Entertainment & a drink

DSC06116r

With a capacity of 800 you had to be seated at least 30 minutes before the show began.

DSC05768r

The Princess ships have their own dancers and singers, and their own musical backing – in addition, various outside entertainers are engaged for one or two nights. They would fly in – entertain the passengers and fly out from the next convenient port.

The ship’s dancers and musician were permanent. Maureen & have cruised with four different cruise companies and found that the ship’s resident entertainers (singers & dancers) have been excellent.
Princess cruises has a dance studio in California (I think) where the dancers and singers are trained, and new shows created. The shows are rotated throughout the fleet, but we’ve never seen the same show on different ships.

DSC05779r

The finally of the first show on the Ruby Princess.

DSC05918r

The following evening we went to see Patrick McMahon, singer, songwriter & entertainer. I’d never heard of him, but he was very good and after checking details about him I realised what I’d been missing. He sang a number of different styles of music from country, jazz, rock & roll etc. He was so full of energy that I became tired watching him as he jumped all over the stage while playing instruments.
He has more energy than someone half his age, and when you see the clip remember he is 60 years old!

A few nights later we saw Chris Gable (we missed a couple of nights due to shore excursion)

DSC05989r

Boy was this guy good – he could play the clarinet, saxophone, piano, guitar, and he could sing! Chris Gable the link will take you to a sample of his musical skills. If you wish for Glen Miller fast forward to near the end.

DSC06057r

At the end of the show he played the wind instruments for  Golden Wedding and the ship’s drummer at the back was able to match Gable’s skill – the drummer was just great.
The link is not to Chris Gable or the drummer, but to the piece of music.

DSC06061r

At the end the audience went mad . . . not just for Chris Gable, but also for the drummer!

Chris Gable was so popular they arranged an additional show later in the cruise, and he produced a different musical show, which was just a popular with the audience.

We also watched comic conjurer, but I didn’t take any photographs as I thought he was disappointing.

DSC06179

Another night we watched Suzanne Ptentice a New Zealand singer from Invercargill.
She sang a mixture of songs, but as my knowledge of country western music is limited I’d never heard of her. She was awarded the OBE by the Queen in 1995 for services to music. She was very pleasant.

The following night is was the resident dancers and singer in a show called Once upon a Dream. This show was a mixture of classical, Beatles and bits of POP – I thought is was well done as it was supposed to be a dream and as we know dreams are always mixed-up.

DSC06117r

A young girl has a dream . . .

DSC06119

from Alice in Wonderland

DSC06121

For some reason the dancing camels reminded me of  Wilson & Keppel    from a 1934 film – and before someone asks, no I was not at the premier of this film!

DSC06123

A change of pace and time tone to the 18th century . . . the cast worked hard and were very good – singing & dancing at the same time.

Our last port of call was Noumea, where Jon Darsk joined the ship. Another great entertainer – piano player, violinist, singer and a personality to match.

DSC06298rc

DSC06302rc

DSC06299rc

He would play the piano as fast as he could with one piece of music, and then switch to boogie woogie, everything just flowed.

In the theater staff walked around ready to take orders for drinks before the entertainment started, so I thought I’d post the cost of a sample of the drinks.

Ken01

There was a large variety of cocktails – I have only posted a couple of pages as samples, all the prices are Australian dollars.

Ken 02

Ken 03

The above is the cost of white wine, it is obvious that you are encouraged to buy a bottle, which will be cheaper than the cost of four single glasses.

Ken04

and the cost of the reds . . . .

But if you only drink beer –

Ken06

The cost of a non-alcoholic bottle of beer is more expensive than in a Sydney restaurant.

Ken05

All the above photographs of the drink’s lists are thanks to our friends who were travelling with us.

If you are considering a cruise and you like a drink with your meal make sure you build the above costs in to your budget.

I could have bought a ‘drinks package’ that would have allowed me to have up to 15 drinks for a set daily rate, which was about $89 AUD.
Even in my younger days I’d have had trouble drinking fifteen drinks EVERY day.
To break even you’d have to drink 10 bottles of beer a day or six glasses of red (the package doesn’t include bottled wine), or six and a half glasses of white. The cruise was 14 days so the drinks package would have cost $1,246 (AUD) per person. This has to be taken into account when budgeting.

The idea of inexpensive duty-free drinks that used to be the norm when travelling by sea, before the cruise craze came about, has disappeared.

DSC06332r

Mural in the Crooners Bar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s inside

DSC05739r

In my last posting I promised photographs of the public areas inside the Ruby Princess. This our cabin, on first impressions we thought it was smaller than similar Princess ships cabins.

On a positive note it had plenty of storage space, a standard bathroom, which included the shower, which was one of the best that I’ve experienced on a ship for water pressure. It was easy to control the hot / cold settings.

The balcony was one of the largest that we experienced, which contained a table, two sun lounger chairs and two foot-stools.

DSC05740r

The view from our balcony on boarding.

DSC05741r

and the view from the balcony rail.

DSC05923rA favourite area for a quiet afternoon at sea.

DSC05759r

Crooners Bar, which was larger than the Crooners Bars on other Princess ships in which we sailed. The bar overlooked the atrium, which was smaller than the Majestic Princess (similar size vessel, but different configuration).

DSC05786r

The atrium (called the Piazza) – note the shops  . . .

DSC06126r

Most late afternoons it was very pleasant to sit in the Crooners Bar & hear the string duet – Anima String Duo

DSC06295r

Other evenings after a show, we would listen to Marius Baetica

Our favourite place for a pre-dinner drink was the Wheelhouse Bar – we passed the model as we entered.

image_242x_

DSC05790r

DSC05804r

Food and all that . . . Horizon Restaurant, we used this restaurant for breakfast & lunch, it was a buffet style, so one had to be circumspect when filling one’s plate . . .eat as you would at home and you’ll not add the kilos.

DSC05834r

During our exploring period we came across the Skywalkers Nightclub on deck 18. It was a very quiet area, because the bar didn’t open until 10.00 pm.

DSC05836r

A perfect place to sit and read, with perhaps time to sit and consider where the ship was going. As you see it was not a particular popular place before 10.00 pm :- o)

DSC05908r

The main dining-room that we used – Michelangelo Dining Room – we were anytime dining, but if we wanted to see a show at 7.30 pm we had to be the dining room for around 5.00 pm to eat before the show or after 8.30 pm to eat after the show.

5.00 pm may sound very early, but by the time you were seated, and drinks arranged, and you studied the menu it would be 5.30 pm going on to six PM. It was all very quiet and civilised, and nothing was rushed.

DSC05910r

Another shot of the dining room. The head waiter (Stefan) was the perfect person for the job.
Maureen is a coeliac and all her food must be gluten free. Every evening Stefan would show the following day’s menu to Maureen and she would pick the items that she would like, and the items would be produced gluten free for the following day.

One evening we ate in a specialty restaurant and at the end of the meal Stefan arrived with the following day’s menu and his notebook. The specialty restaurant was on deck 16, and the Michelangelo Dining Room (where Stefan worked) was on deck 5. He was always busy, but he never failed to track Maureen down so that she could choose the following day’s meals.

DSC05980r

Another shot of Michelangelo Dining Room.

DSC06343r

During the meal on the final night of the trip the wait staff would enter carrying models of bake Alaska, and all the passengers would greet them by waving their napkins. I tried to take pictures of the waving napkins, but they came out blared.

DSC06348r.jpg

The staff with their baked Alaska, all lit of course.

Maureen & I were given a gift of breakfast on the balcony, with Champagne. We picked the day (they staff required 24 hours’ notice) but the day for the breakfast turned out to be windy and not all that warm.
The waiter arrived and realised that it was too windy outside so he brought the outside table in and laid it for breakfast. Everything was just so  . . .
DSC05992r

DSC05995r

DSC05996rThe whole occasion was very well done and we had plenty of food – in the end it was more than we would normally eat for breakfast.   :- o)

DSC05994r

This was the ‘starter’, smoked salmon – followed by cereal, and eggs . . . it was an enjoyable experience, and of course we didn’t have to tidy up or wash-up!

Moving on to something else, overall there were fourteen bars, and we only managed to visit eight in fourteen days – my school teacher used to say that I should try harder . . .

DSC05999r

The above is the ‘The Mix Bar’ near a pool –

DSC05999rc

 

and for my British readers they had Newcastle Brown on tap, as well as Carlsberg on tap, the only problem was that they ran out of Newcastle Brown before the end of the cruise, and The Mix Bar was the only bar that sold Newcastle Brown.
The cost was $12 (AUD or USD $8.12) for just over a British pint.
The average bottle of beer was AUD $8.75 ($5.92 USD), which included an 18% tip!

Overall the cruise was a very relaxing time and the food was better than we have experienced in some other Princess cruises.

DSC06134rc

I took a photograph of a sign on a market stall in Fiji, which summed up the cruise.

 

 

 

Flying north for winter

Majestic

Majestic Princess
Reg. London, 144,216 gt, 3,560 passengers maximum. (will it feel crowded?)

There comes a time when winter is all too much as one grows older . . . and older. A few months ago I started to check where to go or what to do, for part of our Sydney winter. Being a wimp, I consider late May is the start of the colder period, so any time after mid May would be fine, after all summer is December, January & February and Autumn is March, April and May, but late May is winter!

I wanted something ‘different’ without too much work i.e changing hotels, bus trips,  or too many plane changes, so once again it came down to cruising.

Maureen & I like cruising, and having sailed in –

IslandPrincess-CruiseShip1

Island Princess – Reg. London, 92,000 gt, 2200 passengers (never felt crowded)

DSC04736r

Diamond Princess – Reg. London, 115,875 gt, 2670 passengers (never felt crowded)

dp-dawn-princess-1600-1

Dawn Princess – Reg. Bermuda, 77,441 gt, 1998 passengers (never felt crowded)

azamara quest

Azamara Quest – Reg. Valetta, Malta, 30,277 gt, 686 passengers (never felt crowded)

Jewel_Ship08

Pacific Jewel – Reg. London, 69,845 gt, 2014 passengers (did feel crowded at times)

so could I find something different?

I clicked on various global travel & cruise sites and in the end I went back to Princess Cruises’ web site and found a positioning cruise from Rome (the port is Civitavecchia, about 80 to 90 kms from the city of Rome) to Shanghai in China.

Majestic Princess is the latest vessel of Princess Cruises and is the newest of the ‘Royal’ class of vessels, the others being Regal & Royal Princess.

A new vessel, positioning cruise, sailing through the Suez Canal (which Maureen has not yet experienced), and then sailing down the Red Sea and in to the Persian Gulf, followed by India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and finally, for us, Singapore where we leave the ship to fly home.

The ship carries on to China, via various Asian ports, to be based in Shanghai so as to focus on the Chinese market. She carries two names one in English and the other in Chinese script 盛世公主号, which means Grand World or Grand Spirit.

The price was right for the twenty-eight day cruise, and she would do about six weeks cruising around the Mediterranean as ‘shake-down’ cruises, before the positioning cruise.
All being well, by the time we join the Majestic Princess the ‘crinkles’ of a new ship, and a ‘new’ crew would have been worked through, so that the little problems after leaving dry dock (there are nearly always problems) had been fixed. The comments / complaints from the first group of passengers would point to any major problems.

royal-class-deluxe-balcony-1600I paid a little extra for a larger balcony, because we spend our quiet afternoons at sea reading, or in my case trying to write. I do enjoy watching the sun come up, or set, over the sea, and the balcony is a big plus for us.

the-seawalk-1-1600It is the first cruise ship to have a glass walk over the ocean, so I’ll be interested in this experience.

piazza-1-1600The Atrium, as well as a meeting place is also used as a village square (Piazza) for acts, music & dancing etc.

princess-theater-1-1600No idea how many people the theater seats.

The above four pictures are from various Princess Cruises’ online brochures.

I have since found out that they do not have a Crooners Bar, which was a favourite of ours on all of the other Princess vessels. Crooners was just right for a 5.00 pm quiet drink with a piano player doing requests.

DSC04087rCrooners Bar Requests ??

DSC03896Crooners Bar Island Princess

The Majestic Princess doesn’t have a Wheelhouse Bar or Explorers Bar – each bar on other Princess ships has a different ambiance, but I have been told that they do have karaoke bars, so I’ll have to find a quiet spot elsewhere :-o)
With such a large Atrium I doubt that it will be a problem – Crooners under another name?

Apparently all signage on the ship is in two language English & Chinese and all announcements are made in both languages.

The ship sails from Barcelona to Shanghai for the fifty six night cruise, departing Barcelona 14th May 2017. We join her in Rome (17th May) and leave in Singapore, so hopefully I’ll have plenty of pictures to post when blogging.

A roam around a ship

Checking in for our cruise was very easy – after checking -in  we didn’t have to wait to board even though we had been warned that a wait would be required, but were told to pass through emigration and security and to board immediately.
On entering our cabin (state room to be PC) we realised that it was much smaller than the same cabin on the previous Princess Cruise vessels. We’d booked a balcony cabin, and the balcony area was the smallest that we had experienced, but they still managed to squeeze in two chairs & a tiny round table.

dsc07478r

dsc07479r

dsc07487r
The storage area for our clothes was smaller than the other Princess ships, and even smaller then the Pacific Jewel, where we had an inside cabin.

Once we unpacked we realised that instead of placing our suitcases in the hanging part of the ‘wardrobe’ area we were able to stow them out of sight under our bed. Even though the area for our clothes was smaller, we were able to unpack completely and stow all our clothes and bits and pieces out of sight. Our shoes went under the bed along with my laptop & briefcase and Maureen’s carry – on bag, so all in all the sudden shock of ‘smallness’ was soon fixed.
The ship is well maintained and crew members can be seen constantly painting and touching up various areas. All the staff that we come in contact with were friendly and helpful.

Thirteen nights of having everything done for us – wonderful.

dsc07541rGoodbye Sydney – we sailed at 4.00 pm so I was able to photograph the sun setting over Australia.

I thought a few pictures of the Dawn Princess might help for those considering a Princess Line cruise.

dsc07520r

The Atrium, or heart of the ship for passengers.

dsc07525r

The pictures above and the one below are of the Vista Lounge and Bar, which is near the stern, it is a large bar with a small stage, which is used by various acts in the evening or lectures during the day, or an afternoon of quizzes when at sea.

dsc07559r

dsc07532rMagnum Bar – very quiet, and quite small.

dsc07581r

Wheelhouse Bar – quiet around 5.00 pm, but jumping by 8.00 pm with live music and dancing.

dsc07552r

The Riviera Bar near the pools.

There are other outdoor bars, but we didn’t use them.

dsc07561r

Not all that clear, but the water in the pool is overflowing as the ship’s movement causes a slight pitching, which in turn causes the water to rush to one end and then back to the other end.

dsc07562rThis picture gives a better idea of the ‘surge’.

dsc07526r

The Crooners Bar; a lime & soda for Maureen and a Guinness for me. On each of the Princess vessels in which we have sailed, the Crooners Bar is always a favourite, because of the staff and the live music which is never too loud so that you have to shout. The Crooners Bar on the Dawn Princess is the largest Crooners Bar that we have experienced, much larger than the Island or the Diamond Princess.
One of the bar staff in the Dawn Princess was a Scouse (from Liverpool UK) and he came from the next suburb to where Maureen lived as a child. The barman spends nine months cruising and then goes home to Liverpool, for a couple of months.

Each evening at 9.00 pm Paul Burton would sit in the Crooners Bar and play jazz on the piano & sing songs of yesteryear – he was perfect for the ambiance of this particular bar. I bought his CD, Live in London.

pb01

dsc07940r

If you fancied a night club there was always Jammers – a little too noisy for me  . . .

dsc07528rOur dining room was called the Venetian dining room – picture taken from the entrance.

 Unlike other ships where we had ‘any time dining’ i.e you fronted up and you entered the dining room if it was before 10.30 pm, but sometimes you had to queue due to demand etc. We used to arrive around 6.30 to 6.45 pm and didn’t have a problem. On the Dawn Princess, we had been allocated 5.30 pm dining, which was a little early for us, but we got used to the timings and adjusted lunch to fit . . . This also meant that we had the same passengers on the same table each evening with the same stewards. The passengers were not a problem, because we soon got to know each other. The wine waiter was preemptive because he used to put a glass of white wine down in front of me when I sat down & placed the ‘chit’ next to me side plate for signing. That was ‘service’ with a smile.
The following comments are only my opinion as to why they have fixed dining times on Australian based vessels.
Australian based Princess Cruise ships do not charge a daily gratuity. On ships that leave Australia and do not return to an Australia port at the end of the voyage, the gratuity is charged at approximately $12 USD a day per person. The gratuity is split amongst the face to face staff and the backroom staff that the passenger never meets or comes in contact with, but is still offering a service.
This allows for any time dining – you can have a dedicated booked time if you wish, but most people just turn up and wait a short while if the dining room is busy.

Because of the culture in Australia of not to tip unless they receive service above and beyond the expected service level for the price charged, the cruise companies have, I think, built in the gratuity in to the cruise price, but then encourages tipping of your cabin steward and your dining steward, hence the need to have set dining times so that you are served by the same steward & wine steward for the whole voyage, and you then feel ‘pressured’ to leave a tip at the end.
Overall I would prefer to pay the daily rate and not have the inconvenience of working out the required amount to tip the various staff. If the service is not up to scratch you can have the ‘compulsory’ gratuity removed from your account, so the pressure is still on the staff member to deliver a good service. I just add the daily rate to the overall cost of the cruise so as to compare apples with apples – at least the backroom staff receive something for their work, whereas only tipping the waiter one never knows if this is shared.

dsc07873rA general view of the dining room.

 On the Dawn Princess, they had two main dining rooms and four specialised dining rooms (extra cost for each of the specialised dining rooms). The pictures below are to indicate the standard for our dining room.

dsc08284rMain course evening dish for Maureen – lobster.

dsc08285r

and for me Beef Wellington – it was thick and just melted in the mouth – perfect.

The two Kiwis shown in the first photograph at the entrance to the dining room is because we celebrated Waitangi Day, 6th February, which is a national holiday in NZ, being the day that a treaty was signed between the British and the Maori people in 1840.

dsc07527r

dsc07668r

The Atrium was decorated in Maori motifs.

dsc07878r

If a formal style of dining is not to your ‘taste’ (excuse the pun) you can dine in the Horizon Court for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Dress code is casual, whereas long pants for men are required in the Vincentian dining room in the evening, even for none formal evenings.

On the 14th February I realized when we went for breakfast that it was Valentine’s Day  . . .

dsc08073r
The Horizon Court is buffet style for each meal. Stewards are on hand to offer various drinks. As one would expect the buffet offered a wide choice of food from Asian through to standard western. It was very easy to over eat due to a great collection of puddings, cakes and jellies.
My lunchtime choice, after a morning of sightseeing, was always a light salad and cheese and biscuits with a glass of wine. Knowing that dinner was at 5.30 pm to 6.00 pm one had to be circumspect with earlier meals.

dsc07535r

dsc08304r
The above picture, and the one below, shows the Inside of the buffet area at the start of breakfast on a sea day (nobody rushes on a sea day)– everyone is required to wash their hands via a squirt of disinfectant from an automatic dispenser. A staff member stands near the machine and greets the passenger. If you forget to use the machine you are reminded politely by this person. Not a problem really if we are all to be free of stomach upsets.

Breakfast at 7.00 am – passenger custom just starting to build.

dsc08305r

Hot food from steaks to eggs cooked to order. Bacon cooked ‘American’ style or English style.
American bacon being cooked until it is a brittle streak with little meat and a danger when cut with a knife. Pieces of bacon shoot across the table or ping all over the place. Eating it with fingers is the only way to protect your neighbour.
The English bacon has more meat, so I tried both at the same time. Ever the diplomat.

I weighed myself on our return and I’d put on just over a kilo, which I will lose. It is very easy to put on weight on a cruise, so one has to be careful not to over eat – not having that second piece of cake brings tears to my eyes. . . . .