to comment on it ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by busterboy View Post
Love Princess cruises (they come in 2nd to Holland America Lines which is our favorite)
It is hard for us to decide. When we are on Princess it is our favorite and when we are on HAL it is our favorite.

Quote:
We never attend the formal nights to eat as the same food is offered upstairs at the buffet
The food is almost the same at the buffet -- ah, but the ambiance! A long relaxed dinner in the dining room with all those beautifully dressed people is a delight to us.

Quote:
Never would we pay extra to eat in one of the restaurants that charge...what is the need as the others are great!
That is what we said too -- until we tried Sabatini's! It really is outstanding and the extra charge is modest.

Quote:
Their shore excusions are great but a lot of time we go ashore to explore on our on. Be careful booking outside shore excusions because it the bus breaks down and you do not get back on the ship in time...you have to pay your own way to the next port as the ship will not wait on you. Have seen this happen several times with different cruise lines so make sure you return when you are suppose to.
Very true. However the independent operators are very much aware of this and work very hard to get you back to the ship on time. Honestly in all our cruises we have never seen nor heard of this happening. Actually the riskiest, IMAO, is exploring on your own. Then YOU are absolutely the only one responsible for being back aboard on time. We certainly HAVE seen those who were exploring on their own get left behind -- especially those who were exploring Carlos and Charlie's in Cozumel ...

Quote:
The pizza at the free pizza restaurant near one of the pools is always fantastic so need to order and pay for one from room service. You can eat as many slices as you want up there...the ice cream is good also.
Have a great cruise and enjoy the great free entertainment and food.
The pizza is pretty passable. The choice is limited, usually two or maybe three toppings. The outdoor grill does good burgers and dogs for free. The ice cream bar at the other end of the pool is great, but it is a modest extra charge. Five bucks for Death By Chocolate is worth it!

Have a GREAT cruise!
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Old July 7th, 2012, 04:45 PM
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What? No free ice cream? My husband may cancel. On Carnival he has 2 or 3 ice cream cones a day!
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Royal Caribbean - 2 cruises, 10 days (Gold)
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Old July 7th, 2012, 05:08 PM
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There's free ice cream cones all day. It's the soft swirl stuff, but it would satisfy an ice cream craving. Also if you're on a ship with the Gelato at the International Cafe, give it a try. YUM
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Old July 8th, 2012, 10:50 AM
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Talking Ice cream

To clarify --

the extra charge for ice cream I was referring to is at the ice cream stand near the pool which features all sorts of wonderful hand scooped concoctions such as the Death By Chocolate sundae! It is not just soft serve cones.
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Old July 8th, 2012, 11:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trackypup View Post
There's free ice cream cones all day. It's the soft swirl stuff, but it would satisfy an ice cream craving. Also if you're on a ship with the Gelato at the International Cafe, give it a try. YUM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MercedMike View Post
To clarify --

the extra charge for ice cream I was referring to is at the ice cream stand near the pool which features all sorts of wonderful hand scooped concoctions such as the Death By Chocolate sundae! It is not just soft serve cones.
Phew! Much relieved! Thanks!
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Norwegian - 2 cruises, 10 days (Bronze)
Disney - 2 cruises, 8 days (Silver)
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Old August 22nd, 2012, 09:13 PM
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OK to the poster who said they have never seen someone left behind, I have, it does happen. I've been on 20+ cruises and I've seen people left at a port in Alaska, Venezuela (very serious), Southampton, Key West.

I have to mention all of these were not in the last 10 yrs. and Venezuela involved cruise line employees (2) who should have known better. They were told to make their way to LA to pick up their stuff off the ship and last pay check.

I was on the bus waiting for the 2, and it got serious because of the tide situation. Because of the delay, tugs were used to get us out. It was rather scarey. We had to eat with the late seating dinner as we were back over 2 hrs. late.
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Old August 28th, 2012, 07:27 PM
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OK to the poster who said they have never seen someone left behind, I have, it does happen. I've been on 20+ cruises and I've seen people left at a port in Alaska, Venezuela (very serious), Southampton, Key West.

I have to mention all of these were not in the last 10 yrs. and Venezuela involved cruise line employees (2) who should have known better. They were told to make their way to LA to pick up their stuff off the ship and last pay check.

I was on the bus waiting for the 2, and it got serious because of the tide situation. Because of the delay, tugs were used to get us out. It was rather scarey. We had to eat with the late seating dinner as we were back over 2 hrs. late.
Venezuela ! Yikes That is one place that don't wish to visit.
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Old October 8th, 2012, 01:59 AM
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If you are seriously considering the Sanctuary, book it immediately upon embarkation to ensure your lounge spot for the remainder of the cruise. There will be some they hold for the day use, but, never a guarantee.
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