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Princess Cruises: Royal Princess

Fodorite Reviews

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Jan 14, 2016

Virgin Islands and Barbados

This cruise was quite easily the worst cruise myself and my family have ever been on. The number one BIGGEST problem this ship has is Customer Service, or should I say the substantial lack there of. On the first day, we boarded and were greeted by a fairly clean and modern ship. We had 2 staterooms, one for my sister and I, and one for my parents. Let me just say that while they were clean and all, they were very small for a princess cruise

ship. The deck was barely large enough to sit on and there was practically no place to unpack 2 people's suitcases, or even hold them. During my first day I waited 6 hours for my bag that never came. I went downstairs to customer service where I waited over an hour and a half to receive an answer as to where my bag was, only to figure out that it was never called in as being pulled aside for "contraband". When I was escorted to the security station by the customer service lady, I was greeted by a shrill woman whom I asked what the issue seemed to be. She then accused my bag of having alcohol (it is at this point that I should add that we have had experiences with bag checks, but she blatantly pointed at my bag and accused me of carrying alcohol). While I was opening up my bag I commented on her demeanor to which she laughed at me (and the customer service representative was there and witnessed it). After this whole dilemma I demanded to see the head of Customer Service. It took him 30 minutes to come out to speak to me, and after I told him of the situation and the customer service representative backed me up (since she was also shocked at the behavior of the security person) he said he would "get back to me". It took him a full 24 hours to get back to me at which point he said he could do nothing for me at which point I asked to see HIS superior, whom lets just say never contacted me. I want to also add that this was on the eve of my birthday, and New Years which is the most important holiday in my culture. This ship is understaffed, and overall the staff is not trained at all. It would take so long for drink orders to be brought that my family and I would have already finished our meals. If we came up to one staff member at the buffet to ask for something they would say "that's not my job" and point to another worker. And, let me just add that the ship is HORRIBLY designed. Neither I nor my parents (who have cruised over 20 vessels) have ever been on such a rocky ship. We have even gone in on the Baltic Sea during bad weather with less rocking. Traversing the ship and stairways means having to get from the dining room on the 6th deck to the casino on the 6th deck involves going up a flight of stairs, and down a spiral set of stairs. Or, if you want to order an espresso from the main dining room, the waiter has to run to the bar on the 7th deck in the center of the ship and run back to bring it for you. I highly do NOT recommend this ship, and unfortunately Princess has lost long time customers from me and my 18 family members. If they want a piece of advice from me and my family, its to actually train your workers on how to act and speak with their customers. We had the most magnificent experience on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. We will not be coming back to Princess again. The food on this ship is nothing to talk about. Its decent. Thats it. They are real sticklers for drink packages and it furthermore shows they know nothing about customer service. Let me just add that we never ONCE were introduced to the Maitre D or even the wine steward. What onboard activities? There were no pool activities during sea days. The Casino was an absolute JOKE with no real poker tables, and more scam tables than anything. The DJ (DJ Shea Michaels) played the same music every day at the pool and every night at the club; that is when he was even paying attention to the music at all. The guy spends all his time on the phone using an auto-dj playlist. I dont know how the ship's entertainment director hasn't realized this yet. I literally have a picture of him on his phone EVERY NIGHT at the club. The daily "skeet shooting simulator" is also a joke in the confines of a dark broom closet that only fits 3 people, when many more want to partake in it. And the "variety style" shows were horrible to watch. The only good entertainment came from the broadway style shows, because those singers and dancers actually know what they are doing. They literally are the only life on that boat.

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Nov 13, 2015

Eastern Carriben

When we booked a balcony cabin guarantee, we were warned that we may get an obstruction cabin. It turned out that we got the best balcony cabin - mid section and NO obstruction AT ALL on Emerald Deck (6th). There was a huge improvement on food variety at the Horizon Court/Bistro. Also there was NO line at the Horizon court at all. fell in love with Royal Princess! We want to go back to Royal Princess in the near future!! Good food. Huge

improvement on food variety choice at the Horizon Court/Bistro Gorgeous Balcony Cabin (E412) with NO obstruction!! Delight cruise!! Love that ship!!

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Aug 11, 2014

Carribean

The captain regularly forced all clients to listen to his irrelevant babbling by transmitting in each state room his loud status reports. It is true that most other cruises don't force paying customers to listen to obscure super-star wannabes, but on the Royal Princess they do things differently! We had the chance to experience the treatment of having our afternoon sleep rudely interrupted by the captain's many fascinating announcements we found out

the speed of the boat in three measurement units and we were also regularly informed of the depth of the sea! We complained that normal cruises don't transmit such loud announcement in the staterooms, but the cruise staff quickly dismissed our lack of enthusiasm and our reluctance to embrace the hyperactive vacationing approach. So once you had your tenth supersized extra-strong coffee you're ready to relax on this cruise. The drills performed on the ship were also a nice occasion to witness frustrated staff yell orders to some disobedient paying customers. Luckily no client was beaten for their lack of immediate compliance with the orders of parking-guard equivalents. The food was tasty and nicely presented, but some items quickly finished so we had to be there when the restaurants opened. Otherwise, the ship is beautiful and the entertainment diverse and of adequate quality.

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Mar 22, 2012

tahiti and islands

This was not a very nice cruise. We had trouble with the Maitre de and he shoved my wife and was rude. It took over 6 weeks to get a refund back from Princess due to an overcharge on their part. The food was ok, not ourstanding but ok. No much for the average person. From onboard tours The trip from the onset was disaster mainly due to the travel agent screwing up several things. We would never go back to Tahiti due to the

extravagant cost of everything, airfare, dining, price of everything in Tahiti. There is better value elsewhere.

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Dec 27, 2010

French Polynesia

Tahiti Revoir - Royal Princess around French Polynesia - December 9-19 2020 I am Phil Haggerty, a retired city attorney and my wife Edith is a homemaker. This would be our 27th cruise. We first went to French Polynesia on what was then called Tahiti Princess for the same time period in 2008. We were told by Princess that they would not be returning to these beautiful islands, and our review closed with the wish that we would be able to repeat

it on a ship costing less than Paul Gaugin; the only other choice at that time. When Princess announced that they were returning with the same cruise, we hastened to book it. To put it succinctly, we were even more delighted with our sojourn in the islands this time around. Getting there and aboard On our first trip there were two daily flights on Air Tahiti Nui from LAX to Papeete, Tahiti; our embarkation port.. We had let Princess book it on that occasion, and we flew out of LAX on the second flight at about 4:30, arriving at 11:00 P.M. This time we made sure to book on the 1:00 P.M. flight; and apparently that was the only Air Tahiti Nui flight that day. The flight was fully booked and some of our fellow passengers told us that they were required to fly a day earlier in order to make the cruise. So, forewarned is forearmed. In any event, the flight is slightly more than 8 hours, and with a two hour time difference, we landed at about 7:30 and were on board by 8:00 in time for dinner at the buffet and the boarding show before returning to our cabin and unpacking. This was considerably nicer than our first experience. The embarkation process on all cruise lines has become much faster and easier with the pre-boarding internet process. The ship Royal Princess is the newest of the Renaissance fleet that was divided up after its bankruptcy following 9/11. It was the last of the virtually identical eight sister ships, and was built in 2001 so it had less than a year sailing for its original owner. By cruise ship standards, it is small, but by more important standards, it is elegant, well designed and passenger friendly. Deck 3 has a few cabins, Deck 4 more cabins, and the medical center forward, with the passenger service desk, excursion deck and an elegant staircase amidships leading up to Deck 5. This deck has the Cabaret Lounge, or showroom forward, the casino, boutiques, casino bar and art gallery amidships, and the club bar and main dining room aft. Decks 6, 7 and 8 are all cabin decks. Deck 9 has the gym and spa forward, pool with outdoor lounge deck amidships and the buffet aft. Deck 10 has the Royal Lounge forward, a walking/running track around the open center area above the pool; and the beautiful library, as well as two specialty restaurants aft. Deck 11 has a small open area with a golf net and a shuffleboard court forward. So, as we were told on our first trip on one of these delightful little ships, Oceania’s Insignia; entertainment is forward and food aft. There are two stair/elevator areas with two elevators each. Since it is quite easy to get around, many people, including Edith and myself, used the stairs much of the time, and the elevators were readily available most of the time. The general theme of the public areas was dark wood, low key brass railings, oriental style carpeting, vases with flowers and art in appropriate places and an overall impression of quiet charm and good taste. In one area however, Princess fell short. On Deck 5, aft of the shops and just forward of the Club Bar leading into the main dining room, there is a small open area surrounding the “elegant” staircase leading down to the passenger services desk. On Oceania’s three ships this area has a number of comfortable sofas and chairs and some open space is used for the string trio/quartet featured on all Oceania vessels. This spot on Royal Princess, and I believe its sister ships in the Princess fleet, is used for the “Art” gallery. We believe that few people are interested in anything beyond the free glass of wine that accompanies one of the art auctions, and that the whole “art auction” idea ought to be dropped by the cruise lines that still support them. On a ship the size of the eight Renaissance vessels, the space can be put to much better use. Our stateroom We had the standard veranda stateroom on Deck 7, which made it extremely convenient inasmuch as we only had to go up two flights to the buffet and down two flights to the showroom or the main dining room as well as other activity areas. It is a comfortable room, with, as usual, more than enough drawer space and shelves in the bathroom; and adequate closet space. The decor was highlighted by dark brown trim on the furniture and cream colored walls, with a large mirror opposite the bed. The only slight inconvenience was the narrow area between the bed and the wall, and a rather small coffee table in front of the sofa. It might have been better if Princess had provided a chair with a back instead of a stool for the desk, since a chair’s back is handy for hanging clothes. The veranda had utilitarian furniture, but an open railing, which provides clearer viewing than a solid barrier. Penthouse Suite One couple at our table had the “Moorea” suite, a penthouse suite on Deck 7 looking forward. We were invited for a post dinner gathering with the other couple at our table, and vicariously enjoyed the life of the “upper crust” for an all too short period. The suite had a spacious living room, a powder room, a fairly large bedroom and a number of other special benefits. We managed to restrain our impulse to ask how much this cost our hosts, but a look at the Princess website would place the pricing in the middle $4000.00s per person. The Cruise Begins. Actually, this cruise begins with a full land day in Tahiti before the ship sails at 5:00 P.M. Since we had done a guided tour two years ago, we decided to rent a car and do a complete circuit (about 65 miles) of the Tahiti Nui portion of the island. The smaller Tahiti Iti peninsula has only a few people, and although connected to the main portion of the island, has a road for only a short distance down the coast. I booked a car with Europcar online. I had used this company in Europe. When we showed up we found out that since I was older than 60, I needed a doctor’s certificate to rent a car. Since I had not told my personal physician in Phoenix to prepare such a document, in French, without knowing what medical information was needed to satisfy this company, we were out of luck and extremely annoyed. On the way back to the ship we ran into a taxi driver, and negotiated a full day tour for 18,000 cpf-(Polynesian francs [about $190.00 U.S]. I had purchased about 40,000 cpf from a Banc d’ Polynesia ATM just across from the pier. Our driver was from the Cook Islands, owned by New Zealand, and he had lived in New Zealand for many years so his English was quite good. We enjoyed the tour and especially the Gaugin Museum, which, while not holding any original paintings, had an excellent layout explaining his life and contacts with Polynesia. The museum was in an attractive series of small, locally designed open buildings near the ocean. We ate lunch at the museum restaurant a few hundred yards away, which had its own fish pens, and served an excellent fresh mahi-mahi, although a tad pricey like all Polynesia. We returned to the ship through rush hour traffic about 4:00, concluding a pleasant if not inexpensive day. Tahiti, with a population of 170,000, mostly in or near Papeete, has about 60% of the entire population of French Polynesia. This “Overseas Country“, which is legally part of France and represented in the French Parliament, but with considerable local autonomy; has four groups of islands or archipelago, and stretches over an area the size of Europe. But most of the population and tourist areas are found in the islands of Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, Taha’a, Huahine and Bora Bora, which make up the Society Islands. Our first day was a sea day. The ten couples who formed the core of the Cruise Critic Roll Call Board got together in the Royal Lounge to meet face to face and confirm our shore tour commitments as well as generally socialize. It was very pleasant to establish a connection with a number of people immediately, as we all form a coterie that would greet and chat with each other at times every day. The fact that were only about 680 passengers made this a great deal easier, and provided a far more friendly atmosphere than that which would exist on one of the new mega-ships, where the sheer size and numbers of people would act as a barrier to meeting and even seeing people you knew. Rangiroa Atoll This huge atoll, so big you cannot see across it or down its whole length, was our first stop. I went snorkeling on one of the ships tours, the only one I took on the entire cruise. The winds and tide made the water slightly cloudy, and I was chased out of a good fish viewing coral area by one of the tour guides, but I had already realized it was getting pretty thick where I was and a retreat was indicated. We then went out into the lagoon entry passage where we saw many dolphins and enjoyed major swells that pushed our small boat along. Edith spent a little time at the very small area for craft shopping on shore but did not visit the pearl farm as she had two years ago. Some made a tour to the Blue Lagoon, and reported a good trip, but rough waters from the wind. Huahine After our second and last sea day we arrived at Huahine and entered the beautiful bay to tender ashore and meet Marc, our first independent tour. We were 12 people from Cruise Critic, with 4 other people, in two small catamarans with roofs to protect us somewhat from the sun, powered by outboard motors. We went out of the bay, into the lagoon which, typically of all remaining ports of call, surround each island with only a few deep water access inlets. We first did some snorkeling and then went to a pearl farm, which actually was owned by an American who had built his house on pilings in the lagoon to protect him from mosquitoes. They are prevalent on the islands, but none are malaria carriers. The workshop for the farm is on another island structure in the lagoon. We then traveled to another area inside the lagoon for further snorkeling and afterwards proceeded to land on a motu, a small islet in the reef, for lunch. We were met there by Marc, (who had not sailed on the catamarans, but entrusted them to Polynesians) and also by another Polynesian man who not only prepared a special Hawaiian dish, but provided a lecture on local plant life. He prepared his dish by squeezing limes onto cut up fresh raw ahi tuna, adding coconut milk and cut up zucchini and shredded vegetables, letting it marinate for about ten minutes. I though it absolutely delicious, but Edith is not comfortable with raw fish. Marc is of French ancestry, but was born in New Zealand and moved to French Polynesia with his family many years ago. His e-mail address is: [email protected] We then returned to the tender dock. The total tour lasted from about 9:00 A.M. to 3:30 P.M. and the cost was $100.00 US paid in cash at the dock - when Marc asked for our “green tickets”. The snorkeling was pretty good with enough sunlight, and the food excellent. Raiatea The next day we arrived in Raiatea for a tour with Bruno and his L’Excursion Bleue. This has a website: www.tahaa.net. and e-mail address at: [email protected] Raiatea is a fairly large island with an actual pier so no tendering is needed. Taha’a is a smaller neighboring island about 2 ½ miles to the north of Raiatea, and both are surrounded by the same reef. This tour started at the pier and first featured another pearl farm which had a very nice showcase home on shore on Taha‘a, with a French lady showing us a truly extensive collection of pearls, both loose and in necklaces and other settings. We also visited a vanilla plantation where the owner provided a detailed explanation with some amusing comments on Polynesian work attitudes. We then did “drift snorkeling” between two motus at the reef. One motu had a Relais d’ Chateaux hotel with over water rooms at more than a thousand euros per day, and the other was a smaller unoccupied motu. It was during this snorkel on a ship’s tour in 2008 that I was cut quite a bit on my legs by coral. This time Bruno led the snorkel himself, taking care to show us which types of coral could be safely touched, which could be gently pushed out of the way as well as where we should go to see the fish. He did so with much more clarity and care for our well being than the guides on the ship’s tour. I could actually enjoy the spectacular coral as well as the fish with less concern. I did suffer a couple of nicks, but they were very minor. One of our party was stung on his hand by a sea urchin when he misjudged a coral formation which he could safely grasp, and his hand slipped under it into a typical sea urchin lair. It was painful, apparently, but not debilitating. We went to a second snorkeling site very close to the reef, close enough that Bruno could actually walk on the reef out of the water. However those of us who went into the water here felt that, even with good water shoes, there was too much danger of slipping on slick coral and falling on sharp coral if we tried this, so we were content with normal snorkeling around the boat. We then had a very good lunch and completed the circuit of Taha’a and returned to the pier at about 4:00 P.M. Again this was a full day’s tour for the cost of 10,000 cpf - about $110.00 US per person. Bora Bora While all the islands are beautiful, this is my favorite, with its precipitous main peak providing different views as we circumnavigated the main island. Our tour was provided by Patrick’s Tours, which is featured in many tourist guide books and has an excellent, well deserved reputation. He offers full and ¾ day lagoon tours and two 4x4 tours on the main island. His website is: www.maohinui.net, and his e-mail address is: [email protected] Our Cruise critic group, again with several other people, boarded two catamarans at the tender pier at 9:30 and were on our way. We started at the largest town, Viatape, which is midway up the west coast, and proceeded south past the original tourist hotel, the Bora Bora, now under repair and looking rather sad. We went around Matira Point and its beach and out into the east lagoon for our first of four “water” stops. Our second stop was to feed stingrays. We could stand up in water to our waists on a sandy floor and feed the rays who literally hugged us their appreciation of the food. This was a delightful experience. The next snorkel stop was near the reef with a strong current that caused me a little trouble, but I was hauled back to the boat by two younger and stronger swimmers. Our guide had said simply to relax if we were unable to fight the current, and he would get us, but he actually had left the boat to do some fishing with his spear gun. The final water snorkel stop was in calmer waters, and fairly short. We then headed for a motu for our lunch. This was the best of the tour lunches with grilled lobster and champagne, albeit served in plastic water glasses. The motus around Bora Bora are larger than most, and one holds the airport built by Seabeas in WWII. While Papeete has a small deep water port large enough for a number of full sized ships, the lagoon of Bora Bora is very large and was a place better able to protect our fleet during the war. We could see old gun emplacements protecting the harbor as we cruised around. Our guide was a Polynesian man who wore a very short sarong with the briefest possible swim suit underneath for when he went into the water. His English was not too good, but he was very cheerful with a good visual sense of humor. On the long water stretches he would steer the catamaran (which had a wheel rather than a tiller) with his toes, play a Polynesian version of the ukulele, and singing. Fortunately, one of our companion couples had made a number of visits to various islands, including Bora Bora, and were able to supply a lot of information, pointing out things like the best location for a over-the-water room at the Sofitel Hotel where one could see out over the reef and in towards the main mountain. We returned at about 4:00. Completing a circuit of the main island after spending almost two hours on the motu where we ate, while some of us crossed it to reach the reef and ocean side. Most of us felt that because of the beauty of Bora Bora, the excellent lunch and the extensive water activity, that this was the best of the tours. The cost was $125.00 US per person, collected at the end of the tour as it had been by Marc. As a side note, when we asked where Patrick was, we were told he was in Canada! He was in the cold of December while we basked in the warmth of his island - what irony!! The Second day in Bora Bora Some people took land tours or water tours where they had not done so the day before. We opted to wander around Viatape, and actually spent most of the day in stores, either looking at local crafts or comparative shopping for pearls. We started out by strolling past the commercial area though, into the residential part of town. While many of the homes are not large or much more than basic, most of the yards showed care and attention to the beautiful plant life so abundant here. We then stopped first at Robert Wan’s pearl store, which we had visited two years earlier. This remarkable man has created a pearl empire, owning several farms in the atolls outside the Society Islands. The store is very attractive and the clerks pleasant and attentive even though we made it clear that we were only shopping at the lower end of their price scale. We saw two necklaces we liked but decided to do some more shopping. The next store was more scientifically arranged, but after looking at some pretty spectacular pieces, were told, condescendingly that they had nothing in our price range. We probably visited about 7 or 8 more jewelers. In one we looked at a beautiful necklace. The price tag was in cpfs. I asked the price in dollars and found out that I had made a “slight” error in my exchange estimate, and it cost $14,000 US, causing us to depart politely but quickly. We also visited some other stores to look at art and other native crafts, avoiding the obviously tourist stuff which was often made in Indonesia or China. I don’t need a $25.00 Bora Bora T-shirt made in Shanghai, thanks. After lunch on board ship we decided that the necklaces we had seen at the Robert Wan store were actually the best value, so we returned and walked in saying “we’re baaack!”. We were cheerfully greeted by the same French lady clerk and she was again most helpful. It took Edith a while to decide between two, but with the assistance of the clerk and another customer pressed into service for her opinion, we made a choice. Then the paperwork began. As a French country, Polynesia has a 16% VAT, waived for direct exports. The French are master bureaucrats, and had extensive forms to fill out and a distinct process involving visiting customs at the airport to avoid this tax. Fortunately, our clerk did all the form work, and provided us with written as well as verbal instructions on the customs office procedures we were to follow. Part of this process was to provide the store with one credit card imprint for the cost of the necklace and a second imprint for the tax. Then, when the proper form was stamped at the airport, and sent back to the store by the customs office, the tax imprint would be torn up and not submitted for payment. We had absolutely no concern about the store doing this since it is an international company, with stores in the US. We were pleased when an assistant to our clerk told us he had lived in Tucson for 8 years and still had relatives in Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix. His English, as well as the lady clerk’s was very good. We think that the lower price from Robert Wan, despite the elegance of their stores and their glitzy catalogue, is due to the fact that Wan owns and controls every aspect of the pearl business from the oyster to the finished piece of jewelry, has no middlemen to pay, and has a volume pricing advantage. We were quite pleased with our decision and the outcome of the day. Moorea Moorea is a small island quite close to Tahiti; about 9.8 miles by direct route and 13+ miles by ferry from Afareaitu to Papeete. The ferry trips are quite frequent from 6:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. and vary from ½ hour to possibly an hour. The cost per person is 900.00 cpf (about $10.00) per person, but about $25.00 for a car on the one boat (out of four) that can carry autos. A number of Royal Princess passengers took advantage of this proximity to spend a day or more on Moorea either before or after the cruise. We had no planned tour and hoped to rent a car. At the suggestion of some people, we made no effort to confirm our Europcar booking following the Papeete rental debacle, but went directly to the Avis table set up near the tender dock, in front of the round church we remembered from 2008. We had no trouble obtaining a nice, relatively new Ford Fiesta (16,000 kms on the odometer). We chose not to buy insurance since my credit card carries all sorts of car rental coverage, and again went trough the double credit card process, a 8,000 cpf imprint for the 8 hour daily rental, a 8800 cpf imprint to cover damage. We cruised slowly around the island, enjoying the sights and the neat, modest but relatively prosperous appearing homes with again the lovely gardens and yards. “Slowly” is the operative word, since the maximum speed limit anywhere is 60 kph, 40 mph, and this is never reached for any great length of road due to the constant presence of small, and I mean very small towns. Luckily it was Saturday, and school was out, so we did not have to contend with this. At about 11:00 just past the one town with a European name anywhere, Le Petit Village, we came to a hotel called Le Tipaniers, We had been told about this place by our cruise Tahiti experts. It was not easy to find parking, but we did, and walked out to the beach where there was a restaurant with a delightful outside covered ramada and a view of the beach. The hotel has small bungalows. We found out it was fully booked (somewhat rare in Polynesia these days) and its ratings on TripAdvisor.com plus its reasonable rates explain why. We had to wait until noon for the restaurant to open, and as that time neared were joined by our Tahiti experts and another couple from our Cruise Critic group. The restaurant filled quickly and I had a fabulously delicious fresh grilled swordfish, while Edith had a salad, all for a total of 2300cpfs, very reasonable for the best fish I had the entire cruise. To explain its location. Moorea is heart shaped. The northern coast has a western peninsula, Opunoho Bay, where the ship anchored, a central peninsula, Cook’s bay and an eastern peninsula, with the center dominated by a mountain and the south east, southern and western coasts. As in all the islands, the main road leads around the perimeter with a few roads leading inland, but none actually crossing the island due to the mountain or mountains in the center. Le Petit Village and Les Tipaniers are both close to the northern tip of the westernmost peninsula. After lunch we continued around the island, shortly passing the Intercontinental Hotel on the corner of Opunoho Bay, then went down the western side of the bay, past where our ship was tendered and where we started our rental and on to the base of the central peninsula. There we took a road to the right leading up the main mountain to a view site called Belvedere Outlook. The road is somewhat steep and narrow in spots, but is well paved. It goes past the Agricultural High School where we enjoyed a visit on our first trip, but it apparently was not open to Saturday morning unscheduled visits. At the top we had a great view north, seeing Opunoho Bay to the west, the striking spire mountain at the base of the central peninsula, and Cook’s Bay to the east. Captain Cook never actually sailed into his namesake bay, apparently determining that the passage was narrow and at an angle which would make it hazardous in searching for deeper waters to anchor. 240 years later cruise ship captains acknowledge that this master mariner and incredible sailor was as correct as he could be. We returned to sea level and attempted to visit a fruit juice factory, but it closes at noon on Saturdays. We were required to return our car with a full gas tank as usual, and had been told that there was a station at Le Petit Village, so back we went past the ship and Les Tipaniers to that town, where we filled up. Out nice little car had used only 700 cpf’s worth of gas. We tok advantage of our presence there to visit two shops. One, an upstairs shop, had a very impressive collection of local wood carvings and stone work. The other shop was Woody’s Pearl Store. Woody was there, working on jewelry, and told us he was, as we knew from a tour book, an American who had moved there from Hawaii in the early 80’s, married a Polynesian girl (who was there, acting as the store’s clerk)and started his business to support himself and his avocation as a sculptor. On the way back to the ship and about 500 yards past Les Tipanier, we decided to pull into the Intercontinental Hotel. [The Sofitel Hotel on the northeast coast had a guarded gate which we did not care to challenge.] This is quite a nice hotel, with a very open lobby/bar/store area leading out to what we believe was a salt water pool just inside the lagoon and its beach. We stepped into the Robert Wan store in the lobby for a minute, and then returned to the ship, returning the car and getting our insurance imprint back from Avis. The last day in Papeete The ship sailed from Moorea at 5:00 P.M. and arrived in Papeete at about 6:00, when we were eating dinner. Since it was the final night, we had to pack. The next day Princess told us we could store our carry on luggage in one of the specialty restaurants and stay on the ship, having lunch and dinner in the buffet, until we boarded our buses to the airport for our 10:00 P.M. Air Tahiti Nui flight back to LAX.. The last time we did this we located a 4x4 tour to the interior through the tourist office at the pier. When we went to that office, it was closed due to a sudden electric failure, so we were unable to book a tour of this type, and, since we had taken a taxi around the island the day after our arrival, we saw no reason to do this again. We had been told that all stores in Papeete were closed on Sunday, but later found out that the main market was open, virtually entirely for local customers, from 5:30 to 8 every Sunday. We learned this well after 8, but decided to walk around town anyway, especially since a young lady at the pier had handed us a pamphlet for a pearl store. In fact many clothing stores and food stores were open, and the central market was just closing down, a scene of some organized confusion and color. The jewelry store was open and had an upstairs with a large collection, all first class pearls. By this time we had become pretty good at judging the quality of the pearls we were seeing. We went back to the ship for lunch and killed some time by seeing the second of three consecutive movies in the Cabaret Lounge, a somewhat mindless shoot’em up; but relaxing. We ate about 5:00 and picked up our hand luggage, retrieved or main suitcases and duffel at the tent set up for that purpose on the pier and loaded ourselves and luggage on the bus for the trip to the airport. Of course there was a long line of passengers at the gates, but it seemed that they opened earlier and had more check-in stations, so it did not take as long as it had in 2008. The customs scene to get our VAT exemption actually proceeded quickly and simply. I even had time to turn in 7000 cpfs for $69.00 after fees. I thought about keeping some for a possible return in 2012, but there is talk of changing over to Euros. I was annoyed to lose a long time owned and favorite nail file to an overzealous French equivalent of a TSA searcher, and the security line was slow; but we were in the waiting area by about 8:45, which was plenty of time. The return flight was smooth and we took a LAX worker’s advice and rolled our luggage from the Bradley International Terminal to Terminal 1 for Southwest, rather than wait for a shuttle. It was raining heavily in Los Angeles and we were amazed to see the weather reports of over nine inches of rain there in the past week. But we got back home with no trouble. Ship Dining Edith likes Princess’ vegetarian selection; but I would only rate the main dining room at an 85, (out of a possible 100) compared to 88 for HAL, 91 for Celebrity, 93 for Oceania and 97 for Crystal. The person we all rated very highly was the pastry chef. His range of choices and skill was manifested most remarkably at the buffet lunches, with stunning and imaginative displays. It almost made us regret the fact that four of our excursions took us away from the ship at noon; but we managed to sneak in a late tea with some of the noon time efforts left over on our return. The most general subject of criticism was the buffet coffee. We never ate breakfast anywhere else and neither Edith or I have coffee after noon. The regularly served coffee was pretty awful. What made it more annoying was that the ship wanted us to buy “coffee cards” which, at $25.00 per card, would provide 15 “premium” cups of regular coffee or specialty coffees such as latte’s or cappuccinos. We strongly believe that this is a rip-off and we all accused Princess of downgrading the “free” coffee to encourage the purchase of and consequent dependence on these coffee cards. For Shame Princess!! The lunch buffets and breakfast buffets were pretty good and showed some variety and imagination with their theme lunches. Compared to the dining room, I would rate them at 90 for breakfast and 91 for lunch. We met two couples who chose never to eat in the main dining room and ate exclusively in the buffet. Even though they probably ate at least as well as we did; Edith and I would have missed the delightful social conversation and laughter of our table companions. Princess still does tradition two stage seating with assigned tables, even though not only Oceania, but Azamara uses open dining on Royal Princess’ sister ships. We did not eat in either of the specialty restaurants. One of our tables’ couples did and complained about extremely slow service at Sabatini’s, apparently because a special $75.00 per person table for a party of twelve co-opted several of the servers. This shows bad planning by Princess. Princess offers afternoon tea in the dining room on all its ships, but after attending once we decided that the tea and cake selection was better in the buffet. Entertainment The Cabaret Lounge is the site for most entertainment. It is on one floor, Deck 5, with no major stage accoutrements. The dance band is one step up from the show floor, which is surrounded on three sides by several rows of chairs, a bench row and another level of chairs and tables one step higher. If you are in the front row you are really next to the performers. The actual entertainment featured the usual song and dance group, four line male and four line female singers plus a lead male and female singer. Their routines were very standard and uninspired, even amateurish. Perhaps we have been spoiled by Ballet Arizona, which has earned top reviews from the New York Times for its performances. But we have seen shows on Celebrity and Crystal which were far more imaginative and polished. There were two male singers who had solo performances. One of them did two shows. He sang in the style of Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra, did songs that they had featured, and was relaxed and enjoyable. The other singer was just okay. There also was a magician/humorist who engaged the audience well and was quite amusing. On the opening night there was a Tahitian show with local dancers; and in Raiatea another group of local dancers doing a late show, since we remained in that port until 11:00 P.M. The informative portion was exclusively in the hands of Doug Pearson, who had also done this in 2008. He is British. His father was one of the first pilots to fly in the islands in the 60s, and Doug lives on Moorea. He has unbounded enthusiasm, and distinct opinions, as well as a wealth of information. We could not attend every lecture due to our tour schedules; we were tired and ready to shower and change clothes on our return, with not much time before dinner; but we had enjoyed him before and knew a lot of what he was saying. There were several of the usual shipboard games, bingo etc. which we do not attend. Nor do we use the Casino, and it did not seem to enjoy much action, not surprising on a cruise so vital with delightful destination activity. The internet was somewhat pricey, offering packages instead offering a pricing by minutes only option that we had noted on other Princess cruises. Out table companions with the suite had extensive free usage, but said they needed it because it was so slow. We did not use it at all; but the internet café seemed to enjoy a steady flow of business. There also was a movie every afternoon in the Cabaret Lounge which is fairly well set up for movie showing. Overall Experience Despite the fact that Princess has some practices and ways of doing business that are moderately annoying at times; we thoroughly enjoyed this cruise because of the destination. We simply love French Polynesia, its beauty, its friendly people (even though we don’t speak French) its marvelous climate, warm waters, relaxed atmosphere and sense of being away from it all in a little piece of (expensive) Paradise. We probably will return, not in 2011 since our cruise itinerary is already set, but very possibly the next year. Royal Princess is leaving the Princess fleet, but we feel sure that one of the line’s other ships will make this delightful cruise in one form or another. We would love to see you aboard.

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Jan 10, 2010

Amazion River to FLL

We have taken many cruises through the years but this was our first on Princess and our first small ship experience. The Royal Princess, formerly part of the Renaissance fleet, is still a gem! With around 700 passengers, the small cruise experience won us over the moment we embarked on her decks. Embarkation was easy in Manaus and we were very impressed with the English Country Club ambiance once we settled in. Food overall was good, although

not quite the caliber of Celebrity’s food. From previous reviews, I was expecting a bad culinary experience, but most of our meals were quite good. At times, the main dining room failed to deliver on mass appeal menu items, opting instead to try and provide a fancier and gourmet menu selection, which for us, missed the target. Their soups and salad dressings fell short of Celebrity’s freshly made flavors, but we did enjoy several dishes and never really had a bad meal. The lunch buffet was much weaker than Celebrity’s offering and failed to provide freshly made sandwiches in the buffet line. The bright spot was the pool grill which always served up freshly grilled chicken, burgers and hot dogs. They were yummy and a nice alternative. Our cabin was well located on the port side of the ship forward. This gave us easy access to the pool, spa, buffet and showroom. But in all candor, there really isn’t a bad balcony cabin on the Royal, as her size makes it a breeze to walk from bow to stern in about two minutes. Great location - Port side and towards the front of the ship - Cabin was close to pool, buffet, theater and spa. Ample space but short on drawer space. Television programming needs to be updated. Bathroom was small but functional. We never felt crowded and the small ship ambiance gave us a chance to actually get to know some of our fellow passengers. Our balcony cabin was quite comfortable and large enough to give us room to move about. The television entertainment was weak and again fell short of the new Celebrity ships which offer interactive TV and on demand movies. This isn’t very important on short sailings but for two weeks and over, these sorts of amenities do make a difference. We also liked the fact there was a laundry room on Deck 7 which was convenient to freshen up our clothing. The entertainment was VERY WEAK. Because of her size, the theater wasn’t very impressive and limited the scale of the productions that could be produced. We stayed away from most of the shows as they really were not very good. But all the other pluses of the Royal more than made up for some of the detractions. While we were quite pleased we were not hassled throughout the day with dreadful loud speaker reminders of trivia and bingo games, we found there wasn't much to do on the ship for our age group. There we several good lectures on destinations, but when it came to music and entertainment, it was geared to the 65+ crowd and left much to be desired. If you enjoy the spa, I highly recommend you wait until the second week of your cruise. It was evident that as the days past, the Spa’s marketing efforts accelerated with specials and promotions that were actually very attractive deals. The Royal offers a hydro-therapy salt water pool within the spa we did not find it worth the $25 per couple per day fee. We always book our own land activities. We have been lucky to find dependable taxi drivers who will either give us a local tour or take us to a hotel with a beach where we willingly pay a day charge to use the beach, chairs and the bar. We have always found the ship’s excursions to be far too expensive. When booking your own tours, you can sight-see with privacy without fifty other passengers. Just make sure you ask for a driver who speaks good English! We spent out pre-cruise night at the Tropical Manaus Business Hotel. It is the best property in the city, which is a sad statement, but none the less true. I recommend the Business Hotel rather than the leisure side of the property. The price is less and the tower rooms are newer and offer nice views. The hotel is older and needs renovation, but like I said, it’s the best in town. We found our own tour from the hotel desk in Manaus. We enjoyed a short boat trip to a real Indian village along the Amazon which included tribal dances with topless Indian dancers. (Not those kind of dances) Our last cruise was on Celebrity’s Solstice during a New Year’s cruise. While we have always loved Celebrity and have another cruise already booked on Equinox, we found that holiday cruises on the larger ships are just too much of a headache. Too many young kids, the need to seek out and lay claim to a poolside chair due to the crowds, just don’t sit well with us. We are both in our mid 50’s and have already done the vacations with our own children and we much prefer the serenity of kid free cruising. On the Royal Princess, even though we cruised over the holidays, we found few children and we never had to rise early to secure a lounge chair at the pool. The Good Stuff: GREAT SERVICE. We really enjoyed our dining room waiter George from Romania as well as our Cabin Steward, whose name is also George and is also from Eastern Europe. They among many other crew members consistently delivered top notch service and they were a pleasure to be around for two weeks. The itinerary was remarkable. It was almost as if we had taken two distinctly different cruises. The first week was spent on the calm and very warm Amazon, with all of the fascinating ports it had to offer. The second week was more your typical Caribbean itinerary, so it was really the best of both worlds. In Summary: My wife and I truly had a wonderful two week vacation. I would highly recommend this itinerary to those over 40 who are traveling without kids. If you are seeking a party till you puke type of experience, this cruise is NOT for you. However, if you are seeking a relaxing two weeks with an opportunity to see a part of the world few will ever see, then I highly recommend this cruise.

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Sep 28, 2009

Holy Land

This is the letter that I wrote Princess Customer Relations, stating our issues with the cruise. When I inquired today they are stating that it can take up to 4 weeks to hear back. I recently completed a 12 day cruise on the Royal Princess in the Holy Land. I have traveled with Princess a total of 98 days and currently hold a Platinum Status in your customer loyalty program. I have three items that I would like to bring to your attention:

1. The dissatisfaction that we had with one of our tours. 2. The discrepancies that we discovered in booking with Princess as compared to others that booked through as travel agent. 3. What we were told repeatedly on the Royal Princess concerning service ratings. ============================================================================ 1. We signed up for the Galilee and Nazareth tour when in the port of Haifa through Princess. Our tour Guide, Diana, was by far the least qualified guide we have had in our decade of cruising with your company. A majority if not all of the people participating in the tour were interested in visiting and understanding the historical/religious significance of various sites. The guide gave us very little information about the religious sites and only gave a very limited time in each site (less than 20 minutes). I became very agitated when she rushed us through the Mount of the Beatitudes, The Church of the Multiplication and Capernaum then allowed us one hour and fifteen minutes to shop in a kibbutz. She stood by the register and monitored the purchase activity which made me as well as others suspect that she was receiving money for the items purchased by our group. When we congregated back to the bus, several (5 or more) of the tour group complained vocally that they had travelled 6000+ miles to see and understand the important Holy Sites and that they did not make the trip to shop for souvenirs. Diana (Tour Guide) responded back that it was Princess and her Tour Company Management that decide on the duration on each stop, and that she was following instructions. She then continued to discuss what she had been talking about all day which was the superiority of the Israel over Syria, and how the Syrians will destroy all of the progress if lands are returned. In Nazareth we were again rushed through the Holy Site, and to my and many other's disbelief we were then taken to another store in which she knew the owner to have more shopping time. At that point all of the discussions were among the tour participants as we stood on the street waiting for the bus having no interest in buying souvenirs. Diana was posted by the cash register monitoring sales. I total we spent more time shopping then we did visiting key religious and historical sites. I went back and read the tour description and it certainly made it seem like the concentration of the tour would be visiting the sites, not shopping. In contrast I took the Jerusalem and Bethlehem tour the next day when in Ashdod and was impressed by the tour and the guides ability to give you the significant relevance of every site from a Christian, Jewish and Muslim point of view. Once back on the ship I registered a complaint in writing to the tour office and received a reply that informed me that they had made an inquiry to the tour company and had received no information back yet. They also provided me this e-mail address to write to once I returned home. This is the first time that I have complained about a tour and was surprised at the lack of ability to take a complaint to resolution on the ship. In conclusion I feel that I was robbed of my time in a situation where time was extremely valuable. 2. We travelled with another couple who booked through a travel agency instead of the method that I used which was through my princess representative. Prior to my final payment being due, I received a promotion from princess concerning balcony upgrades. I called and was told that even though my voyage was listed in the promotion it was not available for our sailing. During the cruise we were asked by the couple the price we paid for our rooms and we were both shocked to find out they had paid significantly less for their room which was identical to ours. They then described that they had booked a room and then used a promotion to upgrade to a balcony for a small fee. This was right in line for what I had called about and was told it did not apply to our sailing. In addition the travel agent provided them with a coupon book with savings on such things as portraits and promotional casino certificates for match play. Their travel agent also gave them certificates for two bottles of wine. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that booking through Princess is not economical and does not provide us with promotional items that the other travel agencies have. Looking at the positive side of this, we have since talked to their travel agent, and booked our next cruise at a far more aggressive deal then was offered by your Future Cruise Consultant on board for the same Itinerary. Unfortunately for you we will be sailing our 14 day Asian cruise with Oceana. 3. The last item that I would like to bring to your attention was the directions that we were given by our wait staff as well as the cruise director. During your 2nd formal night the Lobster was very salty and one of our table mates requested something else. The waiter quickly rushed off and got her another lobster with the same results. Our dining partner told our waiter that she would pass on the main course. The waiter was visibly shaken and asked us to stay behind so that she could talk to us. She pleaded that we did not mark anything but excellent on the evaluation form and only write a comment on the back about the Lobster. I thought at the time that maybe our waiter was under some evaluation and could not afford anything but an excellent rating. I was surprised to then watch our cruise director expand on this in his daily Television show. He stated that in addition we should think of the excellent rating as being only good service and strongly encouraged the passengers only giving the excellent mark. I, as others, was surprised at this comment by the cruise director. How can the Royal Princess improve as a service organization if all of the surveys are being marked as excellent? Overall the service was good, not the service of Princess 5 years ago, but still good, but certainly not excellent. I am writing this e-mail as a once loyal customer to Princess and as someone who was torn at having to choose another cruise line for my next cruise. The food as usual on princess was good. The two exceptions were the first night where the meal had no taste and the 2nd formal night where a table mate ordered the Lobster and could not eat it as it was too salty. The waiter brought her a replacement with the same result. Our Waiter and Assistant Waiter were good, but for those who sailed with Princess 5 years ago know that the service is not the same. The stateroom was fine. The only complaint with the cleanliness, was there was mold in our shower. As usual the steward provided good service. The comedian/musician was very entertaining. The other shows were not to our liking. Again overall Princess offers a good mid level cruising experience, but is trending down. If you are accustom to the Princess Service of 5 years ago, then you will probably be dissapointed.

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Feb 7, 2005

Valparaiso to Buenos Aires

We selected this cruise for its destinations. We were not disappointed. Here are onboard activities that we liked. The food was good except for the Danish, which tasted like donuts. Alana and Gav, the ballroom dancing instructors, were the best teachers we’ve seen. The top-level exercise room is well-equipped with an excellent view. The schedule

of movies in Oscar contention was excellent. We appreciated having church services on board. Tours generally cost at least twice what they would if arranged independently. All the tours we took were good, but the best were the Sparrow Cove penguin tour in the Falklands and the penguin tour at Puerto Madryn/Punto Tombo. The smell was not bad at either location. The Sparrow Cove tour was outstanding because our small groups allowed direct interaction with the juvenile Gentoo penguins who approached us and chewed on us with their relatively soft beaks. The Puerto Madryn excursion was memorable because we saw the Magellanic penguins close-up in their burrows, and at a distance surfing in the ocean. We enjoyed spotting guanacos as the bus approached Punto Tombo. There’s something wrong in the taxi arrangements at the ports. At Punta Arenas, the contract taxis at the dock charged $8 for a ride that was $2 when arranged in the city. At Buenos Aires, I asked why it would cost $10 to travel one mile. Joe May, the port commentator, said that the taxis paid $7 to come inside the gates. He also told passengers that the fare to the airport would be $45 from the port. We found that the airport fare from hotels that were close to the port was only $13. Be forewarned that traveling north in the Atlantic toward the Falkland Islands can be a rough trip. If you are prone to motion sickness, take preventative medicine. The Princess medical office does not recommend the patch, and the doctor said that Bonine and Dramamine don’t always work. He advised taking promethazine theoclate tablets at the first sign of discomfort and gives an injection of promethazine hydrochloride to solve the problem.

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Oct 19, 2004

New York to Montreal

For those who live on the west coast, and are to catch the ship on the east coast, the toughest part of the vacation is getting to the ship, especially when one relies on Princess Cruises for every sort of transportation. I'm sure it must be true of most cruise lines, but it was not always so. In days of yore, flights were arranged the day before, and usually were non-stop. One was put up at a hotel from which transportation was arranged to the

ship on the day of sailing, or, was met by a representative of the cruise line at the airport who saw to the transfer directly to the ship. Either way, it was a pretty sweet deal. Not so anymore. The season for the area we were to traverse was another disadvantage because we were not favored by good weather. In New England and Canada the end of October days are shorter, and the nights longer. We hoped to see the fall colors for which the region is known, but there was more color in our western hometown. Except for one day, we didn't see the sun at all. We drove from our Home in Paso Robles, CA to the Hacienda Hotel in LA. where we had arranged to leave our car as a result of agreeing to spend the night of October 31 (upon our return). We were driven to and from the Hotel to LAX, a most convenient courtesy for which the driver was well tipped. We have lived in Paso Robles twenty-two years, and seldom do we get much rain, if any, till december or even as late as February, but we drove through two cloud-bursts on I-5 on the way to LA. We had to slow to 50 mph to avoid planing on the water build-up on the pavement. Otherwise the drive was made without incident. We arrived at the Hacienda Hotel at 6:30 PM, and were taken to the airport at 8:30, that allowed us time to have a bite to eat. The airport was chaotic, but we managed to check our large bag, and were then sent to go through security where the fun began. People were everywhere, and most seemed to be trying to pry their way into line ahead of us. We were led to believe they had to catch an earlier flight. We obtained our boarding passes via the Internet, but no one bothered to tell us that the gate had been changed. We were pulled from that line and told to go to another gate about 1/4 of a mile away. We were toting three bags of carry on luggage. We were subjected to three security checks at this gate, and I was putting on my shoes for the last time, when someone realized we didn't belong there. No, we belonged 1/4 of a mile away in the direction from whence we had come. When we arrived, it was like entering a whirlpool of humanity. Time was running short. Our flight was due to leave at 10:55PM, and we had to go through the entire security thing again. I was fit to be tied. I found a chair and was putting on my shoes for the last time when an employee told me I must move on. I finished putting on my shoes! Boarding had already begun when we got to the counter, and my wife was able to ask for bulkhead seats, and got them because I am somewhat disabled. We were told to board immediately since our section had already been called. Finally, we stowed our carry on luggage, and took our seats, there to remain till the wee hours of the morning where we were scheduled to change planes in Cincinnati for Newark, New Jersey. At Newark we had a three hour layover before the PRINCESS busses arrived to deliver us to the ship at its dock in New York; time enough to have breakfast in the terminal after picking up our luggage. GOOD NEWS! we had no problem with our luggage at all. I had never been to New York, so the trip by bus to the dock was all I could hope for. The canyons of the city were something to behold. Streets looked like pencils beneath the overwhelming heights of the high rises. Cops rode horses whose steeds were as calm as could be. Vendors pushed carts on which were wares for sale to the general public. Traffic flows were as much as the normal mind could fathom, as jaywalkers, along with the vendors and police vied for space. We crossed bridges, and travelled beneath ground through one tunnel that could have been a mile long. We drove through Manhattan, the theater district, and down 42nd street where 'the boys,' according to the lyrics were told, 'that we would soon be there.' Confusion and chaos reigned supreme, or so it seemed to me. I was glad I was not driving. Suddenly we were at the dock in front of a warehouse next to which was docked the REGAL PRINCESS. Here we were made to understand the wharf-gang would take over, unload the luggage from the bus that owners must identify before the gang would place it on dollies to be pushed to the reception point for transfer to the ship. It was a 'courtesy' for which we were expected to pay. To add an element of authenticity to the whole, one member of the gang asked to see our passports and a photo id before we got off the bus. It was a ruse, but we were hardly in a position not to go along. We got by with a 'tip' of just $2.00. Then came the security check before we could board the ship. Names were checked against the register, and compared with cruise tickets; visas and photo id was checked again before we were sent forward to the gangplank. As we stepped aboard the ship, all were required to be photographed and an identifying bargraph became part of our boarding pass for going from and returning to the ship. Then finally we began to be treated with the respect and courtesy to which we had become accustomed during past voyages. We were given keys to our cabin that, when opened, revealed that our luggage had beat us to it. The nice thing about cruising is that you unpack once, and pack again only when the cruise is about to end. Even our inside cabin was sufficiently large to allow for plenty of closet space and room to relax. At 70,000 tons, the REGAL PRINCESS is truly large. I didn't bother to try to take it all in. The library is a laugh, far too small, about the size of an overgrown walk-in closet. I guess I have outgrown the 'big' production shows, and I'm not a movie buff, but I do like to write. In the climate, an open deck was less than inviting. The best place was the Lido restaurant, but the hungry chased me from there, as they had a right to do. I found most of the chairs less than comfortable wherever they were found, and tables on which to put my writing material was better suited for drinkers. Compared to the ROYAL PRINCESS at 40,000 tons, I felt the REGAL left much to be desired. On the other hand, the service, courtesy, and attitude of the staff were outstanding. I was generally disappointed with the public rooms, probably because neither I nor my wife drink or smoke, and these areas seem designed to accommodate those who do. Food was very good both in the Lido and the dinning room. Our waiter, Julio, from Mexico City, and Nekki, from India, were delightful. Public restrooms abound, and seem to be situated on the starboard side for men and the port for the ladies, always very clean. I prefer smaller ships about the size of the ROYAL, but it is simply a personal quirk. Usually, I like to check out the layout of the ship early, but not this time. THE REGAL WAS DOCKED. ALMOST DIRECTLY ACROSS FROM WEEHAUKEN ON THE NEW JERSEY SHORE WHERE AARON BURR AND ALEXANDER HAMILTON FOUGHT THEIR DUEL. The cruise was preceded by a storm with rain and considerable wind that robbed the foilage of its hoped-for beauty. There was more color in Paso Robles, than in the entire Northeast. We sailed every night; it was dark by the time we finished eating at the first seating, and had docked by the time we had breakfast the next morn. Until we left Halifax and had skirted southern reaching shoals, the sea was choppy, and tended to shake the ship in a manner reminiscent of the earthquake we had in Paso Robles less than a year previously. Thereafter the seas moderated and one would hardly know he was at sea; that is sailing north into the gulf of St. Lawrence, up the river to the Saguenay River, and return, before continuing on to Quebec City, and eventually to Montreal. From New York we sailed past a fog-muted Statue of Liberty, and were anchored in Newport RI the next morning where we were tendered to shore. I was more impressed by the fact that to our east was Buzzard Bay and the mouth of the Acushnet River that leads to Fairhaven, Mass, where Captain Joshua Slocum rebuilt the SPRAY that he eventually sailed alone around the world over a period of three years, 1893-96. The spray was 7+ tons gross compared to the REGAL'S 70,000 tons. Newport was blanketed with fog with a low ceiling that was chilly and drippy. Everything that could be seen was a neutral gray quite in keeping with nearly all the ports we visited. I saw no purpose in going ashore, but was persuaded by my wife to be tendered to the wharf in the afternoon. I didn't stay as long as did she. I get a bit anxious about my wife whose middle name is 'late,' but after 40 years of marriage I've learned there is not much I can do about it. I checked with the port authority, and was told, that should she miss the boat, she could catch a bus that would deliver her to Boston in an hour and a half. Fortunately, it didn't come to that. We were frequently at dinner when the REGAL sailed that lent a degree of excitement to our experience for a night or two when we were buffeted by 40K winds and choppy seas that caused us to dock in Boston later than expected. We walked to the OLD NORTH CHURCH (you know, 'one if by land, and two if by sea,' or vice versa, courtesy of Paul Revere), that was a greater challenge than we had anticipated. It was virtually impossible to get to point B from Point A because of the construction downtown. I made a mental note of a clock tower as a landmark that would take us to the spot where we were to be picked up for the return trip to the ship. By focusing on it, we managed to avoid detours and get aboard the warm 'trolley' in plenty of time to return to the ship. The REGAL had docked in Boston, and had to back out into a turn-basin in order to sail past Logan Airport, through light-marked channels and out to sea. It didn't go as planned. At dinner, I noticed the ship moving slowly forward to loosen the securing lines that had to be cast off. Then the ship moved in reverse with the object of entering the turn-basin, but not for long. The captain explained over the PA-system that strong winds had scuttled his good intentions by pushing the REGAL to the other side of the slip where, fortunately, no ship was currently docked. Tugs were called to assist in the maneuver, but we were becalmed - so to speak - for some two hours. Night had fallen, and Boston reminded me of San Francisco with its lights and hills draped in darkness. From the Lido Deck we watched as the REGAL was swung around in the basin near the Logan Airport approach lights. Finally, we moved forward under our own power, red lights to starboard and green or blue to port to mark the channels through which we must pass to reach the safety of the sea. And, so to bed. Dinner and another night's sailing was a repeat of the night before as the REGAL bore away for Bar Harbor, Me., passing GLOUSCESTER to the east. What struck me most were the lateral jerks of the ship as, presumably, it was struck broadside in the chop of the sea. The cabin creaked, and my wife said she did not sleep well under those conditions. In south-America, the ROYAL PRICESS plunged and lept in heavy seas. I don't recall experiencing the lateral jerks of the REGAL before it anchored in a cozy cove at Bar Harbor. The tender rides were quite comfortable, but the weather remained breezy and chill. The arrival of the REGAL marked the end of the tourist season at Bar Harbor that was hunkering down for the winter. One could enjoy the scene from the ship over a cup of coffee or at breakfast as the ship swung gently to its anchor, head to the wind, or was pushed by the tide. There must be a coast guard station at Bar harbor, too, since a small cutter circled the REGAL several times soon after our arrival. Near our anchorage I thought I saw some reefs, but they turned out to be breakwaters that were obvious at low tide. The harbor had several small tree-lined islands that, when the surf was up, lent their neclaces of white to a pleasant scene gazed upon by estates or vacation villas from the safety of the shore. This obviously was a vacationer's paradise, but it was practically deserted at this time of the year. Breakers added a touch of elegance to the larger shoreline below, and I could only imagine how a bit of sun would have added to the beauty of the scene. There was a minor maze of small boats through which the REGAL'S tenders had to weave to reach the dock. I think they must have been lobster boats. Gray skies are a disappointing backdrop to what must surely be an idyllic spot at another time of year. This day one's imagination must come to the rescue, and so it does. We had also arrived in the area of extreme tides with a rise and fall of dozens of feet. From the shore, I took a picture of the ship that seemed almost to be resting too near the rock for comfort, an illusion I meant to accentuate. My wife was leading me down a path she had walked earlier, and where I was able to get several pictures of doubtful interest. The fog had lifted somewhat, and we were finally able to see some fall color, much of which had been hidden or eliminated by the force of wind and/or rain. Our next landfall would be in New Brunswick Canada at St. John. St. John is located on the southern shore of New Brunswick overlooking the Bay of Fundy near its mouth. From Bar Harbor to St. John was a very smooth sail. The seas had moderated considerably. We docked at high tide, and sailed on another high tide that can vary as much as 32 feet. I really liked the people. Their sense of humor corresponded nicely with my own. I take a diuretic that requires that I make a pill-run periodically, and when we came upon a government house during our walk, I stopped to ask if there was a public restroom. The answer I received was 'yes.' After some hesitation, and having been down this road before, I asked, 'and might you tell me where they are?' He could not have been more obliging, and we both got a chuckle out of it. The village rises from the dock upward several blocks to the top of the hill. Rather than walk up the hill, we entered the market at the end of the street, and rode escalators to the various levels one of which led through the city hall. The market was something to behold. I don't recall ever seeing so many beautiful vegetables. The place was spotless, and each elevation had its own character, such as a department store and, as I said, the city hall. Town houses are the dwelling du jour in St. John, each with a span of perhaps twenty feet, and solidly packed among others along an entire block. As we stood admiring one, the lady of the house opened her door and, my wife hearing dog-sounds from within, asked if she could see the dog. No problem. Indeed, we were invited into the house itself and given a tour of a most curious, but delightful abode. Such is the nature of the people that if you show an interest in them and their lifestyle, they go out of their way to be friendly. I took a picture of her on her door stoop as we left, but I have not the hint of an idea what her name may be. I only know that she was grand. At the dock, before we could enter, we had to show our ships permit as well as a picture ID for security purposes. For the latter, I used my driver's license that I had in my wallet, and kidded with the attendant that I wanted it back when he was through with it. He took my jibe in the spirit intended, and we made a joke of it that put us both to laughing. My kind of guy. Attitude, architecture and character were the hallmarks of a visit not easily forgotten. We found this to be true in all the Canadian ports of call. Sailing time from St. John was 3:00 PM to take advantage of the outgoing tide. At 2:00 pm I saw a small tidal bore, where the outgoing tide overrides what remains of the incoming tide. It was not large, but clearly noticible. I may have seen others, but this was the first time I recognized what I was seeing, and I was pleased. Except for rounding the western end of Nova Scotia, the sail to Halifx was downright smooth. During the night we passed Briar Island, the childhood home of Capt. Slocum, and Cape Sable from which he took leave of land and sailed alone with the SPRAY into the Atlantic Ocean. These are places about which I had read, but relied upon my imagination to perceive. In these latitudes, the nights are long, and it was long dark before we cleared either Briar Island or the Sable Cape. I was in no hurry to get up after such a pleasant night's sleep, but when I did I saw the GRAND PRINCESS docked beside us in Halifax. There was just a hint of sunshine, but it didn't last, and the day became another gray and windy one as always. Old town was remeniscent of St. John except that it was wrapped in layers of new construction, and was evident by the many steeples that rose from within; always a pretty sight, with a sizable high rise as a backdrop for contrast. Horse drawn trollies and double-decker busses were used for tours, but again, fog limited the amount of color we expected to see, although it was high enough to allow for a fuller view of of the town itself. The REGAL sailed a half hour later than scheduled to accommodate two passengers returning late to the ship, then exited the port into moderately rough seas southward to skirt a layer of shoals. Later that night, when we headed east, then north about the shoals, the sea calmed, and the rest of the cruise was most relaxing as we headed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence and into the mouth of the river that in two days would deliver us to Quebec where we were to arrive the night of October 28. The late arrival of the REGAL in Quebec was due to the cruising of the Saguenay River that empties its flow into the St. Lawrence from the north. A pilot was taken aboard at the mouth of the river who guided the ship some distance to where someone had erected a 29 foot high statue of the Virgin Mary high upon a bluff on the west side of the canyon. At this point the ship was slowly turned while 'Ave Maria' was sung over the PA-system five or six times before the REGAL began its retreat down the canyon to pick up the St. Lawrence River again. The Saguenay was an interesting detour if for no other reason than that the sun began to shine. Some may have taken it to be an omen. I was reminded of the story of Adam and Eve, especially the name of Eve that in the Meditterean tongue would be pronounced Eva. The point of interest here is that the connotation of Eva is associated with evil, and it was the tendency of old to change the perception of evil by reverse-spelling that would convert Eva (evil) into its opposite "Ave," to connote good, the Virgin, and Mother of God. I could not but wonder how many listeners were aware of the meaning of the words they heard? At the mouth of the Saguenay, our pilot was left and another taken aboard to complete our approach to Quebec. Quebec is derived from an Indian word meaning "where the river narrows." To the west of the city is the only bridge that spans the river, and our departure from the dock was timed so as to allow the REGAL to pass under the span since the river is yet part of the tidal sequence of the sea. It looked to me as if the top of the ship missed the bridge by a matter of feet. The day spent in Quebec was the only day the sun shone on the entire trip. It couldn't have happened at a better time. It was the highlight of the cruise. Quebec has a population of some 660,000 souls, very few of whom live or work in what is called the old section on a level with the dock and beneath a bluff upon which the rest of the city is constructed, not counting suburbs. Considering how little time there was to investigate, the convenience of the town could not have been better. I was particularly impressed by the layout of the city within the immediate vicinity of the ship. And the arcitecture was dramatic to say the least. Alleys were devoted to the display of art, and street artists busied themselves drawing likenesses of those who would pay for the privilege. Streets were winding rather than laid out in rectangles all of which lent themselves to the charm of one of the most charming cities it was my good fortune to visit. It was also very clean. Suffice it to say that I was properly impressed. I am seventy-five years old, and if the U.S. should decide to re-impose the draft, Quebec would be the fisrt place I would consider as an asylum. One could spend days exploring. Between the upper bluff and the lower village is a steep bank adorned with trees in autumn hues. The pace of life at mid-day is modest, and unlike New York city, the skyline reveals an artistic quality of architectural structures independent of each other. The REGAL sailed promptly at 4:00 pm, and we arrived in Montreal on the 30th of October, 2004. We were disembarked early the morning of the 31st. which gave us time to explore Montreal most of the 30th, except for time needed to pack. Montreal was dull when compared with Quebec, and the return of overcast skies, and even some rain, did nothing to dispel the impression. I was about walked out, so we shared a horse drawn surrey with another couple for a tour of an hour; $30.00 Canadian for them, and $25.00 US for us. I suspect this is where I caught what I have concluded was my annual cold. Naturally, I shared with my wife, but she handled it far better than did I. In the hour we spent in the surrey,we saw more than ever we could have on foot. Frankly, I was about out of gas. My age, and the effect of three back operations were taking their toll. The architecture was not unlike that in Quebec, but the buildings seemed more a mixture of the old and the new. Had not the driver pointed out the distinctions, I might very well have missed them. Then again, without some space in which to express themselves individually, buildings tend to take on a oneness that in Montreal was lost in a universal greyness. Having once had a horse ranch of our own, I found myself more intersted in the interaction of driver and steed. When the street steepened for a block, the horse surprised me when it broke into a trot to provide impetus for the pull. In another instance, the driver had only to speak in undertones to get an immediate response from the horse.. I was reminded of the many times I worked to get horses to respond to word commands. So, I was not surprised, but rather pleased at how well this driver and horse worked together. In Montreal the CHRYSTAL SYMPHONY was docked also, a ship of another line about the size of the REGAL. It was the end of the season for both ships in these waters. To the west of Montreal are the Great Lakes, and so it is that cruise ships reverse course at this port. The REGAL would be on its final cruise-leg ending in Miami where it would go into dry dock for a couple of weeks before plying the Caribbean. Disembarkation went tolerably well, and we were driven by bus to the Airport where we arrived about 10:00 am. We were scheduled to fly from there to O'hare in Chicago for a change of planes to LAX. The plane from Montreal was not scheduled to leave till about 5:00 pm. Consequently, there was little incentive for boarding passes to be issued with dispatch. I eventually had to resort to a wheelchair after which I received kind consideration during the security check-in. I was surprised to learn that we were to go through U.S. Customs at the Montreal Airport as well. From this point on, had it not been for my cold, our troubles were virtually over, or so we thought. We arrived late at O'hare, and found ourselves scrambling to make our flight to LAX. My cold must have affected my inner ear so that in the process of removing a carry-on bag from the overhead, I lost my balance that cost me a black-eye. I can only imagine that I must have infected every passenger on the flight to LAX, but I hope I didn't. We had not eaten since morning, and it was now after 7:00 pm. The rest rooms and snack bar were essentials we hoped not to miss, but the plane came first. Fortunately, another plane was in our gate, and until it could be pushed out of the way, we could not board. We barely succeeded in every regard, but were in our seats just minutes before takeoff. We arrived LAX an hour late, and transferred to the Hacienda Hotel via its courtesy, but didn't get to bed till 12:30 am. We checked out at 11:30 am, had breakfast in it's café, loaded the luggage into the car that my wife retrieved, and headed home swearing that we would never go through such an orderal again. It has been a full two weeks since we got home, and I suspect I still have another two to go before I am over my cold, Thank God for the antibiotic (just in case), and the cough syrup prescribed by my doctor. A finalword if only to prove that our experience was not the worst. Several passengers became ill during the cruise and were confined to their cabins without so much as the touted cabin service when it comes to feed. We saw a lady who had gone to the Lido Café to get something for her husband to eat, and was carrying it to him covered with a napkin, Compare his plight with that of ours, and we came out smelling like a rose.. Kenneth G. Ramey

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Apr 7, 2004

Manaus to Rome

Have a great adventure and remember be a traveler not a tourist. On this voyage, we were a group of four, my sister, my mom, my aunt & myself. We are all addicted cruisers because we think it’s a very civilized way to see the world. I had never been to any of these ports previously. We have been on at least ten cruises each. Also we do not understand the meaning of traveling light therefore, we had an abundance of luggage. It started out

being just my sister and I on this trip. We booked it 9 months before and used the time well to do an abundance research. A few weeks before the trip departed, I asked my mom and aunt to join us when I saw an e-mail come out with discounted pricing. I asked if they were interested around noon and by the time I came home from work around dinner they had both decided they were in. The trip we had was absolutely one of the best (of course, I say this every time). We have been on Princess many times and were worried about the changes coming in since the Carnival take over. This cruise was just the one we needed to get our loyalty back in check. We loved everything from the ports & excursions to the onboard service and staff. I may make some negative comments along the way not to complain, but more for an advantage to those who are reading to make necessary changes. Before you go: · This trip had a lot of extras to do such as medications, vaccines and a Brazilian Visa. · Make sure you fill in the passenger questionnaires on cruise line website prior – so the info will be already there when you check in · We brought some currency of the embarkation port. So we would have some handy cash. Actually I brought enough Brazilian Reals for the length of our stay in Brazil because I read that our ATMs and Brazil’s are not too compatible and it is hard to get money. I did notice while we were there, there are plenty of exchange bureaus and we did use them but I try to avoid the unfavorable exchange rates. · Brazilian Reals pronounced ‘hey-ow’ singular or ‘hey-ice’ plural was about 3 Reals to the US dollar. In this report if I mention dollars I am speaking in USD. We Canadians are so used to converting our dollars that I never think in terms of CDN dollars when abroad. · Be careful of the older bank notes, often if the notes are out of circulation they will not be accepted. Therefore, if you get one that doesn’t look like the others, don’t accept it. I had a similar problem in London with an older 20 British Pound note. · The Amazon region wasn’t as rainy and bug ridden as I expected. I expected a lot of both. In fact, when we went in April it wasn’t rainy at all. However, it was still very humid as you would expect in a rainforest. Bring light breathable clothes and a light rainwear. It is muddy so bring good shoes that cover your feet. I went as far as bringing a bug hat and never had the need to put it on. Some good bug repellent with Deet is all you need and cover yourself in it when going out into the jungle. MEDICATIONS & VACCINES We had to book an appointment with a travel doctor specializing in what meds you need to visit different countries. We had to get a vaccine for yellow fever in order to embark the ship in the Amazon. I already had the booster with includes tetinaus as well as the hepititis vaccine mine was called ‘Twinrix’. We also took an oral vaccine for cholera put out by Aventis but I can’t remember the name. Also an anti-malarial drug called malarone. Pretty much everything was covered by my Health Insurance at work (even the vaccine) so I got what I needed. The only thing that was mandatory was the Yellow Fever Vaccine. I would suggest going to www.cdc.gov/travel or www.travel.state.gov to check out requirements. Here's the website with information about the visa we need before going on the Amazon trip. http://www.brasilemb.org/consular_visa_tourism.shtml Brazilian visas were needed to enter Brazil. There are a few ways to obtain the visas, your travel professional can assist, you can use a visa service or prepare the forms and go to the consulate in person. You can get the forms from the Internet and print them off and complete them, you need a passport-type photo taken and a money order. If you live close to a city where there is an Embassy it is probably easiest to bring it and pick it up in person. The Brazilian visa took ten working days to process and it is valid for five years. We used our Air Canada points for the open jaw air flights. The Princess air rates were very competitive. If we didn’t get the flights ‘free’ on points (and I use that term loosely), we would have booked through Princess. My Mother and Aunt used the Princess air and they had a flight to Fort Lauderdale with a mandatory overnight at the Embassy Suites FL. The next day Princess flew everyone down to Manaus on a charter flight via ‘World Airlines’. There was probably about 2 or 3 charter flights to Manaus. They said they enjoyed their flights down as well as the stay at the Embassy Suites in Fort Lauderdale. APRIL 4TH DEPART TORONTO TO SAO PAULO BRAZIL We left on our flight to Sao Paulo at about 10:30pm. The flight was about half full so we got to spread out a bit. Since the flight was direct (about 10 hours) they must use a large plane because of the fuel requirement. The flight was uneventful and outside the window there was a beautiful full moon to gaze at. APRIL 5TH ARRIVE SAO PAULO BRAZIL I remember the sunrise being spectacular (as they always are at altitude). We were arriving in Sao Paulo about 9am so we were flying past the Amazonia region at dawn. The area is so vast and the rivers were immense. It was hard to believe we were passing the Amazon overhead and by that night we would be back. My sister Lisa and I work for the same corporation and we have plants in South America so some of the people at work who have been to Sao Paulo had said to make sure we had windows in order to look out at the Amazon region. It went on for over an hour on the flight and the jungle was dense. We could have flown into Rio instead of Sao Paulo. We choose Sao Paulo because I may never get back to see this city and being a city of approx. 22 million people it is the largest city in South America and the 3rd largest city in the world. I know Mexico City is one of the three but I couldn’t think of the other. I figured I would have to get to Rio on another trip. I also knew it wasn’t going to be a city I would be satisfied seeing in one afternoon. Since Lisa and I still work, time was a constant problem with this itinerary. We were pushing it to be away the 3.5 weeks as it was. We couldn’t get any more time to go to Rio. It will just have to be a future trip. When we were descending down to Sao Paulo, it was a fabulous sight. I am just in awe of these South American cities so huge and so many high rises. There was a mass of buildings all nestled in and around the mountains, it was so beautiful. We booked the use of a day room that way we had a place to hang around and leave our luggage if we wanted to go on a tour. Or we could also just laze by the pool. We stayed at the Marriott out by the airport. Like many big cities, the airport was about 40 min out of the city. We arrived at 9am and our flight to Manaus wasn’t until 8pm we wanted to be close to the airport because I was worried about being caught in afternoon rush hour from Sao Paulo. This way, if we wanted to see the city we could go on a tour from the hotel and be back in time to go to the airport and it would be very close. Usually we stay right in the city being visited but on this trip Sao Paulo was an added plus not a pre-requisite. We arrived and went through customs and we had to get a tourist card we had filled out stamped. We got our luggage and went to go look for the hotel shuttle. The hotel was very nice and the staff was friendly. English isn’t widely spoken at all so we struggled with our Portuguese but they were very accommodating. The hotel information is; Marriott –Day room Address: Av Monteiro Lobato S/N Guarulhos Sao Paulo BR 07190-000 Phone: 55 11-6468-6999 FAX: Phone: 55 11-6464-0594 Guarulhos has a population of 1.2 million and is 17km from Sao Paulo. It is 1 hour ahead of NY and around these parts of Brazil everyone (men & women) are very beautiful. After we got into our room, we went down to see the concierge about taking a tour. She was away on vacation and no one was taking her place so we decided to take a cab to a big mall I had read about. The International mall was about a 40min cab ride and cost about $30,00R (Brazilian Reals) about $10USD. The mall had a lot of stores and we walked around for a few hours. The main things I was looking to buy in Brazil was leather, leather shoes, Bossa Nova or other Brazilian CDs, and gem stones. We were not very lucky we found nothing we were interested in. By this point we were tired and them we came across the ‘Hypermercado’ something like WalMart. This was a great store that I wish we found right away. We bought some bottled water and drinks we needed for when we were in Manaus. You could buy liquor, wine and beer. I also found some CDs there. I knew they were going to be a crap shoot but they were really cheap $6,90R (about $1.30usd each) and I listened to them when I got home (3 weeks later) and I made some great choices. Now my feet were really killing me, we got a cab back to the hotel. It was so nice to take a shower and get into bed to relax before we had to back to the airport at 6pm for our 8pm flight. The weather in Sao Paulo that afternoon was 82F “Hot & Humid”!! It was very welcomed since we were leaving snow behind in Toronto. We got back to the airport by the hotel shuttle, it took a few minutes. At the airport we had to check in with Varig airlines at the domestic terminal and then we had to pay a departure tax. I can’t remember how much but less than R$10. Once we were through security, we went looking in the shops. We found a cool piranha fish key chain that we know someone at home would like and I found my Bossa Nova Cds. One thing I have learned through the years, if you find something you like ‘strike while the iron’s hot!!’ and buy it. In this case ‘yes’ the airport is more expensive, but we did not see any more piranha key chains or the Bossa Nova Cds. So I was very happy with my purchases. We then ate dinner at McDonalds. We had to check the quality control of the Big Macs in Brazil. They hit the spot! Since my sister and I both like window seats we usually sit apart from each other on the plane. I liked watching the lights of Sao Paulo as we left. I had mentioned about the anti-malaria drug I was taking called ‘Malarone’, well, it has the strangest side effects. A common side effect listed was vivid dreams. I didn’t have to be sleeping to have odd effects. Earlier in the day I heard an Avril Lavingne song playing in the mall. I couldn’t get the song out of my head. It was like an obsession and I felt very light headed and dazed the entire time on the drug. It was a little unsettling, I felt like I had malaria. Who needs to drink when you’re on that! The flight was right across Brazil so it was 4 hours. It seemed like an eternity, but that may have been the Malarone. However, during the flight you could see many flash thunderstorms around the region. The lightening put on a fantastic show. While we were in Manaus we made all of our tour needs through Luciana at Viverde. They offered many tour choices and even arranged our airport pickup and made the hotel reservations. I found her on the internet on one of the websites and we contacted them. Luciana was very prompt with her responses. In fact she responded first out of them all and that is how we came to use her services. We even called her and her English was perfect. She was very nice and she said that correspondence through e-mail would be the best way to organize what we needed in Amazonia. In total this is what they arranged for us -airport pickup -reservations at Manaus hotel for one night -meeting of the water tour (full day) -flightseeing tour over Amazon (1/2 hour) -private guided tour (full day) They offered many other tours and adventures. I couldn’t say enough about their service and tour selections. She gave us exactly what we needed and made very good suggestions. When our flight arrived at 11pm at Eduardo Gomes airport there was a girl waiting for us holding a sign with our name on it. That is always a very welcomed sight! Especially when you are tired, jet lagged and on Malarone. I was wondering how she was going to lift all our bags into the car? But when we got outside, there was a guy waiting with the van. We booked a non-guided airport pickup which means they don’t speak English. It was cheaper and we didn’t care. They spoke better English than we spoke Portuguese so we made very small, small-talk and we were off. They were very nice and welcoming to Manaus. They dropped us off at the Taj Mahal Hotel and we paid the driver R$ 50,00 + tip for the pickup. There are a few hotels in downtown Manaus, the Taj Mahal was one of them. I also remembered seeing the Novotel and a Best Western. I always am weary of hotels that don’t show photos of the hotel property and if they show one or two and it looks seedy or tired you know they are. They always show the best photos of the best configurations. The Taj Mahal looked better than the others and Luciana also recommended it so we stayed there. A few comments regarding the hotel. It was right downtown, so it was very close to downtown sights and the pier. It was just a few blocks east of the Opera House (Teatro Amazonas). The people that worked at the hotel were so sweet. Especially at the front desk and the bell boys that looked after dragging our luggage around and storing it for us the next day. The hotel is a high rise and we booked a deluxe room. It was more like a two star dorm than anything else. It was clean, but very sparse. It was fine for one night, but I was glad to be going to the ship and not staying there for a few nights. I have to stress there was nothing wrong with the hotel, but I was expecting a five star downtown hotel and it wasn’t. I don’t know where the ratings come from. There was other room options that were more expensive, so I would suggest taking a higher priced room perhaps. The room as it was, were very reasonably priced and it was worth the money we paid. This reminded me of a hotel that students would stay in. It reminded me of a dorm and there was lots of young adults there. There is another hotel option about 10-15 min away called the ‘Tropical Hotel’. It is the biggest hotel in Brazil and is a huge sprawling resort. It is right on the Rio Negro and is a five star that looks like a five star. Luciana also recommended that hotel, but then because we were coming in after midnight and leaving first thing in the morning on our tour, we decided on the TajMahal. The rate of one night at the Taj Mahal was R$ 142,50 + 10% (Subject to change) Payment: in cash or credit card on check-out. APRIL 6TH MANAUS BRAZIL Weather: Hot & Humid (80F & 80% respectively) We woke up early and checked out. Make sure you call for the bellhop far in advance because he is very busy and the elevator takes a long time. We stored our luggage with him so we could pick it up after our tour later on in the day. Breakfast was included with the room rate, it was a buffet but I only had some coffee and toast. Everything looked good and people seemed to be enjoying themselves. The tour operator picked us up in the lobby at about 8:30am. A van went around to all the pick up points and then dropped everyone off at the pier where we met the tour guide. The tour operator was called ‘Amazon Explorers’ and they were excellent. I think many of the tour brokers in Manaus use them as well as the ship tours. They have a kiosk in downtown Manaus not far from the pier as well at the Tropical Hotel. You can also book them through Luciana at Viverde, which is what we did. This particular tour took us to the Meeting of the Waters, Lake January and to see the giant lily pads as well as a jungle boat ride and hike. It was all day and included lunch for the price of R$ 70,00 each + R$ 3,00 harbor tax. We paid in local currency to the Amazon Explorer driver. The similar all-day tour with the ship called ‘Meeting of the Waters & Lake January’ cost $89 USD compared to ours which was less than $25USD and we had a great lunch buffet and the ship tour had a box lunch with a sandwich and fruit. Manaus was not what I was expecting. It was a very bustling city of 1.7 million. It is a duty free zone so you can do some shopping here if you desire. A woman we met on our tour was from SaoPaulo, she was a photographer and she bought a nice Nikon digital camera while in Manaus so you may want to check some stores. The general store hours are open 9am-noon, closed noon to 2pm and open again from 2pm –5pm. I was expecting more rain in the rainforest but it was a beautiful sunny day. We caught our tour riverboat right in front of the Royal Princess. She was a beautiful sight. Manaus is a city of tourism there is lots tours offered and lots of guides available. You can book ahead or find tours available right off the ship. There is no need to book ship excursions if you want to go on your own. The locals are very friendly, however, English is not widely spoken. Unless you are talking to a guide most will not know any English so bring your dictionary. Police, security guards and taxis will probably not know any English. AMAZON RIVER INFORMATION Our guide Ally was very knowledgeable on his facts but I could only write so fast, so take my facts and figures with a ‘grain of salt’. I didn’t verify them in the encyclopedia. In Manaus there is very much a population made up of city folk and then along the banks of the Amazon, the people are very much river dwellers. You can tell these people depend on the river for every facet of their life. The city folk drive their cars and live in high rises and go to work just like any other city. Those on the river banks and outlying areas, adapt to the river. Their houses are either up on stilts or float because the river water levels change so much between the dry and the rainy season. In July at the height of the rainy season, the water can be 15 feet higher then when we were there in April. The entire pier area is a floating pier to accommodate the changes in the water levels. The water depth at the pier was 105 ft. Down river at the meeting of the water it is 280 ft, remember, in July it is 15 feet higher than that. The gas stations are floating out in front of the harbor and the buses are riverboats. There are no highways leading to Manaus you can only get there by airplane or boat. It was cool that we did both. Manaus is located 1000 miles upriver from the Atlantic Ocean. So when we sailed from Manaus that is how far the Royal had to sail downstream to get back out to the Atlantic. In Manaus there are two main rivers the Rio Negro and the Amazon. They come together just down the river from Manaus. This is what is known as the ‘Meeting of the Waters’. The Rio Negro is the color of black coffee and comes down from Columbia. (As an aside: a far distance up the Rio Negro from Manaus is where the ‘Survivor Amazon’ took place if anyone watched it. The river boats they departed on, were the exact same type we took on our tours. The beginning of the show was all taped from Manaus.) The Rio Negro is very acidic and has a pH level almost of vinegar. They said not as many fish live in it and I could see why, however, they do have manatees in the Rio Negro. Up river where the ‘Tropical Hotel’ is, the river is 9km wide and down near Manaus it is between 2 and 6 kms. There a lot of long islands in the area so it looks like you are looking across the river but it is actually just an island. In the rainy season all these islands disappear in the high water levels. The Solimoes River comes from Peru and it is muddy. It looks like café au lait (coffee with milk). This is where the piranhas live. The widest part of the Amazon is at the delta at the Atlantic. It is 200 miles wide and the fresh muddy water actually goes out 200 miles into the Atlantic before it mixes. The Amazon Region has the largest supply of fresh water in the world and the Great Lakes are the second. These rivers are large and wide and also have many arms flowing out and in. I bought a map of the Amazonas region in Manaus and it is amazing to study. Back to the meeting of the waters. When the Solimoes and the Rio Negro meet to become the Amazon River they run side by side for 13 miles without mixing. It is absolutely fascinating! This is due to the fact they are very diverse in make up, speeds and temperature. Just as we were leaving Manaus towards the meeting of the waters we saw two pink dolphins. It mostly rains in the afternoon, so they told us it is better take tours in the morning. Just as we were taking our pictures of the meeting huge black clouds rolled in and there was a big storm. It made for fabulous shots of the black sky against the two different rivers. It rained for about 40 minutes and that was the last of the rain. After the meeting of the waters we steered down an arm of the river called the Solimoes. We went to a small outpost in the area of Lake January where we got off our river boat and there was a handicraft market and a restaurant. From there we took a walk through the jungle to a raised walking platform (like a dock). It was about 20 feet off the ground and remember, in the rainy season the water would be right up to the planks. At the end of the path was the ‘Vitoria Regia’ lily pads. They are easily 4 –5 feet in diameter and were fabulous. Seeing these lily pads have been on my list of ‘to dos’ for years. I saw them in National Geographic once and remember thinking ‘I have to see them’. Well today I can cross that off my list. They were unbelievable! After that we shopped a while in the store. You could buy most things you wanted here, t-shirts, hats, key chains, postcards, lacquered piranhas, amazon head dresses and Indian bow and arrows, beaded necklaces etc. After we made our purchases, we boarded smaller wooden boats and went on the jungle cruise down a bunch of little streams and veins of the river. From there we got out and went on a short jungle hike where they pointed out beetles, spiders, flora and fauna. It was fairly muddy so bring closed toe running shoes preferably. This is certainly where you are going to need your bug repellent. We then boarded our boats and went to a very small boathouse and dock where again you could buy things but the draw here was the many kids with their jungle pets out for pictures. You give them a dollar either local currency or USD and they would pose for a picture or you could hold their animals and take a picture. I held everything possible from alligators, parrots, monkeys, snakes but my favorite was the sloths. I have held these many times in Columbia before. They are so cute the way they cling to you and don’t move and they are the softest things I have ever touched. I had read a review on CC where a woman said she hated the kids with their pets and to stay away from them. Well that was one of my favorite parts of the day. People at work said I was crazy and asked if I was worried about bugs they might have on them. Honestly I didn’t care for a second during but I was washing my hands and arms with a gallon of antibacterial soap afterwards. We saw pink dolphins again on the ride back to the outpost. When we got back to our outpost we saw a small group of 5 or 6 people in the restaurant, we found out later on that that was the Captain of the Royal Princess and some others. They had a big spread put out for us to eat. The food was excellent. There were some salads, vegetables, pasta, manioc (similar to the Italian polenta) I had to try that because that is what they were always eating on ‘survivor’. There were a few types of fish and I don’t usually care for fish and this was outstanding. There had some hot pepper sauce made from local ingredients. It was amazing and had a real burn to it. The drinks were extra, I tried a locally made soda. It was pretty good very similar taste to cream soda but looked like ginger ale. It was a great meal to end a great tour. After we ate we got back on our original large riverboat to sail back to Manaus. You could buy some items like t-shirts, souvenirs and drinks on the riverboat. I bought a great book about of the amazon with many incredible photos. The riverboat took US currency. On our tour were some people from other parts of Brazil, also many people from the ship. The majority of the passengers were embarking in Manaus like us. We also met some of the entertainment crew from the ship. The female headliner Laurie Miller and a few guys from the show band, John and Graham. It was cool to meet them before we even got on board and then see them performing in all the Production shows. It was recommended by Luciana to bring on this tour; zip away pants, rainwear, flashlight, snacks (watch what you eat in Manaus), apply a lot of bug repellant and sunscreen, wear good sturdy shoes but they will get muddy, drink plenty of water (bottled only) After the tour docked they drove us back to the Taj Mahal Hotel where we picked up our luggage and finally got to the Royal Princess to embark. The taxi from the hotel to the pier was R$10,00 ($3.30usd) for a 10min ride. We felt like we had already been away a week and it had not even been two days. By the time got aboard it was about 4pm, mostly everyone must have been onboard because not one other person was checking in with us. So we gave in our passports they checked our yellow fever vaccination certificates ( I was beginning to think no one cared about them). We gave the porter in charge of getting luggage onboard a big fat tip to look after our bags and on we went. As I mentioned before my mom and aunt decided at the last minute to come as well and they used the cruise line air and transfers so they were on board already. We dumped our knapsacks off in the room and went to look around. One of our usual stops just after embarking is to go meet the Maitre’d to see if our table is in a good location. We met Rui from Portugal and he had a good table for us so we kept our original table assignment. Our cabin was Aloha 224 mini suite. It was the size of a hotel room rather than a cabin. It had a large bathroom with tub and shower (all rooms had a tub) a sitting area and a double size balcony. We asked our cabin steward Rudy if he could take away the table and chairs on the balcony and put two chaise loungers and when we came back from our night tour they were there. I have been on 6 princess cruises (with a 7th booked) and I have always been on Aloha deck. Even times we didn’t book Aloha, we have been upgraded to Aloha. Thank you Princess! It’s like I have some kind of ‘Aloha Deck’ Karma. We had booked the tour ‘Alligator Hunting at Night’ through Princess. It wasn’t offered elsewhere. So we had to unpack with lightening speed eat at the buffet (I call it the trough) and get outside to meet with our group. In the months prior to leaving we had a cruise critic roll call of about 10 people. I knew two of the members were going on the alligator hunting tour as well, so we made plans to meet up prior to the tour. We met Barbara from Arizona and Bob from Ohio at the gangway, they had both already been on the Royal since Fort Lauderdale. We liked them right off the bat and had a fun night. We took the same sort of riverboat to the same outpost on Lake January where we had been in the afternoon. The night was very hot and humid, there was a full moon and the jungle was making a lot of noises. It was a magical night. When we reached our same outpost we saw the same guy who drove us in the smaller wooden boats that afternoon. We waved to him right away and we got him to be our alligator catcher for the night. There was just the four of us (me, my sister Lisa, Barbara, Bob) our guy ‘the catcher’, a boat driver and a guide. It was very personal service. We went into the darkness into those little streams I saw earlier that day and we went very slow looking for the alligators eyes which were bright red. As soon as the eyes were caught in the beam of the flashlight the boat moved in and the catcher leaned over the front of the boat and swooped down to grab at the alligator. Once the alligator was grabbed and pulled into the boat we all sat around in a huddle and the guide spoke about the alligator and pointed out the facts. Obviously this had just come out of the wild so we were not picking it up, but we could pet it and touch it’s feet while it was held by the catcher. He showed us his war wounds from other nights of hunting alligator tours. Our alligator was just a baby and was small and cute. You could tell our guy wanted to get us a bigger one because he kept searching with the flashlight. Then he found some more eyes the boat swooped in and out he pulled an alligator covered in weeds and swamp grasses. This one was huge! Probably the biggest one that would be allowed inside the boat. You could tell they were very happy with that one. At this point we had two alligators in the boat (oh! If Princess only knew). Anyway they ended up bringing the big one back to the outpost in case other boats didn’t get a chance to see a good one. Some boats didn’t even get any at all. I knew our afternoon guy was going to be a good catcher! We still don’t even know his name. We could take pictures with the alligator and Barbara told him she wanted to hold it and I asked if I could hold it. It didn’t seem to be moving around, so it didn’t appear dangerous. You could tell the guy holding it was uneasy letting me do this. All he said was “if it starts moving, don’t let go!” So we both held it and got out pictures. It wasn’t until we got home and I was looking at the pictures that I realized it was the same alligator that we caught and was brought back to show. I had thought it was one they had there like a pet. Our tour guide we had in Manaus the next day said it must have had fishing line around the jaws. Well I looked in the pictures and not only was it the same alligator our boat brought back, but it clearly had no line tying it’s mouth shut. Oh Boy! I’m braver than I realized. That was worth the $66 just for that. When we got back to the ship I showered and flopped into bed. I would say it was a successful day. APRIL 7TH MANAUS BRAZIL DEP 7PM Today was going to be another very busy day and our last day in Manaus. We had room service deliver our coffee and danishes at 6am and we had to be off the ship by 7am in order to find a cab to take us to the Tropical hotel. We were taking a airplane flightseeing tour at 8am that we had booked through Luciana and the Hydroplane dock was at the Tropical Hotel. After the flightseeing our tour guide for our Manaus tour was to meet us right at the dock. At 8:30am. The Tropical Hotel was about a ½ hour away by car. Getting the taxi driver to understand where we wanted to go was very interesting. It was R$24,00 for the ½ hour ride, the cabs were really well priced. The Tropical Hotel is a gorgeous hotel property out near a very affluent beach area of West Manaus called Ponta Negro. Once we found where the plane took off from we walked over and found the flightseeing tour office at the hydroplane dock. The rate was US$ 120 x 2 for a ½ hour ride – paid in cash. Luciana recommended the hour ride and when we were there so did the tour office. They showed us the map and it goes all over the Rio Negro archipelago it would have been better but we didn’t bring enough cash that day and our tour was meeting us at 8:30 so we stuck with the original plan. Maybe next time for us. But any of you may want to consider this for yourselves. The airplane took us all around the area we had been seeing all along Lake January, meeting of the waters, river solimoles. It was great to see it all from the air. We then flew over the thick Amazon jungle as well as all around Manaus. We could even see the giant lily pads from the air. It was well worth the money and we got some great shots. After saying goodbye to the pilot, we saw our tour guide approaching. I tell you these tours from Viverde went off like clockwork. We met Sena and he was so cute and sweet. We barely walked 2 feet when we saw some rocks that were a great purple color. Lisa and I collect sand and rocks from all over (it’s just one of those things we do). We asked Sena if it would be alright if we collected a few rocks to take with us. He smiled and said sure (even though he was probably wondering what the hell we wanted the rocks for) and he even helped us get a few good ones. It was at that moment, I knew we were going to love our tour with him. We went up to the parking lot and met Marcos the driver and then we were off. Viverde has some pre-planned tours on their website. We told Luciana we were interested in seeing the opera house and that we wanted to see all the animal sights. This is what we decided on 5-6 hour tour including INPA, Natural Science Museum, CIGS zoo and Fast city tour. It was US$ 85 x 2 - Payment: in cash to the driver. It included all admissions. We started at the CIGS zoo. This is a military zone used to train the soldiers in jungle maneuvers. Sena told us they have to really protect the borders from Columbia and because it is all jungle the soldiers must know how to survive for weeks in the jungle. At the zoo they have specimens of all the species found in the amazonas region. Years later, they decided to open this zoo to the public and the admission cost goes to fund the zoo. Generally there was a strong military presence around Manaus. We saw all sorts of animals, birds and reptiles. Things to note were mainly boas, tapirs, jaguars, monkeys, vultures, toucans and parrots. The Natural Museum was really nice & when we arrived there we were the only ones in there. There’s something really great about being the only three people in a museum. It was like it was a private viewing. Here they show all the species of the Amazonia region both from the water and land. Some of the fish they had on display were absolutely prehistoric looking and really bizarre. They are had a lot of creepy things like specimens of parasites you can get from the water to gigantic specimens of spiders & insects (bugs and flys). They also had beautiful displays of butterflies and moths. They had some tanks of fish such as piranhas and pirarucu which are huge. They use the scales from this fish for a lot of the detail work on handicrafts that you will see. As we were nearing the end of our visit to the museum, two bus loads of cruisers came in and overrun the small museum. That could have been us on that tour, if we didn’t have Sena. Next we went to the INPA botanical garden. Here we mainly went to see the manatees that they have. They are on display in aquarium tanks. We saw eight manatees then went on to see the different trees of the jungle and some huge spider webs and an electric eel. The Opera House (Teatro Amazona) was truly a highlight of the day in Manaus. One of those things I was only going to see because it was on the tour and everyone said it was a “must see”. I was definitely more interested in the natural aspect in Manaus. Well this opera house blew me away! Not only is the architecture a fabulous example from that era, but the art and design inside was so brilliant that I could have wandered around in there for hours. This Opera house dated back to 1897 and was built during the rubber boom. During this time Manaus was the richest city in the world, they told us of how the rubber barons would light their cigars with hundred dollar bills. The Opera House had a lot of influence from Amazonia and Manaus mixed in with the French architecture. Throughout the theatre there was the symbols of the meeting of the water. This was seen in inlaid wood on the floor and on details on the walls. There was a huge ballroom with grand outdoor terraces overlooking Manaus. You could just picture debutante balls taking place in this grand ballroom. We sat down for a bit in the theatre, at first in the first few rows and then up in the balconies. We were very lucky that an orchestra was practicing to we could listen to a performance in there. The acoustics were so good it still gives we chills to think about it. Some friends of ours who spent some time in the Amazon said ‘make sure you try to catch a performance in the opera house’. I though ‘yeah OK, I’ll get right on that’ well now I understand why they wanted us to hear a performance in there. It really was spectacular. It was nice to sit and listen and not have to follow a schedule. Again, I was happy not to be on a large tour. Sena made everything so easy he would go ahead and buy the tickets to the attractions and then we would wander around together as he would explain everything. You cannot use flash photography inside so we bought the packaged set of postcards. They were really nice so you may want to get them as well. After the Opera House Sena took us to a souvenir shop just across the square. It was big and had everything we would ever need to buy. We picked up all the remaining amazon souvenirs we needed. For example, I got an oil painting of a toucan and some old vintage postcards from Manaus. At the front steps of the opera house we bought some pretty good maps of the amazon and Manaus. They were about $R10,00 each. At this point we needed to buy some bottled water for consumption on tours and on the ship for the next few days. We asked Sena if we could go to a grocery store or market. Him and Marco discussed it at length and came back and said there are two places; a huge one that was more expensive but would have everything or a smaller store where they shop with good prices. We decided to go to the smaller store first to see what they had. He was right it was so small I wouldn’t even have noticed it driving by. We bought all the water they had (approx 6 large bottles), as well as 6 bottles of pop and a big slab of cheese (Sena was buying this for himself and we told him to throw it on our bill). Altogether this came to about $R25,00 which is about $8USD. You can’t go wrong with that. We loaded our supplies into the trunk and Marco filled up the car with gas and we were off to the Central Market. The downtown area near the port was busy, hot and dusty. We really lucked out and Marco just pulled right up to the market and we parked the car right there. He waited with our stuff and Sena, Lisa and I went to see what was in the market. The market was one of the older buildings of Manaus also dating back to the rubber boom. It was adorned with beautiful iron work, stained glass and woodcarvings. They had lots of stuff for tourists to buy such as t-shirts and souvenirs. Of course we had already picked a lot of that stuff up so we went to see the fish market area. There were all those weird species of fish I had seen previously at the natural museum and here they all were, available for sale. Sena said some of the breeds could live a long time out of water and there was this type that would move along the counter as if it was walking. Not our regular fish back home! If you go to the market you must also take a look at the area with all the Amazonia lotions & potions. There are lots of special plants and herbs that are used for medicinal purposes. Now our day with Sena and Marcos was coming to an end. We liked the tour so much and they were so nice. We traded e-mail addresses and hugged goodbye at the port. I would really like to go back to Manaus on a future trip and spend more time there. I could not say enough about the service we received from Luciana from Viverde and all the people she put us in contact with. They were all very professional and personable. They made our time in Manaus so special. I think they had a lot to do with the fact that we loved every moment there and we would want to visit there again in the future. Luciana was always very prompt with her e-mails, she answered every question or concern we had. Viverde offers a lot of tours and I would imagine could set up anything you wanted. If they didn’t offer something in particular I’m sure they could get you in touch with someone who can. The private guides (Sena) and the tours from Amazon Explorers were excellent. We spent two full days using her services as well as our airport pickup and reserving our hotel room. Every thing she planned went off like clock work. In fact she gave us all her numbers in case we needed to contact her and we never needed to use them. Here is her contact information: Amazonas by Viverde - www.viverde.com.br/home.html Viverde Website hosted in US - www.amazonastravel.com.br Address: Rua Guariúbas, 47 - Cj. Acariquara Zip Code: 69085-350 - Manaus/AM - Brazil There were other tour guides services you could use but I would go with Viverde. If you want to play it by ear and not reserve in advance, you could go to the Amazon Explorers kiosk in Manaus or at the Tropical Hotel. You could get all sorts of boats tours, meeting of the waters etc right on the pier when you get off the ship. Many guides were out there with tour options. The long and short is; in Manaus there is no need to take the ships tours. There are many alternatives that will either be half the people and/or half the price. Sena told us that tourism is the main source of income of many people in Manaus, so you know there will be many tours available. Do not plan on taking a tour with a taxi driver, English is not widely spoken by anyone who is not a tour guide. We sailed out of Manaus around 7pm. I’ll never forget the sunset we had that night. Many colours of orange, pinks and red as well as great cloud formations. It wasn’t what I was expecting to see in the rainforest. We went to dinner a bit late so we could see the meeting of the water one more time. It is just east of Manaus. So if you are sailing out it is about 40-50 min after you sail. If you are arriving it is just before you start seeing the factories and industry of Manaus. The water colours are so different you can see it even at night. DAY OF THE WEEK: We were in Manaus on a Tuesday & Wednesday so it was business as usual and we had no problems with anything not being open. APRIL 8 BOCA DE VALERIA (AMAZON RIVER) BRAZIL 11AM TO 6PM TEMP 77F High 31C/88F Light Breeze/Calm Waters 20 knots Doesn’t that weather forecast sound great. Well it was! That morning we woke up to the brown water of the Amazon and we sailed gently down river until about 11am when we anchored at Boca de Valeria. By this time the light breeze had vanished and it was extremely hot and humid! Boca de Valeria is a small tributary of the Amazon made up of about 13 buildings including modest dwellings, a school, church & a town meeting place (bar). It has about 75 permanent residents, but the day the ship arrives it seems all the neighboring river dwellers paddle in for the day. There is no tourism infrastructure, so everyone was on their own for the day. You could meet the people or explore the town. Many people went for a hike up the paths and hills behind Boca and many said they saw macaws and all sorts of wildlife. You could also somehow negotiate a deal with the locals to take you around the surrounding area in their boats. Princess is one of a few cruise lines that stop in Boca de Valeria. Of course they only go in maybe twice or three times each year. For example the Royal Princess goes in twice a year; when they go to Manaus and when they come out. There can only be approx. 200 people allowed to go to ashore at a time. So the tenders are very regulated at the beginning of the day. If you allowed 1 to 2 hours ashore that would be enough. If you wanted to go on a hike or similar allow for more time. If you wait to let the hordes of people go first and stay back enjoy your lunch you will have plenty of time to go in the afternoon. The ship doesn’t leave until 5pm. You may not want to go in the heat of the day either (11am - 2pm). The ship drops lines at the back of the ship so locals can hook up their boats and they get close to the ship. The crew throws food, soap and toiletries over the side to the people. Make sure you go up on deck and watch this. The people in the town were so nice and even though we could not speak to each other at all, it was nice to spend time with them. You can take a look in their homes and other buildings of the town or just take pictures with the children. You will be expected to give them something in return for this so you can give a dollar or some sort of trinkets. I read a few reviews before our trip so I knew we would be visiting here and we wanted to bring something for the kids. It is not recommended to bring candy because it isn’t good for their teeth. We decided to bring all sorts of coloured pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, stickers, bright coloured ‘post-it’ notes and erasers. We put them into small snack size ziploc bags. We weren’t sure how this would go over but the kids absolutely loved them. They loved the fact there was a little pack to hold them in. We also brought Canadian flag pins, every kid in that community must have been wearing a Canadian flag. We were like the pied pipers, there were tons of kids following us around. They could also use clothes and flip flop type sandals. When we went back to the ship we saw how the crew was throwing them food and toiletries so we threw all our toiletries from our balcony. Right away the mothers were eyeing the ziploc bags we put them in. We also threw running shoes, sandals, slippers, sweatshirt, jacket, pants and a few t-shirts. They went wild for the clothes and you could see the mothers were really happy to get the stuff. Others from surrounding balconies asked us if we had any clothes left…trust me we had plenty. This was stuff I figured they needed more then me. They could really use kids t-shirts or socks. If I had known I would have brought some especially since you could get a few and it doesn’t cost that much. Even though it was a beautiful hot and sunny day, there was a rainbow just over the little town when we were getting ready to leave. It was very precious. We also saw many pink dolphins swimming around the ship so keep and eye out for them the whole time. There was also the most gorgeous sunset as we sailed away with the clouds forming the shape of a seahorse. People were claiming this stop was exploitation at its finest, however, I felt no one got anything for free we got our pictures and they got something in return & it was an even trade. We not get anything for free and we didn’t take anything from them. I think everyone got what they wanted. I really enjoyed the day and so did a lot of others. On the nights that the ship is sailing along the Amazon, make sure you go out and look at the stars. Since there is no big cities around, there is minimal lights and the constellations are spectacular. You can see so much more than you will at home. Although we were south of the equator, we were not south enough to see the southern cross and other southern constellations. APRIL 9TH AT SEA (Good Friday) Temp 29C/84F HIGH 31C/88F Humidity 90% 24 knots/Calm seas partly cloudy Today we got up early to watch Brad Pitt and George Clooney in Ocean’s 11. Well to our surprise it was vintage movie day on the TV and it was the original Ocean’s 11 with Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Okay so it wasn’t Brad Pitt, but there is something about the original, I love it and could watch it many times (Okay, I admit it, I have watched it many times!) Up until now the trip has been so busy we hadn’t had a chance to really enjoy the room. We had A224 mini suite with private balcony. The room was fantastic! It was bigger than the size of our Marriott hotel room in Sao Paulo and had a huge bathroom complete with tub and shower (all rooms on Royal Princess have bathtubs). There was a big marble vanity in the bathroom and the shower spray was very powerful. The balcony was large enough to get rid of the chairs they supplied out there and have two chaise loungers. This room was so great to have for such a long sailing and we lived on the balcony. I give A+ for the room and the room stewards that go along with it, Rudy and Leo from the Philippines. The room was located just across from the stewards’ station and they were always milling around outside our door. Now some people might not like this and at first we thought it was weird that they were always standing out there. But then we realized very quickly that they were always very handy when we needed anything, towels, glasses, coffee & conversation. We loved having them around and they were all so nice. So we felt the location was a positive. Now, the self-service laundry room down the mid section hallway, I wouldn’t want to be near. So keep this in mind. Today we left the region of Amazonas and entered the region of Para. After we went to breakfast we went to the Recife lecture given by Joe May who gave all the port lectures. He was a great speaker, in fact, he spoke about 10 languages. After lunch we sat on the balcony and watched the world go by. Actually, we saw the customs officials and the pilots leave when we passed the city of Macapu. Just moments later we crossed the equator. The only reason I would know that is because they made an announcement I think people actually believe there are markers (my sister may be one of them!) In the weeks (months) prior to the cruise I had been in touch with our Cruise Critic contingency e-mailing and sharing the growing excitement. At 3pm today we met for the first time in the Horizon lounge. Lisa and I had actually already met two fellow CC’rs Barbara and Bob (on the alligator hunting evening) they and a few others were some of the lucky ones that sailed in on the prior sailing from Ft. Lauderdale to Manaus. We had a very good turn out only one person didn’t show. We found out later, he came looking for the meeting at the wrong time. It was nice to meet these people, especially on such a long sailing we had time to get together on the sea days and plan ahead to take excursions with. We met quite a few people that I will keep in touch with for future travels. Later on in the afternoon, we were getting closer to the ‘Amazon bar’ where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. It was time to say goodbye to the muddy waters of the Amazon (sniff, sniff!) Tonight in the dining room it was Italian night that always has all my favorite appetizers. The old Sinatra movies were still on the television so I watched ‘Robin and Seven Hoods’. APRIL 10TH AT SEA TEMP 25C – 77F HIGH 28C – 82F 19 KNOTS I woke up today to see the blue water of the Atlantic – a more familiar sight. But already I missed being on the river. My days at sea were beginning to shape into routine of going to a lecture in the morning, walking on the teak jogging track, then lying out on the balcony in the afternoon, again, walking on the jogging track at the sunset then leisurely getting ready for dinner. I remembered reading in other reviews of amazon cruises where they mentioned seeing a lot of bugs and really huge bugs on the decks of the ship. We were careful not to keep the balcony door open at all just in case, but we never saw any bugs on the ship. Well tonight nature made up for all that! We came back from the show and I went to go out to see the stars. When I went to move the curtain back I felt something on my shoulder (do you sense where this is going?) I brushed my shoulder, and down fell a HUGE winged bug with big antennae. After the shear shock wore off, I yelled for Lisa to come look. She took action armed with a hiking sandal. After 4 huge whacks with the sandal it still hadn’t flinched! She whacked and whacked until it was in pieces, then I picked up the pieces and put it in the garbage. No joke we were scared it would plug up the (very sensitive) toilet because it was so big! This thing was Smithsonian material. As you can see I am still not over the trauma. APRIL 11TH AT SEA (Easter Sunday) TEMP 28C/84F HIGH 28C/82F 19 KNOTS POSITION: ATLANTIC OCEAN When we went down for breakfast the chocolatiers (sp?) were working on a huge Easter display outside the dining room. They told us they worked all night on the huge chocolate eggs. They were very proud of their creations and were so excited to see the people’s reactions. Even Rui the Matre D was busy hanging streamers and balloons. I noticed that the head waiters and Rui were very hands on in the dining room. There is something about spending the holidays on a cruise. I have spent a few Christmas’ on a cruise and it is fantastic – what’s not to like!?! Our first cruise in 1984 was at Christmas and people kept on saying how could you not be home for Christmas. To this day my response is, ‘try it you may like it’. I would take being on board a ship vs being at home any day. Especially when your family is with you. After breakfast there was an exceptional lecture on the Olympics. Then of course, the balcony was beckoning on this sunny afternoon. The dining room was even more decked out for Easter celebrations than the lobby. There were tons of pastel balloons and streamers. After dinner the children that were on board (there was probably less than 10) came out to break the eggs (wrapped in a table linen) and they served the chocolate to the tables along with dessert. APRIL 12TH RECIFE BRAZIL 1PM TO 8PM (Easter Monday) TEMP 28C/83F HIGH 29C/85F HOT & HUMID 19 KNOTS Recife is known as the ‘Venice of Brazil’ because it is a city built on many waterways. It has sun- drenched beaches and emerald green waters. It is much bigger than I was expecting, it is very built up with wall to wall skyscrapers. Recife means ‘reef’ and it is the capital of the Pernambuco state. It has a population of over 1.5 million people and is Brazil’s 5th largest city. It would be a great vacation destination for travelers offering a mix of cosmopolitan metropolis, historic cities and great beaches. Today definitely reached a temperature high. The ship docked in the early afternoon at the commercial pier. There was nothing in the surrounding pier vacinity as far as tourism infrastructure. It looked like a far walk to get anywhere nearby. They had pre-warned of lack of taxi’s and tours right off the ship. They even mentioned to book the tours early because transportation in general in Recife was a problem. We booked the Recife and Olinda tour with Princess. There were many buses that did this tour, probably about 7 or 8. My guess is that when they saw how many people wanted the tour, Princess secured more buses. I guess this because our tour guide (and I use this term very loosely) had no idea what he was doing. It was apparent he was not used to this task. He was always fumbling, didn’t lead us to see specific items at the different stops and so on. We stopped at the beach for ½ hour then only had 10 min at the shopping stop. We were supposed to go shopping first and then pass by the beach very quickly. There was no time management. Others on the first groups of buses had perfectly fine tour guides. We just got stuck with a last minute stand in, however, Recife was beautiful and we just had to make the best of it. The good thing was that there really wasn’t a lot of historical info. We needed more time for shopping and we just banded together and made the bus wait until we had enough shopping. I find when the tour isn’t working for you, you have to make the best of it. Either ‘dial the tour guide in’ or just put up with it and enjoy it for what it is. I have learned nobody is going to care later that you didn’t like the tour! Especially the cruise line! Both Recife and Olinda were beautiful and very different. Recife is very modern and filled with high rise buildings like Waikiki. Olinda was the complete opposite, up high on a hill and has barely changed since the 16th century. However, let’s get down to it! The ‘Casa Cultura’ a former prison that’s now an artisan and handy craft market was excellent. What a great idea! Not only was it cool to be in an old prison but to have all the artisan shops in the cells, is purely ingenious. Friends of ours told me previously they had bought some good things there (Thanks Dorothy!). There was great shopping there. Things were so cheap I wasn’t even bargaining – I was just paying what they were asking for. Plus, because we had so little time I didn't have time to haggle. At the end of one of the halls was a small leather shop. He had great stuff; leather briefcases, shoes, boots, purses. I bought a fabulous suede cowboy hat (that I love) for R$30,00 (that’s $10 USD and that was the asking price). I also bought a few small paintings and some souvenirs. The small jewelry shops had nice things as well. There was not much as far as Amazon items to buy here except for the very obvious souvenirs. Get your Amazon purchases in Manaus. This was our last stop in Brazil and I loved every part of my visit. It is definitely a place I would love to return. Brazil is very diverse offering the excitement and glamour of Rio, the beauty of the Amazon, beach destinations like Recife, beautiful people and fabulous music all over. The ship sailed just before 8pm. I said goodbye to Recife, goodbye to Brazil (sniff,sniff) and GOODBYE TO LAND!!! As this was the beginning of my first transatlantic voyage. OTHER SHIP TOURS: Here we only had a choice of two tours Intro to Recife $40 and Intro to Recife and Olinda $56 (we took the later one) The tour of Olinda sells out fast so sign up early. There was a choice to take the ‘H.Stern’ (not Howard Stern to many passenger’s dismay) shuttle to their jewelry store in the Boa Viagem area of Recife. You could easily walk around to a lot of Recife sights from there. Don’t rely on taking a cab they probably won’t speak English and many that did rely on cabs were disappointed in their choice. DAY OF THE WEEK: We knew we would be in Recife on Easter Monday and Brazil is a very Catholic country so this was another reason we made use of the ship’s tour. We had no idea what would be closed or how many cab drivers would be available on this holiday. APRIL 13TH AT SEA TEMP HIGH 30C/86F 17 KNOTS SUNNY Today was the most gorgeous day at sea. As you can see from the above temp it was full out sun tanning weather! We slept in past breakfast, wow that was nice! Then went to the Dakar lecture. Even though Dakar seems like a world away at this point. They were very smart, I must commend them on this. They did all the upcoming port lectures during the transatlantic because once we started into the last leg of the itinerary, it was ports everyday and way too busy to attend lectures. Later on in the cruise they replayed the lectures again on TV. Since we left Manaus, we ate every lunch and dinner in the dining room. We always prefer the sit down meals. Of course, we had our regular wait staff every night for dinner. Then at lunch we started getting the same pair a few days in a row. Their names were Roberto and Rico and they were fantastic! They were fun, professional, cute, just a pleasure to be around. It became a highlight for us to have lunch with them everyday. We had a second CC meeting with our group in the Horizon lounge. We discussed the ports visited so far and what we’ve been up to, along with what everyone’s plans were in the upcoming ports. If we had tours together, we made plans to meet up. Today on the TV menu was all Hitchcock movies (sweet!). Gems like Dial ‘M’ for Murder, Psycho and Strangers on a Train. For such a lazy day, it filled up very quickly! APRIL 14TH AT SEA crossing the equator ceremony TEMP 24C/81F HIGH 30C/86F 17 KNOTS SUNNY/LIGHT BREEZE Actually made it to breakfast today (not leaving the room in the morning, threw off our poor cabin steward Rudy). Went to the lecture on Morocco. After the lecture the balcony was beckoning. The ocean was like glass today. For some reason I was expecting to have rougher weather. Hooray for calm seas! I sat in the sun until it was time to go see Rico and Roberto for lunch. After lunch there was the crossing of the equator ceremony. What a comedy show! Assorted members of the crew dressed up as King Neptune, his wife (a male crew member in drag) and the King’s court. They sacrificed some virgins….blah, blah, blah….threw food all over the deck to appease the gods….threw Captain Burgess in the pool (yeah, they threw the captain in the pool!) I believe his crime was smuggling ladies underpants. A good time was had by all in the blasting equator sun! At this point the balcony was beckoning but I resisted temptation and walked a mile on the deck. It was so hot I thought I was going to pass out. When I finished I went up and took a cool shower and napped on the balcony. Tonight they had a Russian dinner in the dining room, complete with caviar, borscht, stroganoff and flambéed strawberries Romanoff for dessert. After dinner we watched a John Grisham movie in the theatre. APRIL 15TH AT SEA TEMP 24C/75F HIGH 27C/81F 17 KNOTS MODERATE SEAS After breakfast we went to the lecture on Gibraltar. Sat out on balcony. Lunch with Rico and Roberto. APRIL 16TH AT SEA TEMP 27C/81F HIGH 27C/81F 17 KNOTS MODERATE SEAS After breakfast we went to the lecture on Spain. Sat out on balcony. Lunch with Rico and Roberto (see a pattern forming here?) After lunch, Tom Ecker, our Olympic historian had a great talk on the 1968 Games in Mexico City and 1972 Games in Munich. These of course, were extremely controversial games that resulted in kidnapping, demonstrations & hundreds dead and terrorist attacks, respectively. Gripping subject matter that left us wanting more. The afternoon was incredible. The seas were not as calm as the day before, yet, the Royal plowed through those waters so steady, it felt like we weren’t even moving. The sun was so glorious, so of course……I sat out on the balcony. I went for a walk just as the sun was setting a few hours before dinner. This was a scene I will not soon forget. The sun was a HUGE pale pink ball just above the horizon. It was like pictures I have seen before from Africa or the Middle East, where the sun is simply huge! I knew a photo wouldn’t do this sight justice, so I stared for a moment and committed it to memory. This was a true African sunset, so I knew we were getting close to the ‘dark continent’. Today was a good day to be alive. APRIL 17TH DAKAR SENEGAL 8AM TO 5PM This morning when I walked outside I saw my first glimpse of Africa. I have waited for this moment for more than 20 years and today I was going to be setting foot on Africa. A major centre of West Africa, Dakar has a population of over 3 million. Senegal has a population of approx. 11 million. We took the ship’s tour to ‘THE PINK LAKE OF RETBA’ for $74. We were shown to our buses and we met Wade and Fatou our Senegalese tour guides. As we were sitting on the bus, we saw someone being loaded off the ship in a stretcher and on IV & oxygen. No one told us what had happened to that person but I hope they were okay. I don’t know what would be worse being four days at sea with only the ship’s doctor to treat you or going to a hospital in Dakar. We left a few minutes later. We drove through Dakar to the lake about 40 minutes away. Dakar streets appeared to be chaotic. The sidewalks were packed with people were selling stuff everywhere. Cars, donkeys and carts were all over the road. It was fascinating for me to watch out the window of the bus. Many people of Senegal speak native languages; wolof is one of them. However, French is the official language. On the way to the lake we made a stop at a wolof village, we could get off the bus and walk around and check out where locals lived and worked. I felt very strange, like we were descending on them in droves. As we walked around, us staring at the villagers and them at us, I whispered to my sister, ‘who’s on display here, them or us.’ I was glad we stopped but I felt uncomfortable, like we were imposing. Lisa wanted to take a picture of me with a wolof woman and her baby. Where we have been you always ask a local before taking a picture and it has usually been that you must given them some token amount to pay for the service. I asked if she had a separate dollar bill to give after the picture was taken. Well when she pulled the dollar bill out and gave it, within seconds she was surrounded and being mobbed! So much so that Wade and Fatou had to pull her out and bring her right onto the bus. Myself, and a few other people also got on the bus ‘toute suite’. I must say that was unnerving and I was glad to le

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Jun 2, 2003

Western Europe

Travel to London We traveled from Denver to Gatwick via Cincinatti on Delta. Nice flights with good service but Gatwick is not as convenient as Heathrow to either downtown London or Southampton, where the boat leaves from. We generally dislike using grossly overpriced ship transfer buses, especially in London where the trains, and even taxis, are much faster than the buses. London We spent our first night in London enjoying

the sights, and trying to stay awake so we could adjust to the 7-hour time change. London is a great city, though very expensive (even more so than New York) and we had to work hard in advance to find reasonable accomodations. The best deals were from laterooms.com which books many hotels’ remaining inventory 3 weeks before your date of travel. We found a nice family suite (London hotels virtually never allow you to put more than 2 people in a standard room, even if they are small children) in a 3-star hotel (the Queens Park) for $105 which was 70% of the usual rate. The Gatwick Express is a nice train which runs every 15 minutes from Gatwick for about 12 pounds (1/2 price for kids 5-16 and free for kids under 5), but be sure to arrive 10-15 minutes early or you will not get a seat. It takes about 45 minutes to Victoria Station, less than ½ the time of a bus. London was wonderful, and we enjoyed Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, a pub lunch, making brass rubbings at St. Martins-in-the-Field, and a double decker bus tour and just hanging out in Trafalgar Square and Picadilly Circus, both fun for the kids. To Southwick Southwick is about 150 miles Southwest of London, so the easiest and quickest way to get there was on the train, which left every 15 minutes from Waterloo station to Southwick Central. From Southwick Central it was an easy 2 mile, 3 pound taxi ride to the ship. Southwick is a rather ugly city, and I would not consider spending any time there. Embarkation As usual with Princess, the embarkation was a breeze, with no lines and taking only minutes with courteous and helpful staff. The British are very efficient and the Southampton terminal was used to handling large numbers of people. This was the pier from which the Titanic sailed. We had a brass band sendoff, something that was repeated at several of the ports. The Ship The Royal Princess was the smallest of the 7 ships we have been on and it was a joy. Since it has a varied itinerary, it attracts top-notch crew, and slightly older, more experienced passengers. One woman had actually been living on the ship, using it as her full-time home for almost 5 years! The crew-to-passenger ratio was almost 1:2. Although the ship is pushing 20 years of age, it looks almost as good as the newer ships; in some ways it was more classy, with all teak decks and larger windows than usual. Porcelain in the sinks and tubs was slightly chipped, though, and the elevators looked and felt very old. All of the common areas, with the exception of the pool, gym/spa and Lido Cafe, are on the 2nd and 3rd floors, making it very easy to get around and find places. The fourth floor had a nice teak promenade deck going all the way around the ship, something often missing on newer ships. Would therefore avoid 4th floor cabins if you value privacy out your window. Bathrooms were large, but could use a shelf under the sink. There are no inside cabins. We had a partially obstructed view cabin, which really was fine as we still had a much better view than on most ships, due to the large window. The lifeboats blocked only the top of the window on our 5th floor (more on the 6th floor). There was great closet space, but only 8 tiny drawers. One of the beds folds into the wall in the daytime (if you wish) making the room feel larger. The young captain, Nick Nash, was very friendly and informative, especially when we docked in his home port of Falmouth. He always did a great job of explaining what he was doing and why; it was fun to watch the ship offloading its pilot at each port. The gym was great, almost as big as the one on the Grand Princess, for 40% the number of people, so it was never crowded. It had new, top of the line Cybex equipment and plenty of good treadmills, bicycles and stair-steppers. There was no pushy spa staff, but anything you wanted was available. The gym had fantastic 180 degree views around the front of the ship. The ship had lots of very small swimming pools (about 5), but only one jacuzzi on the Lido Deck and one in the spa. One pool was a small lap pool. There were plenty of chaises and chairs, and it was never hard to find one. The bar staff were always there if you needed them but never pushed the drinks. The all you can stand soft-drink sticker is a good deal at $25 including tip for the almost 2 week cruise, especially if you have kids. The ship has the nicest, largest library I have ever seen on a ship, and the books can be checked out (honor system) 24 hours a day. The library includes an internet center (steep at $30 an hour) and also the Captain’s Circle and Future Cruise Desks. The Riviera Lounge on the back of the ship was one of the only bars, and there was an infrequently used disco at the top rear of the ship. The very large game room was well stocked with games and always seemed to be full of bridge and mah-jong players. Princess seems to have it right with only 2 shipboard announcements a day, and not in the rooms. I felt uninformed on Celebrity with no announcements, and Carnival drives you crazy with the cruise director squawking 30 times a day. Dining There is only one large very elegant dining room. For some reason, 2nd seating is very unpopular, even though it was much better on this cruise, since most of the port stops went until 6 or 7 o’clock. By choosing 2nd seating, we were able to get a fantastic table for 4 in the back right by the window. The food was the best of any cruise I have been on, one notch below top restaurants in a large city. The service was definitely tops, and, unlike other ships, the head waiters here get very involved in giving you an excellent experience. Ask for Jose from Portugal; he was fantastic and has been on the ship for many years. The Maitre’d had been on the ship for decades and was married to one of his American passengers. Wine selections were excellent and reasonably priced and the ship had a nice wine tasting which was a bargain at $5 per person (free if you had cruised with Princess before). Entertainment The production shows were of top quality, whether Las Vegas or Broadway style, and the staff did amazingly well despite a stage fairly devoid of modern technical advancements. One of the lead singers had just left as the lead in Phantom of the Opera in LA. All the dancers were excellent, often of Broadway quality, though, as is often the case on Princess, some were a little chubby. The individual shows were good to very good, especially the Scottish and Irish comedians. There are few columns blocking your view in the International Theatre, but because it is all on one level with little slope, sight lines can be poor. All seats in the lounge were comfortable, and the staff were readily available with drinks, though they did not push them. Ports An interesting cruise - we felt that each port was a little better than the last. There were only 2 days at sea, both right near the beginning of the cruise, making it a little hectic toward the end. The ship usually was in port about 7am to 7pm, so you could do a fair amount. However, I would have preferred fewer ports and 2 days at each stop. Bilbao, Spain This large city in the Basque country looks similar to any other large city, and is not as pretty as Madrid, Barcelona, or Cordoba. It does have, however, the fantastic new Guggenheim Museum which is definitely worth seeing if you like modern art. Skip the shuttle bus, which only takes you to a bleak train station in the middle of nowhere and spring for a taxi (about $10) into town. The Basque Museum in the old quarter is supposed to be great, but was closed from 1 to 5, so plan your day around it. The Guggenheim is open all day. Le Verdun, France We were excited to be going here, as we had reservations at Chateaux Laffite Rothschild for a tour and tasting. Unfortunately, the ship docks in the middle of nowhere, so there was no way to get there, except to pay $300 for a taxi. This is one port where you may want to consider shore excursions. The ship did offer a $4pp shuttle to a little beach town called Soulac-Sur-Mer, which was quaint and pretty, and we spent the day there. The water was about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, making for a brisk swim. Greenock, Scotland This port is about 35 miles from Glasgow and about 90 miles from (more interesting) Edinburgh. Skip the ship’s train station shuttle and take a taxi to the train station (cheaper and much nicer), but plan for the trains to Glasgow and Edinburgh which only run about once an hour. Glasgow is a somewhat grimy city, but the people are very friendly and the accents are fun. Take the double decker bus tour which you can pick up (every 10-15 minutes) right in front of the Central Train Station where you are dropped off. For about $12 you can ride all day getting off if anything interests you. If you have kids, the People’s Palace and great Science Museum are fun stops. We ate lunch at a fancy restaurant called Roganos, which served Winston Churchill; the food was great but good meals in Europe generally take 3 hours - too much time to spend if you just have one day. I recommend eating in the pubs or cafes at all the ports. Dublin, Ireland Dublin was a surprise. The ship docks very near town, but unfortunately there was a taxi strike, so we took the ship’s shuttle ($4pp) into town. Despite it being a city of 2 million, it was friendly and fun. We again did the double-decker bus tour ($12 for all you can stand including on-off and you get a discount if you show your ticket from another city). We went to Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells (overrated) and enjoyed Irish stew in a 13th century (!) pub. Christ Church and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral were very interesting, and we learned a lot of history. The kids were bored, though, so we spent the afternoon at the Dublin Zoo. Cork (actually Cobh Island {pronounced Cove}), Ireland This was a port where you definitely should rent a car, although you have to keep reminding yourself to drive on the “wrong” side of the road. We used Great Island Rentals right at the ship’s gangway. They charge 35-70 euros a day for a nice car (lower price if you reserve in advance which we unfortunately did not do). A fun little river ferry takes you from the island to Cork, saving an hour on the shuttle/train. Not much to see in Cork but nice to drive around on your way to Blarney Castle, which takes about 30 minutes to get to. Blarney Castle is great. Although it is partly ruined, you can wander around and feel the history of all the rooms. The obligatory kissing of the stone is fun; after climbing to the top of the castle, you lie on your back and hang upside down over the edge while holding onto some bars - scary if you’re afraid of heights (be sure to tip the helper before kissing it if you want him to hold your legs). The grounds around the castle are among the most beautiful I have ever seen. The Woolen Mill nearby is a fun place to shop and the town of Blarney (only one block) is great to wander around. From Blarney, we took an easy, beautiful drive (45 minutes through the country) to Kinsale, a truly beautiful town with lovely shops, antique stores and pubs all within a few city blocks. Come back to the ship an hour early to enjoy the new and interesting museum, right at the ship’s pier. The Titanic and Lusitania stopped here at Cobh after leaving Southampton (the last stop for both before meeting their fates - well chronicled in the museum. Falmouth, Cornwall, England A beautiful town full of lovely second homes for rich Brits with one of the largest, deepest, and most beautiful harbors in the world. The harbor is protected by Pendennis Castle, built by Henry VIII, which can be visited and is fairly interesting. The town offers to the cruise passengers a free shuttle right at the ship, which goes “the long way” into town showing you all the beautiful sights. Rent a car at Hertz (about $50 and they will pick you up and drop you off at the ship) or take one of the ship’s tours going either west to Penzance and Land’s End or east to the pretty little town of Polperro. Le Havre, France Options here include a 3-hour bus or train ride to Paris, but we chose to drive (you could also taxi for about $40) to the town of Honfleur, right across the Seine on a beautiful bridge. It was one of the loveliest towns I have ever seen. Even if you are not a great music fan, do not miss the whimsical Erik Satie (the famous pianist composer; you will recognize his songs) Museum. In the afternoon we drove 30 minutes north to Fecamps (home of the Benedectine monastery and liqueur) and Etretat, a lovely town nestled between 2 huge cliffs with arches similar to those in Cabo San Lucas. If I had it to do over again, I would have done ships tours to Honfleur and Etretat, as the Hertz people did not speak English and we got lost several times trying to return the car. Rotterdam, Holland Here we docked right in the city next to the spectacular Erasmus bridge after traveling several miles up the Niew West River. Rotterdam is a very industrial city with little to see except for a good Maritime museum. We had wanted to take the train to Amsterdam (about an hour) but work was being done on the tracks and the trains were delayed. You have to go on your own if you want to see the Anne Frank House, as they do not admit tours. We rented a car (again at Hertz, arranged in advance; we thus paid less than ½ of what people who walked up paid) right near the ship’s shuttle bus stop in town, but were too nervous to battle traffic around Amsterdam, so we drove to the lovely town of Delft (absolutely gorgeous) and then on to Gouda (home of the famous cheese, but not much to see). Renting a car here was easy, fun and cheap (about $30), but the ship’s tour to Delft, might be easier and cheaper if you are only one or two people. Zeebrugge, Belgium Unfortunately, we arrived on a Sunday, so the taxi companies were all charging double rates ($30-40 each way instead of $15-20), to get to Bruges (pronounced brew-heh in the local Flemish or Brewzsh in the French). Again, the ship docked in the middle of nowhere (no rental cars and the ship’s shuttle took you to a train station with trains to Bruges only every hour; I only recommend the taxi or the ship’s “Bruges on your own”; this is a town to explore on foot, canal boat (only 5 Euros for 30 minutes), or horse drawn carriage (only 25 euros for 45 minutes). Negotiate your taxi fare in advance, as they often don’t use the meter. Don’t try to talk French to the local Flemish natives; they find it offensive, as they dislike the French “Walloons” who live in the southern part of their country. Everyone in Belgium speaks fluent English, as it is required in the schools. Bruges was the most beautiful Gothic town I have ever seen. All the buildings from 1100 to 1600 A.D. are perfectly preserved. Be sure to try the great waffles, frites (french fries - they were invented here), and chocolate. Taxis can be hard to find in Bruges. To return to the ship, step into any 4-star hotel and order a drink and ask them to call you a taxi. It will be there in a few minutes with no extra charge. Disembarkation Again, incredibly smooth and simple, with no waits, lines, or customs/immigration. Since our flight was in the morning, we had reserved a private station wagon (for 75 pounds) to Gatwick from ATS Taxi. However, he never showed, so we took a public taxi (115 pounds). Heathrow is 1/3 closer and cheaper, but there is no easy way to get to either airport except by bus or taxi.

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Apr 5, 2003

So. America - Andes to Ft. Lauderdale

Royal Princess - Continuation of J Caballero's South America cruise... April 5 - 22. We originated in Buenos Aires and went all the way to Ft. Lauderdale. We met J Caballero and were on several excursions with them and agree with everything written in that review. This is the continuation of the cruise rather than repeat the first half. Valaparaiso. We plus 248 other passengers will stay on board. The only excursion offered to

continuing passengers was 8 hours to Santiago, sightseeing and return. Too long. We arranged with PortCompass to do a 4 hour Valaparaiso/Vina del Mar tour returning to the ship for a late lunch. It was a beautiful day and the area reminded us of Monterey, CA. with the surf breaking on large rocks, seals, birds, and huge sand dunes. Valaparaiso port is a very busy one and the largest in Chile. We had decided to splurge on this second part of the cruise by booking a mini-suite with balcony -it was fabulous to have so much room and this great balcony. This is our 4th cruise on the RP - needless to say, she is one of our favorites. While we were touring, our former steward (actually we were almost directly below the mini-suite for the first half) and our new steward took care of moving our belongings - what great service. We were seated at dinner with 2 other couples for the entire cruise which worked well for us and we enjoyed each others company. We requested a window table on this portion of the cruise, if possible, and were moved accordingly and we all enjoyed the view each evening. We had quite a few sea days mixed in with the ports. Princess has many activities going on so that you can be as busy or relaxed as you choose to be on sea days. We enjoyed our balcony as the days were warm and the chaise lounge was great for reading. We had sailed from the beautiful, lush green hills, and snow-covered mountains of southern Chile to the northern part which is a huge desert - the Atacama Desert. Amazing difference. Coquimbo, Chile. Arid desert, small city. We elected to take a walk around the dock area and relax on this hot day. Excursions didn't look that interesting and the cost ranged from $51-$199. I believe we made a good choice. Arica, Chile. We really enjoyed this stop. It was hot and cloudy in the morning, but afternoon cleared. I doubt they get an inch of rain a year! A market was set up a short walk from the ship with some interesting items. We took an excursion by train (it came right down to the ship) to the Lluta Valley and the small village of Poconchile. The church at Poconchile, we were told, is the oldest in So. America. It was hit by an earthquake a number of years ago and all that remains is the front and left side walls. However, services are still held there every Sunday. It seldom, if ever, rains so no roof doesn't present much of a problem. A group of young folk dancers provided some entertainment and pisco sours (the favored drink of this part of So. Am)served. We enjoyed the afternoon. The scenery reminded us of Jordan and Egypt. 2 of our tablemates took the trip to Lake Chungara and enjoyed that day even though it was a long one and the altitude bothered them a bit. San Martin, Peru. Such excitement for me as I am going off the ship for 2 nights to see Machu Picchu! My husband stayed on ship and he took a boat trip out to the Islas Ballestras (sort of a mini-Galapagos)today and enjoyed it even though the boat was a bit rustic. About 200 passengers were going to Machu Picchu. Princess chartered 2 727s for the 1hr flight to Cuzco and we were divided into groups. We were offered a choice of the Monasterio or Liberatador Hotels when booking. I chose the Monasterio and believe it was the best choice - lovely hotel with many nice amenities and good food. We were bused to the airport at Pisco - small terminal that looked like a bus station and dirt all around - the runway was tarmac. We decended thru the clouds to our first view of the mountains around Cuzco - very lush green. Cuzco is at about 11,500 ft - altitude sickness is a good possibility (the reason my husband chose not to come)and lunch, afternoon sightseeing, dinner were all paced to limit that possibility as much as possible. Coca tea is always available and said to help avoid it. I drank lots of water and took it slow. The only effect I had was a headache until late morning the next day. We toured Cuzco that afternoon, traveling another 2,000 ft up to overlook the city - I would enjoy spending more time there. 2nd day, early morning wake up and off to the train station after breakfast for our Machu Picchu day. Train ride is 3 1/2hrs - scenery too lovely to nap. A 10min walk off the train down to a bus, 5 min ride, to the bridge, walk across the bridge (roaring river below you), another bus switchbacks up 1500 ft to IT. Machu Picchu was everything I ever hoped and just like every photo you have ever seen but better. The mist and low clouds emphasized the green mountains. The ruins are not for the timid or anyone unable to walk well. No handrails, slippery uneven stone steps, steep climbs - fabulous! Lunch is cafeteria style - I had some roasted alpaca, very good. Eventually back to the bus, bus, train and Cuzco by 7PM. Excellent dinner, bed, up early next morning for the flight to meet the ship in Lima, Peru. The return was on scheduled flights (about 4 or 5 of them to accommodate everyone)on modern jet aircraft. Before returning to the RP, we took a short tour of Lima. It is not a beautiful city and is dangerous but interesting. Husband was happy to se me. We sailed about 1PM. This excursion was booked with Princess and worth every penny. Our last So. American port was Manta, Ecuador. Upon waking and walking out on the balcony to check things out, I was a bit surprised to find us looking at a US Navy destroyer with the American flag proudly flying. A few of our passengers were former military and got a tour, the rest of us just looked. Lots of security patrols around. We took a bus to the Artisan's Market and had a small one on the pier as well. I found the best buys at this port (I have to tell you that I am not terribly fond of shopping so I don't do a lot of it). Some of the passengers made an overnight flight trip to see Quito,so we were there 2days. I was interested to learn that the US dollar is their currency as well. Not much to see otherwise, but I did enjoy it. 2 days later we woke to a nice sunrise and the islands on the west side of the Panama Canal. Soon Panama City andthe Bridge of the Americas came into view. We had breakfast on the balcony as we sailed into the first of the locks. It is very hot as the day progresses. We cruised the Canal until about 3PM when we exited the final lock. At one time we were scheduled to stop at Cartagena, Colombia, but that stop was cancelled and our time in Aruba extended. It also made possible a 4-5hr stop at the east end of the Canal in Cristobal. Panamanian dancers danced, many stalls set up to sell all kinds of goods at the pier. About 9PM we sailed on into the Caribbean. Aruba was our last port of call. Having been there before, we took a cab to the Marriott Hotel and spent a few hours on the beach. Many people seemed to enjoy the shopping there. Ft. Lauderdale lurked ahead and the end of 31 wonderful days of cruising. Princess does a great job of getting everyone off and on their way with efficiency. I have to say that this was the best trip we have taken and it will be difficult to beat it - but we will give it a try.

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Mar 22, 2003

South America

Royal Princess-South America, Buenos Aires to Valparaiso (March 22 – April 5, 2003) 3/19-3/21 We started this trip with a 3 day Princess pre-cruise to Iguazzu Falls. We would highly recommend this trip, as the falls are spectacular! We stayed at the Tropical Das Cataratas Hotel on the Brazilian side of the falls. This is a wonderful hotel and when you walk out the front door you can see the falls. Prior to leaving for the falls

we spent one night in Buenos Aires at the Claridge Hotel (an nice older hotel within walking distance of Florida Street) and after returning from the falls we stayed another night at the same place. Worth seeing in Buenos Aires are the cemetery (Recoleta) where Evita’s crypt is located; La Boca (home of the Tango); the Colon Theater; and Florida Street (for shopping). 3/22 The Royal Princess is a wonderful ship (our favorite)…just the right size. She was refurbished in 2001 and looks great. 3/23 Our first port of call was Montevideo. This is the only port where we took one of the ship’s tours, but it was great…we went to La Rabida Estancia (ranch). It is a private, family owed ranch and the only way to see it was to take the tour. The family and all ranch hands were most gracious and the food was fabulous. We even got to shear a sheep and milk a cow, as well as take a hayride. A little pricey but worth it. 3/25 Our second port was Puerto Madryn where we had prior to leaving home set up a tour with Portcompass.com (a company that does tours from cruise ships for a lot less than the ships charges. We were very impressed with the service and quality of the tours. We went to Punta Tombo penguin reserve…the 2-½ hours each way on a dirt/gravel road are well worth it. Never before have we seen so many penguins in one place…we were there at the end of the season (late March) and there was still over 100,000 left. At peak time there can be over 1 million! We were able to stand or sit right next to Magellanic penguins. After the penguin colony we stopped in Gaiman for Welsh tea. It was an enjoyable, picturesque place in the middle of nowhere. We enjoyed the great cakes, scones, etc (it was non-stop food for $8.00 pp). 3/27 The next port was Stanley, Falkland Islands…it was very wet, cold and windy, but we were thankful because at lest our ship was able to tender in. Hired a private Range Rover for 4 of us for $10.00 pp…the guide was so nice and took us all around Stanley to see penguins (there were about 7 left!) shipwrecks, the church, etc. Got soaked but it was fun! After leaving Stanley we encountered a storm and had very rough seas for about 7-8 hours (at least it was at night). Our swells were about 20 feet and we didn’t complain too much since we heard the cruise right before ours had 8-10 hours of 60 ft swells (even the grand piano turned over). 3/28 Next we rounded the Cape Horn…although it can also be pretty rough, we encountered seas that were not bad…it was cold and a little foggy, but not rough. 3/29 We arrived in Ushuaia (the end of the world) in the early morning (about 5 am). It was still dark but when the sun came up we found ourselves in an absolutely beautiful town surrounded by snow-capped mountains. After a short time, a fog rolled in and we couldn’t see anything, including our ship. We had set up another tour through Portcompass to see Beagle Channel wildlife. If it didn’t clear up they would have taken us elsewhere, however as we headed out it started to clear up and we enjoyed a wonderful day with lots of sea lions, penguins in the water and an abundance of birds. It was VERY cold (probably in the 30’s) but scenic! The water was like glass. After the boat tour, we walked around the cute little town. Ushuaia is 1000 km from Antarctica. Unfortunately we only stayed until 2 pm! After sailing from this port we had some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve ever seen…lot’s of different glaciers. We were very fortunate to have a sunny clear afternoon. 3/30 Punta Arenas, Chile was our next port of call. Again, we hired Portcompass to take us on a tour that the ship did not even offer. It was called the Rio Verde tour…we stopped at a Nandu Park (Nandu’s are relatives of the ostrich). We actually got to feed the birds. There were also some guanacos (llama’s), which we could pet and feed. The innkeepers had a lovely garden and we also spotted a pigmy owl in their tree! We rode along the Fitz Roy channel, seeing 3 foxes, vultures, geese, more guanacos, and lots of unique birds. We then stopped at an Inn in Rio Verde for an incredible lamb lunch. All of us enjoyed it (and I don’t normally even like lamb)! Before returning to the ship, we toured the town of Punta Arenas. 3/31 Another great sea day viewing Chilean glaciers…it seemed like they were non-stop! 4/1 Again a day at sea…we sailed the Seno Eyre Fjord which was also beautiful and when we arrived at the Pio XI glacier (the largest in So America), it was covered in fog…our captain waited for about 20 minutes and all of a sudden, it was like the curtain lifted and in front of our ship was this spectacular glacier. We anchored for a while so everyone could see the beauty and just as we sailed away, the fog rolled back in again…maybe an April fools joke!! 4/3 Our last port of call…Puerto Montt, Chile-once again we hired Portcompass to show us the Lake District. It was again another great day of viewing volcanoes, lakes, the quaint town of Puerto Varas, Petrohue River and Falls, and Lake Esmeralda (where we had the option of taking a small boat ride out on the lake). Osorno Volcano was covered with clouds most of the day, but at one point the clouds cleared enough that we could view the snow-covered top. We enjoyed an excellent salmon lunch overlooking one of the lakes (I think they gave is ½ the entire fish). On route back to the Royal Princess we saw some Alpaca near the side of the road so our driver let us get out and take some great close-up pictures. 4/4 Today we spent packing since our trip was ending…we were so sad it was ending!! 4/5 Docked in Valparaiso this morning and Portcompass was waiting for us on the dock (as they had done promptly for all our tours). We toured Valparaiso and Vina del Mar before going to Veramonte winery…we had a tour and tasted a few Chilean wines (and of course bought some too!) On the way to Santiago we stopped at Aqua de Piedra in Curacavi, Chile for a “typical” Chilean lunch…it was wonderful! After a tour of Santiago and San Christobal Hill to see the Virgin Mary statue, we were dropped off at the airport for our flight. In summary…this was our 26th cruise and bar far one of the best! From beginning to end everything was wonderful…we met lots of nice people, had spectacular scenery, and great tour/tour guides throughout the trip!

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Jun 23, 2002

Norwegian Fjords

This voyage, our third on the Royal Princess, took us from London [Southampton], England up in to the Artic Circle and the North Cape in Norway and then back to Southampton. At this time of year this is the land of the midnight sun. This 12-day cruise is offered by Princess only once per year. We departed Southampton on June 23, and returned there on July 5. Last year we cruised on the Royal Princess for the British Isles itinerary

just after the ship had completed the Norwegian Fjords journey. Some of the passengers had stayed aboard from that cruise to enjoy the British Isles. When we visited with them, we were intrigued by their favorable impressions of the Fjords itinerary and the North Cape. We decided to find out for ourselves this year. This was our second cruise through the Norwegian Fjords. Our previous cruise had gone only as far north as Trondheim. In a nutshell, it was a fabulous cruise. First of all, we enjoy the Royal Princess. Even though the ship is almost 19 years old, She is one of our favorite ships. A crew of 521 serves the normal passenger capacity of 1,200. The ship is small enough to remember where all the public rooms are located after just a couple of trips around the decks. The ship now has an updated and expanded fitness center, an Internet ‘café,’ and limited personal choice dining options. We had the privilege of dining with Captain Bob Oliver several times during the cruise. He has served as Master of this ship for the past three years except for his vacations. He told us that the Royal Princess was originally built to serve the Caribbean and Alaska markets. As those markets expanded and as repeat cruisers were looking for more exotic itineraries, the Royal Princess was switched to the less traveled areas of the world. We first cruised on this ship in 1999 in South America, from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Manus, Brazil – about 1,500 miles up the Amazon River. This Norwegian Fjords cruise included five sea days and stops at the ports of Hellesylt, Geiranger, Trondheim, Honningsvag [North Cape], Tromso, Flaam, Vik, and Bergen, all in Norway. We didn’t spend a whole day in each port. In Hellesylt we stopped only long enough to drop off shore excursion passengers who would rejoin the ship in Geiranger. We spent a long morning in Flaam and then cruised through the narrow and majestic fjords to Vik where we picked up the passengers who had taken the all day land tour from Flaam to Vik. Two of the sea days were spent traveling through fjords. In the northern part of Norway, up in the Artic Circle, the fjords were mostly barren and the valleys were still full of snow. The southern fjords were lush with forests and hillside grazing lands. Snow still covered some of the peaks. The melt off offered spectacular waterfalls. At times we were close enough to the banks that we could almost feel the spray as the water bounced off the rocks. My favorite port was Honningsvag up in the Artic Circle. This is a small fishing village with a road over to the North Cape. We took a shore excursion from the village over to the visitors’ center right at the North Cape. The Cape is about 1,000 feet above sea level and supposedly on a clear day one can see almost all the way to the North Pole. The day was partly sunny at the pier but as we increased our elevation, it became foggy; almost like driving in the clouds. The temperature at the Cape was 47 F but with the brisk wind and fog, it seemed like about 20 F. The winds blew the fog away for a bit, but it was not clear enough to see the North Pole sticking out of the ground in the distance. During our drive to and from the Cape, we saw herds of reindeer at various spots. Surprisingly, the waters were not at all rough getting to and from the Cape and the most spectacular aspect of this area was that the sun shone all day AND all night. We were really fortunate to have almost cloudless weather while there except for the fog. It sure seemed strange to look out the window at midnight or 4 a.m. and see the sun. The other side of the coin is that the residents have several months per year of almost total darkness. We stopped at Tromso on a Sunday. This was an ancient whaling capital and served as a base for expeditions to the North Pole. The island is located in the middle of a bunch of islands and now serves as a regional commercial center. We took the shuttle bus from the pier to town and to our dismay, found the town center basically deserted. The Burger King wouldn’t even open until 3 p.m. After leaving Tromso we passed through some more fjords on our way to the open sea and our journey south to Flaam. Flaam is another favorite port. There is a train that goes from right near the pier [at sea level, of course] up 2,960 feet in just 12.4 miles to connect with the main rail line to Bergen and Oslo. The train ride lasts about 60 minutes in each direction. Many ferries stop here with passengers from some of the small ports along the coast. They jump on the train and connect at the top with the trains to other parts of the mainland. This train stops for a few minutes about half way to the top at the Kjosfossen Waterfall. The waterfall is similar to a small Niagara Falls. Bergen was our final port of call before returning to Southampton. The city offers a combination of old and modern Norway. There were 6 cruise ships in port when we were there so the tourist areas were somewhat overwhelmed with people. We planned to ride the Finicular [like a cable car] to the crest of a hill in the upper part of the city. The panoramic view of the city is spectacular from that vantage point. However, it was pouring rain when we arrived in Bergen and continued to rain all day so we didn’t even take the shuttle bus to the center of town. Many who had booked tours were disappointed at the lack of visibility and the wind with rain at the tour stops. Bergen gets over 300 days with rain per year. The prices in Norway were expensive, even for the necessities of life, as compared with the U.S. and lots of other foreign countries. Everywhere we traveled in the country, the infrastructure was well maintained, the homes and buildings looked freshly painted or cleaned, and the people were friendly and helpful. I was surprised at the large percentage of Norwegian people who speak English. Norway is a pleasant place to visit. A final word on the ports: if we do this itinerary again, we will not book shore excursions for two reasons. First, the weather is always problematical. Sometimes the cruise ships cannot even dock or tender at the North Cape. If they can land passengers at the various ports, the poor visibility or rain or wind or all of the above may result in the tour not being very enjoyable. Second, for those of us who are mobile and adventuresome, and for those of us who enjoy saving a dollar, arranging the tours or their equivalent independently offers more flexibility and most times at considerable savings. Transportation to interesting sites was always available and reliable in the Norwegian ports and many of the drivers and other locals speak at least some English. The Royal Princess was almost full for this voyage with 1,164 passengers aboard. Over 900 of these passengers were repeat passengers with Princess and almost 400 passengers were repeat passengers on the Royal Princess. One reason for the huge percentage of repeaters is the itineraries. The Royal Princess offers numerous unusual itineraries compared with many other cruise ships. The Royal Princess is small enough to enter harbors that some of the current mega ships can’t use. Another reason for the loyalty to the ship is the homey atmosphere of the public areas. Additionally, the officers and staff remain virtually unchanged over time except for their vacations. There are always lots of familiar faces aboard. We have noticed a few changes on the Royal Princess since our first cruise. The gym has been expanded with more walkers and exercise equipment. Wireless Internet access is available from the cabin for a fee and there is an Internet Café, also available for a fee, in part of the Library. There were no “semi-formal” nights; instead we had 3 formal nights and the balance were “smart casual” for evenings. In the dining room at supper, the pasta course has been eliminated, the soup & salad courses have been combined, and the entrée portions have decreased. None of this is bad because one can still order multiple items from each course including the deserts. There is no longer a wine steward; the assistant waiter brings the wine and any drinks ordered from the bar. The midnight buffet has been eliminated but in its place, the Pizzeria [one half of the Lido Buffet] is open from 5:30 pm until midnight and in the other half of the Lido is the Bistro [offering soups, salads, deserts, and limited entrées from the restaurant] open from 7:30 pm until 2 am. The continental breakfast begins at 4 am and room service is always available. No one need go hungry for lack of access to food at any hour of the day or night. The food quality, variety and buffet service all remain excellent. Tipping on the Royal Princess is still done in the traditional method with envelopes provided before the final evening. Tips can be charged to one’s shipboard account by signing a voucher for the desired amount with a copy of the voucher put in the envelope to present to the staff member. An Enrichment Lecture series was offered. The speaker was an expert on Norwegian culture and history. His several presentations were excellent and well attended. There was also the traditional napkin folding, snowball bingo, art auctions, and bridge lessons among the shipboard activities. Prices in the “Duty Free” shops seemed awfully high; there weren’t any bargains. Entertainment during the cruise included four production shows, two comedians, an illusionist and some vocalists. The production shows are limited by the small size of the stage and limited lighting capabilities. We enjoyed the enthusiasm of the cast and featured entertainers. There were trios for dancing and easy listening each evening in the various lounges and the casino was always available to accept contributions when not in port. This cruise was really enjoyable. The itinerary with the mix of sea days and interesting ports was great. The passengers came from the United Kingdom and other countries as well as lots from the U.S. and all seemed friendly and interesting. Our dining companions included fun couples from Manchester, England; Toronto, Canada; and Michigan in the U.S. We chatted with many people from other parts of the world as well during the relaxed atmosphere of the cruise. The officers and staff did a fine job of making all feel like special guests, and the cabins, even though small, were nevertheless comfortable. The Land of the Midnight Sun was a unique experience in cruising. We undoubtedly will return to the Royal Princess when another unique itinerary intrigues us.

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Dec 5, 2001

Valparaiso to Buenos Aires via Cape Horn

SOUTH TO THE HORN BEFORE YOU GO (READING MATERIAL) Darwin and the Beagle (1831-33) by Alan Moorehead Two Years before the Mast (1833-34) by Richard Henry Dana Voyage of the Sunbeam (1865) by Lady Brassey Sailing Alone Around the World (1893-96) by Capt. Joshua Slocum Along the Clipper Way (Includes excerpts from above sources, and many others too) by Sir Francis Chichester (1)"Shackleton and the Antarctic" (2) ENDURANCE

(his ship), and (3) "South." (About his 1914 Expedition), by Shackleton and others (Success snatched from the jaws of failure) Wonderfully exciting photographs in all three Our cruise aboard the ROYAL PRINCESS (christened by Princess Di) retraced experiences about the Horn described in the reading material above. The story of Shackleton's expedition is the exception, but is included because it began at South Georgia Island, at the same latitude as the Falkland Islands, on December 5th, 1914, and ran into pack-ice on December 7th, 1914 at the latitude of Cape Horn. Eventually, his ship was trapped and crushed by ice, but all hands were rescued by daring seldom, if ever, experienced by man. Since our cruise (2001) lasted from December 5th to the 19th, I feel it appropriate to include his story because of the coincidence of dates, albeit eighty-seven years later. Moreover, the rescued members of the expedition were delivered to safety in Punta Arenas, Chile, a port visited by the ROYAL PRINCESS. We arrived at San Francisco Airport three hours early, cleared security in half an hour. While we waited for our flight to DFW, Darlene took a picture of security personnel and promptly had an otherwise unexposed film-roll confiscated. The plane to Dallas was an A-300 that flew at 37000 feet in fair weather, but with some turbulence. We had a four and one-half hour layover at DFW, and when it came time to board I learned my seat had been assigned to a young lady who was to work on the ROYAL PRINCESS. We had booked our seats on this flight four months in advance, and I had reconfirmed our reservations five times. We experienced a bit of a hassle that ended with everyone accommodated, but not until a few tears were shed on the part of the young lady who was given another seat. The error occurred when my ticket was exchanged for a boarding pass. American Airlines overbooked by 31 passengers, and the confusion caused by staff trying to buy their way out of a dilemma (eventually successful) caused the error. Curiously, my seat assignment was confirmed when an attendant checked to verify that I was to receive a diabetic meal, as indeed I was. We saw Persis again at the airport in Santiago, again in tears, because she was traveling alone to her new job and "no one would help me." We were boarding the bus to transfer to the ship, and she did too. The next day we saw her aboard ship working in the boutique. Apparently the incident had a happy ending. The ROYAL PRINCESS was to have sailed from Valparaiso at 6:00pm December 5th, but didn't get off till after midnight. We turned in early, having had no sleep in nearly forty hours. I took a sleeping pill and slept well. The forward cabin we'd been assigned was the cause of mal-de-mer we experienced, Darlene more than I. We both had taken meclazine, and ate little, but still were haunted by thoughts of home. A gale from the south produced large swells the ship met head on causing it to curtsey and roll for two nights and a day. The rise and fall of the bow, together with the roll, created G forces as the ship bottomed out, and less than G force as it rose, crested, and dipped again, rather like what one experiences on an elevator. I missed the first formal dinner due to mal-de-mer, but managed to acquire my sea legs thereafter. By morning of the second night we approached Puerto Montt four hours late. When the ship turned east it entered sheltered water, and life assumed another proportion. We anchored, and preparations were made to tender passengers ashore by 10:00am. The visit to Puerto Montt was cut short an hour to save time, but we still had three hours to make up. They, however, were made up without difficulty in sheltered waters nearly as smooth as glass for the next six days or so. Temperature in Puerto Montt was in the fifties with few clouds, but still windy. The ROYAL PRINCESS is a very nice ship of 45,000 tons of British registry. Because of its size, it sat placid enough at anchor, but the tender ride to and from the pier in Puerto Montt was about as rough as it could be. We went ashore in the afternoon and noticed subtle differences between the towns of the southern latitudes and those further to the north. Certainly there were similarities, but the structures here were more substantial, many with metal roofs. I found the people affable, the situation hilly, and the architecture interesting. We seldom take tours from the ship, but choose instead to wander the streets of the immediate vicinity. I am limited in how far I can walk, but I suspect I managed a couple of miles or so in Puerto Montt, with a rest now and then. On this ship, and perhaps all others by now, SMART CASUAL seems to be "come as you are." The costume du jour has been reduced to jeans, much to my surprise. When combined with bellies that look as if they are eleven months pregnant, and T-shirts inadequate to cover it, the effect is awesome. The most severe example was a man who looked as if he had just finished slopping the hogs, and didn't bother to change. I don't recall seeing so much quivering flesh in all my life. I asked a woman, in the course of what I hoped would become conversation, if she felt she had gained any weight so far. She replied "I don't know and don't care." I gathered she pretty well summed up the attitude of many passengers (present company excepted, of course). Food to many seemed to exert the greatest pull. Even the Cruise director admitted some disappointed with some passengers who were rude as well as rustic. Perhaps cruising had become a way of life without enthusiasm. No problem. I existed in my own special world fulfilling my own desires. Fortunately, our table partners were a step above the average, and we got along. Even our random partners at breakfast and lunch were for the most part amiable. We left Puerto Montt shortly after 8:00pm and sailed almost due south all night through channels protected from the sea by barrier islands. It was wonderful sailing in spite of a modest southerly breeze. Conifers grew to the water's edge, and to the east were snow-covered peaks on what I presumed to be the Andes cordillera. The higher ones seemed to be cloud-capped volcanoes draped with glaciers in an otherwise cloudless sky. The water had become sparkling smooth all about. With but an hour to go before entering the Darwin Channel, the coasts on either side began to close upon us in idyllic scenes of large and small islands green to the water's edge, not unlike that of the Alaskan Inside Passage. The only way out is the Darwin Channel into which the ship turned 90 degrees west on its passage to the Pacific Ocean. The "canal" is narrow, only about half a mile wide. The transit took a bit more than an hour. Suddenly there is a gathering of clouds to the south pulling a curtain over what earlier had been so cheery a day. Wind increased some, enough to stir up white caps, and the Pacific swell increased as we headed in its direction at a steady 17 knots. 12:15pm we are at sea again until the next morning. December 9--Sea was only moderately rough last night; not a problem, and we entered sheltered water again this morning on our way to Pio XI Glacier. Scenery is reminiscent of Alaska's Inside Passage. Noticeable drop in temperature to mid 40s. Overcast lifts as we go inland. Two hours to the Glacier, and what appear at first to be whitecaps are really bits of floating ice, thick but small in size. 11:45am we are surrounded by floating ice and snow-capped peaks. Although the channel remains smooth, the wind blows hard from the SW, and it is cold. We glide across the water going ENE, and by 2:00pm the weather turns clear and delightfully warm giving us a perfect view of Pio XI. At 3:45pm the ship does a pirouette to return from whence it came, but by a slightly different route, at about 10 knots until we reach the wider inside channel and continue our voyage south. The weather is superb, the best in thirteen years we are told. December 10th we detour to another Glacier, the Amalia, and return to the main channel, and continue cruising south for another day before entering the Strait of Magellan. Amalia Glacier is more dramatic than Pio XI, but getting to and from Pio is by far more interesting and beautiful. Seas continue calm, sky partly cloudy but otherwise fair with no rain. I stayed up till midnight to see the Southern Cross for the first time, and managed a glimpse of the Magellanic clouds as well, two relatively large blurs of heavenly nebulae similar to our milky way that emit dim reflected light. I saw them just before they set in the south when I followed the line of the Southern Cross that points to the pole. My grandest hope was realized, and I was satisfied. At dinner I sensed the ship entering rougher water and correctly assumed we had entered the Strait and were feeling the effect of the Pacific swell on our starboard side. After dinner I went on deck to see both Por Tamar and Cape Pilar, the latter being the southern point of entry to the Pacific Ocean, and Port Tamar the northern headland. We entered the Strait from the Smyth Channel, and rounded Port Tamar as the ship turned eastward at 7:45pm toward Punta Arenas. The Pacific entry to the Strait was clearly visible from the stern, just as Capt. Slocum described it in his book, SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD. I considered staying up till we passed Borja Bay where sailors of yore stopped to leave the name of their ship and its date of passage on a board they nailed to a tree. The spot became an unofficial post office where letters were retrieved by other ships that delivered them at ports along their route of travel. Nothing remains of the evidence, however, and as the night was overcast, I decide to go to bed. When I awoke, we had docked in Punta Arenas. During the night we traversed sections of the Strait called "Reaches," Long Reach being the most westerly that leads to the Pacific Ocean. Then comes Crooked Reach through the narrows and the area of Borja Bay, then English Reach to Froward Reach and Cape Froward, the most southerly part of the continent of South America. Rounding that Cape the ship headed north into Famine Reach bounded by desolate lowlands east, and barrens to the west, then into Broad Reach where the coastline recedes and the water expands. Punta Arenas is situated in the north west corner where the Strait veers east to the second and first narrows eventually to meet the Atlantic at Cape Virgin. Visibility was great, and I could see Tierra del Fuego (Isla Grande) to the south and Cape Froward to the southwest. That evening we retraced our northward course southward past Cape Froward, across the Strait, into the Cockburn Channel to the Southern Sea, then east into the shelter of the Beagle Channel on our way to Ushuaia, Argentina. I was surprised that the captain of the ROYAL PRINCESS was unfamiliar with the "Milky Way" of Capt. Slocum fame (the most harrowing experience of his seafaring life). The Milky Way, so named for the foam created by waves breaking on numerous submerged and other rocks, is located just west of the mouth of the Cockburn Channel into which Slocum sailed north when he escaped its dangers. He referred to Darwin's reaction to it who felt, "any landlubber who saw it would have nightmares for weeks to come," or words to that effect. Our captain had not read Slocum's book, but said he would check out the Milky Way for future reference. Although it was near, it was not a threat as we passed into the southern sea in the dark of an early morning We sailed on glassy seas below an almost cloudless sky in the Beagle Channel where the scene in every direction was awesome. I was up at 5:00am before the sun sent its rays down from the peaks to illuminate the opposite side of the channel. This would prove to be the most spectacular part of the cruise; narrow waterway, immense snow covered mountains, magnificent Glaciers, one after another on the north shore, and each named for a country in honor of sailors aboard the Beagle in 1833; not all, of course. I'm afraid photographs will not do the scenery justice. I recommend a camcorder because as we glided silently past the coast it seemed it was a moving panorama, and that the ship was still. It was quite a sensation. December 12 at noon we docked at Ushuaia the southernmost city of the world. The temperature rose to over 60 degrees, and was the warmest day of the cruise so far with no wind and only a few white clouds to mar a perfectly blue sky. Ushuaia is unlike other Latin American cities. Its location requires it to be more substantial, and it has more of an alpine appearance. Above the city is a greenbelt that separates the city from its mountainous backdrop. The city itself slopes up from the sea, gradually at first, then more precipitously as it approaches the greenbelt. I thought it quite attractive, and found the people friendly. There was a small demonstration against the government in the form of a parade to object to Argentina's economic situation that places restrictions on its people. We left Ushuaia at 6:02pm and continued east in the Beagle Channel on smooth seas. East of Ushuaia the channel is downright plain compared to the grandeur to the west. Mountains recede to the level of rounded hills that fade to meet the water where we turned SSW about 2:00am on 12/13 to approach the Horn. Seas were relatively calm all the way with overcast sky, but good visibility, so that the Horn stood out in its entirety. We merely rounded it a bit before making a 180-degree turn to port after presumably dipping our bow into Pacific waters. Had swells been high, the turn might have been exciting, but we lucked out. Our heading was now ENE south of Staten Island to Port Stanley in the Falklands. The swells did increase, but as we were running with them rather than against them, (the wind was from behind), the ride was not uncomfortable. As we passed Staten Island the winds veered to NNE, the ship sailing into seas of perhaps 15-20 feet and we experienced what we did when we left Santiago, except that by now we were more accustomed to the motion and less bothered by it. At the Falklands we anchored in the roads of Port Stanley and had to be tendered to the dock, a trip of about 15 minutes in moderate to calm seas. Islands are low lying and susceptible to winds that sometimes prevent cruise ships from visiting this port, but we were fortunate. The afternoon was glorious making our visit and walkabout memorable indeed. Port Stanley is a bit of old England transplanted to this remote part of the earth, ten thousand miles from the motherland. British values and norms prevail even in the pubs, one of which we visited briefly, and found to be a cozy rendezvous for the locals. The architecture and lifestyle was a welcome and interesting change, and I noticed many a British flag in windows to indicate, I suspect, the pride the people feel for Britain's participation in the war against terrorism. We sailed from Port Stanley at 6:15pm heading for Puerto Madryn, Argentina. To Puerto Madryn our course was NNW, and we ran into our first real rain of the cruise. The sea rose some, but was nothing like what we had experienced. I dressed for this formal night, the second of three, and shook the hand of the captain who seemed out of place in his required setting, poor fellow. Arrived and docked in Puerto Madryn 12/16, Sunday. Most everything was closed in town, so we didn't go in. The skyline with its numerous high-rises set the city apart from others we'd seen. Apparently the area is being discovered, but persons who did go to town were not impressed. So, we took a walk along the pier after a thunderstorm passed leaving considerable wind in its wake. It was in the 60s at Madryn (generally pronounced MA-dryn) on a somewhat dreary and humid day. As we cruised north and reached lower latitudes, temperatures climbed. December 17th we were all at sea again headed for Montevideo on a NNE course rocking and rolling over tumbling swells. I saw the Southern Cross again last night in a perfectly clear sky and was able to show it to Darlene too from the bow of the ship. We saw another nebulae similar to the Magellanic Clouds not far from the "Cross," and near if not actually part of, earth's heavenly Milky Way Arrived at Montevideo 12/18 at about 8:45am on a beautiful sunny day with temperature in the 70s. The city appears modern and attractive. We took a free shuttle to a shopping area near old town from which we walked back to the ship. The defining "monte" (slightly more than 400 feet high) was mostly unadorned near the entrance to the harbor, but "el cerrito" (just over 200 feet high) disappeared under the cover of stone and concrete structures that constitute the city proper. Montevideo has a busy skyline and narrow streets many lined with shade trees. From a distance, because streets are not discernable, the whole has the appearance of a jumble, or clutter, of buildings only a few of which are distinguishable from the mass. Policia were everywhere, often groups of four or more. Except for several children, and at the entrance to churches, there was no serious begging. There were broken sidewalks here and there, but otherwise the city was neat and clean. I thought it one of the best Latin American cities I have visited. It reminded me of San Francisco a little, offering pedestrians pleasant surprises. The walk back to the ship took us past several nice plazas, through an arcade, and sections of Old Town to the pier. The port was the busiest we had seen so far, and the ROYAL PRINCESS was re-supplied here with food and goods for its return trip to Valparaiso. Everything was well organized, and the courtesy of the people generally, as well as drivers, was both surprising and appreciated. I saw no projects under construction leaving the impression that this city was charming enough as is. The night of December 18th we crossed from Montevideo to Buenos Aires over the shallow hundred-miles-wide Rio de la Plata through a narrow, well-marked, channel that had been dredged to accommodate large ships. We also saw the Southern Cross for the last time much lower on the horizon. We disembarked in Buenos Aires next morning so that part of the day in Montevideo was spent packing. We arrived in Buenos Aires early on the morning of the 19th December and had breakfast on board. Following disembarkation, we boarded a bus for a "Highlight Tour" of the city before being taken to the Hilton Hotel to await transportation to the airport. The population of Buenos Aires is 12,000,000, or one third of the total for this enormous country. It would not be an exaggeration to say the heart of the city was opulent. Architectural detail was abundant, as were "balcones." I never saw so many balconies at once in all my life. Except for the widest boulevard in the world, streets were narrow, drivers gutsy, and traffic a nightmare. It was hard to believe that Argentina was on the verge of economic collapse, but the day after we left, the 20th of December, twenty-one protesters (?) were killed. On a lighter and more interesting note dog walkers, with their bevy of canines numbering as many as eight or more, could be seen escorting their charges on leashes from the center of friendly packs. Dogs of every size and description might be included, and they all got along famously. We were left to our own devices for lunch, and in the company of another couple chose a lunch counter and coffee shop not far from the Hilton. It was crowded and noisy which resulted in our limited Spanish being lost in the turmoil. Finally, however, my wife was able to order a quiche of which there were several varieties. After I explained that we wanted separate checks (una cuenta para ellos (pointing to the other couple), y la otra para nosotros), the waiter left both in fact, and us confused. My wife had given the only order. Having some experience in such matters, I prepared our friends for what to expect. Each was served a quiche of ham and cheese, or spinach, or squash. They were great, and they were not expensive. Bottled water cost nearly as much, and we did get separate checks. Everyone was satisfied with what we all considered a fitting end to our overall experience. At 6:00pm we were transferred to the airport from the Hilton by bus, and at 9:00pm AA flight #956 sped us to JFK in New York. From there we transferred to a UA flight to San Francisco where we arrived six hours later, making a total of nearly seventeen hours in the air, and no sleep for about thirty-six hours. Then we had to drive home where we arrived completely exhausted. Forty hours without sleep does funny things to a person to which a five-hour jet lag contributed its part. There are some things that one is glad to have done, but would never do again. South to the Horn is one of those. But, oh, the memories! KENNETH G. RAMEY

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Sep 10, 2001

New England/Canada

The Royal Princess is starting to show her age but still is a very nice ship. All of the cabins on the outside with windows is a definite plus.  Cabins were about the same size as on most ships plus had a full size bathtub and shower. FOOD The food in the dining room and in the Lido Cafe was well presented but was not up to the level I have had on previous cruises.  The fish dishes were the most disappointing. SERVICE

The service from everyone on this ship was outstanding and Princess gives help when and where ever needed. CRUISE ITSELF The tour thru New England and Canada was great with a lot of choices for on shore tours.  I recommend the walking tours in every port.  The passengers were almost to a person WW11 vintage so this might not be a cruise for anyone younger then 50. ENTERTAINMENT While full of energy, it still smacks of college musicals but still fun. All in all, the cruise was good.

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Jul 10, 2001

Northern / Western Europe

Pre-cruise: We flew into London four days before our ship left, and did London on our own. We had a terrific time. We booked a room at the Marriot Maida Vale and stayed there on an Internet rate of 90 pounds per night. The food in London that is ethnic (Italian, Thai, French, Polynesian, etc.) is all good. If you eat fish and chips bring your own stomach pump. Sorry old bean, but English food is what really drove the Mayflower people

off the banks of the Thames. We went to Phantom of the Opera (a DON’T MISS experience) and we saw Les Miserables (yawn). We went to the Hard Rock Café and the catsup and bbq sauce is not up to USA standards. We saw all the touristy stuff (Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, etc.). The best place was the Cabinet War Rooms, which are also a DO NOT MISS experience. Itinerary: We had a terrific itinerary on the Royal Princess for my first cruise and my wife’s second. We took the 10 day tour through the North of Europe going to Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Amsterdam, Germany, Belgium and France. This is a marvelous itinerary, and one I would recommend. Ship: Although older than many of Princess’ current ships, the Royal Princess is well maintained. Every time my wife and I went for a walk on the deck, there was someone cleaning, painting, or fixing something. The carpet is worn in places, the bathrooms don’t all work as planned, and there is a huge dent in the side of the ship where the ship came loose from a mooring during a storm. But aside from what I consider to be very minor problems, the ship is very well maintained. Quarters: Our quarters were a private mini-suite, and we loved our balcony. During the sailing from Oslo, and again during our entry into Amsterdam, we were able to sit on our balcony and watch the world go by. At one point a woman stopped her Volvo as we traversed the Oslofjord and took our photo as we waved to her. At the same time, I was shooting her picture. It seems humorous now. Dining: We had excellent service. The captain, Jose’ was wonderful and took care of our every whim. We ordered two and three deserts every night, and no one cared. We sometimes had two entrees, and you could get anything from the menu if you asked for it 24 hours ahead. We were blessed to sit at Late Dinner with the Staff Captain and his wife, with a couple from Minnesota, and a couple from California. These folks became our friends and in many ways, our mentors, helping us by suggesting things to do in different ports, or how to solve ship-board problems. It was the very best part of the cruise (the people, not the meals – and the meals were pretty darned good!). Ports of Call Scotland: Great tours were offered. We did the walking tour and had a great time. Lots of pictures, lots of wonderful things to see, like Holyrood Palace. We had a wonderful time. It was rainy, however, and rumor had it that the gypsy in Scotland foretold that we would have that rainy day, and the rest would be sunny. Her prophecy became our history, and though we never met the woman, were quite pleased at her soothsaying. We bought woolen blankets and stuff for our golf-loving friends at this port, and the highlight was sailing out under the Forth of Firth Bridge where there was a clearance of only 2 feet between the bridge and the top of the ship! We have it on video, and it was awesome! Oslo: Definitely do the Viking Ship Museum. We had a wonderful time here, but would have liked more time in the port. We bought a troll as that seemed to the native souvenir. Amsterdam: Make sure you do the Anne Frank house. It is not to be missed. Copenhagen: Another wonderful Nordic port, and we had a wonderful time there. We had Danish pastries, shopped, bought trinkets and tacky souvenirs, and generally had a wonderful time. Frankfurt, Germany: Go to the bathroom BEFORE you get on the bus. I walked around for an hour with a bladder the size of a basketball because I failed to do so, and the toilets “over there” are all pay as you go. Not conducive to good urinary tract health. Our guide was very excited to show us the red light district. In fact, at every stop she would say “You vill be shure to be back at 4:00 sharp or you vill miss zee red light deestrict!” We called her Frau Blucher! (but not to her face). Belgium: We bought lace and chocolates, and had a wonderful time seeing the sights in Bruges. It was an experience I would like to repeat. I would, however, make sure not to store the chocolates in the refrigerator where my children would pig out on them. Paris: The Louvre is not to be missed. It is my favorite part of France. Lunch at the Eiffel Tower was… well… it was chicken breasts in Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup over rice. No, I am NOT kidding. But, hey, the view was terrific! Overall: I would go again tomorrow. The only thing I would change would be the smoking policy. I would prefer that smoking be banned from common areas, and violators drawn and quartered. But other than the pervasive smell of tobacco at every turn on the ship, I have to say I had a wonderful experience. The best part of the cruise was the time we spent at our evening meal every night with people too wonderful to describe here, with whom we developed a great friendship.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Europe

This ship was very disappointing compared to other Princess ships. To start all the safes were not working in the cabins so one had to stand in line daily at the pursers desk to store the valuables. The food was no way comparable to the food and service on other large ships...rather inferior. The cabins were very poor, our bathtub was not usable and the carpet

in our cabin was so stained it had to be replaced. The staff at the excursion desk was unable to help us for independent travel and often gave us wrong information. We recommend this ship only if you get a really great deal...this ship has been sold so it is clear Princess has very little interest in it or its passengers. The majority of people on the ship felt angry and the same way we did.

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Nov 30, -0001

Canada / New England

Cruise Line: Princess Sailing Date: September 17th, 2002 This was our second cruise, and was booked during our first cruise last summer. Being newbies to cruise travel, we have rapidly become devotees of the entire experience. This trip was definitely an over-the-top exercise for us, complete with first-class air travel and a category AB cabin. Sometime in our lives we hope to live this high on the hog again; for now, we will have

to scale back our desires just a little. The itinerary started in New York, with stops in Newport, RI, Boston, MA, Bar Harbor, ME, St. John, NB, Halifax, NS, Quebec City and finally ending in Montreal. There was an extra full day in Montreal with the ship serving as our hotel room, and 2 sailing days between the stops in Halifax and Quebec. That adds up to 7 ports in 10 days. 5 stops were made in the first 5 days, so those 2 days of sailing came as a welcome break from the shore excursions. Pre-Trip/Embarkation Air travel was arranged through Princess on Northwest Airlines. The entire outbound trip was pleasant, after we were able to convince the airport screeners that a neatly-dressed couple with several suitcases did not pose a threat to national security. We got the Full Monty, with all bags searched while checking in, and additional searches at the gate before boarding. We're patriots, so we suffered all of this with good humor. It turns out that anyone whose travel plans do not return from the same airport as their arrival will have a high probability of extra scrutiny. Plan accordingly. We spent 2 pre-nights in NYC, again arranged through Princess. The only disappointing thing about this portion of the trip was the lack of a Princess representative to meet us at La Guardia. We had been forewarned of this when we received our cruise documents, and were provided with shuttle vouchers to our hotel, but it was only through extreme fortune that we found the shuttle driver easily. He treated us to a demonstration of Big Apple driving tactics. Since traffic moves at a pace only slightly faster than glacial, the maneuvers through traffic and pedestrians are amusing rather than frightening. Upon arrival at the Millenium Broadway hotel, we found that the reservations were taken care of properly and we were in our room in a matter of minutes. It had taken more than 90 minutes to get to the hotel, so this was highly appreciated. Being the gentleman that I am, I allowed my wife to use the restroom first. New York streets and traffic combine for a very rough ride, indeed! We then spent some time exploring Times Square and getting acclimatized to the city. It takes a little getting used to. We used our pre-embarkation day to hit the requisite tourist stops, starting with a subway ride down the re-opened line through the WTC site to Battery Park. From there we visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Most of the statue remains closed to visitors, so a visit there won't last too long. Additionally, there are security screenings before boarding the ferry, and these are quite thorough. Ellis Island is very well done, and well worth spending a couple of hours viewing the displays. We then made the obligatory journey to the top of the Empire State Building. Unless it's a picture-perfect day for viewing, consider an alternative and save the aggravation. Getting to the top of the building involves much line-standing. We ended the day by going to see Cabaret at Studio 54, then stopping off for a couple of drinks at a small pub. All in all, the people we met were quite friendly and seemed appreciative of the fact that we were visiting their city. Embarkation the next day proceeded relatively smoothly. Our bags were picked up at the specified time and secured in the lobby. Things got a little behind schedule at this point due to the logistics of handling so much baggage, exacerbated by the arrival of passengers from the RP's transatlantic crossing. This resulted in about 30 minutes delay departing for the ship. We were required to identify our bags prior to loading them on the bus to the pier, and once again at the pier. Checking in at the passenger terminal took only a few minutes. There was some slight confusion when we were given our on-board ID's that actually belonged to another couple with a similar last name. Once we convinced the nice lady that we weren't those people, we were given the correct passes and found our way on board. In short order we were in our home for the next 10 days, Cabin L334. The cabin measured about 300 sq. ft. including the large balcony. The full bathroom had plenty of storage space behind the corner mirrors, the closets were quite spacious, and there was a decent-sized sitting area. Our cabin steward introduced himself, checked that everything was OK, and we went off to explore the ship. We had plenty of time to take a look around, have a drink, and enjoy the sunshine before attending the safety drill and sailing. The Ship In spite of the smaller size of the RP, we never felt crowded at any time during our trip. Most of the public areas are on a single deck, with the exception of the dining room. This makes it very easy to get around, particularly for less-mobile travelers. The Horizon Lounge on the Sun Deck seemed to get very little traffic and was a quiet place to relax. The pool area on the Lido Deck tended to be busy, given that the weather was very nearly perfect during the entire cruise. The other pool on the Sun Deck was closed for repairs, so those who wanted to soak had to concentrate in just the one area. There are relatively few cabins with balconies on the RP. Most of those are mini-suites and come with a relatively high price tag. Our tablemates complained that their cabin was smaller than equivalent cabins on newer ships. There is a more pronounced sense of motion on the RP than we experienced on our first cruise (Sea Princess). We sailed through calm conditions for the most part, yet could feel a very gentle roll while the ship cruised between ports. It in fact was quite pleasant, though in rougher seas this might become uncomfortable for some travelers. One of the crew members told us that they'd been through a storm on their transatlantic crossing, and that the experience had been quite unpleasant. The furnishings and equipment were all well-maintained throughout the ship. There was some visible rust on railings and other exterior steel, but that's just part of the ongoing battle against a harsh environment. It was by no means excessive. Food and Dining Room Service, Entertainment Overall, the dining room served excellent meals that were well-prepared, no matter the time of day. I had one disappointing meal that the waiter tried to subtlely warn me away from. I learned to be a little more on the ball and pick up on his cues, and wasn't disappointed again. The four of us at the table all tended to order different items, so we had a pretty good opportunity to sample the varied offerings. It was originally a table for six, but the other two never appeared and must have switched to the early seating. The service the first couple of nights was lackluster, and there appeared to be some problems between the waiter and his assistant. On the second night, the head waiter pulled the assistant aside for a chat, and service improved remarkably. From that point on, both got very high marks for their service. They also picked up on the fact that we and our table mates were not in a hurry to eat, so they could take care of more demanding passengers while giving us time to talk and enjoy some wine between courses. We only went to one show during the trip. On that night there was a comedian/magician, who put on quite a good show and was able to get good audience participation. Others told us that the shows were all quite good. The Cruise Sailing out of New York is an incredible experience. The terminal is just north of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum, so passengers were treated to an exceptional view of the city. The ship didn't pick up speed until passing under the Verrazano Narrows bridge. It was a warm day, allowing us to spend quite a long time on deck enjoying the sights. The first stop is Newport, RI. If you're a fan of sailing, the America's Cup races, or mansions that truly exemplify conspicuous consumerism, this is your place. The harbor is too small to allow docking, so we had our first experience with tenders. The crew were very organized and kept close to schedule. The requirement for tendering was not noted when we booked our shore excursions. This was not a problem for us, but there were a few who groused about the difficulty getting in and out of the little boats. There were plenty of spare hands to help those who needed assistance. We opted for a harbor and lighthouse tour on a small tour boat that we thoroughly enjoyed. Those who had an extra cup of coffee before leaving the ship found out that environmental concerns dictated somewhat primitive restroom facilities when we reached the lighthouse site on Rose Island. The dock in Boston is a few miles away from the historic parts of the city. Shuttle buses were available for a small fee to get downtown. We visited several sites on our own instead of participating in an organized tour. In general Boston a very pedestrian-friendly city, but be aware that there is road construction nearly everywhere. Most of the historic sites are located within a relatively small area. There was a little confusion with the shuttles getting back to the ship. The Golden Princess with its 2600 passengers was also in town, making for long lines at the pick-up point. Bar Harbor is also another stop requiring tenders. Aside from one of the days at sea, this was the worst weather we experienced - windy and ever-so-slightly chilly, but not bad enough to prevent a lobster lunch dockside. There were plenty of good bargains in town for those who chose to look around a little before buying. We took a tour of Acadia National Park, including a visit to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. The tolerable breeze at sea level translated into high winds up there, making it difficult to walk around. The tour guides will skip the mountain when conditions are too cloudy or windy. Whale watching and other sea-based excursions were canceled that day due to high seas offshore, or a lack of whales, depending on who you spoke to. We arrived in St. John, New Brunswick the next morning. A piper in full highland regalia welcomed us to port, the ladies received roses when they disembarked, and a band entertained dockside. The shore excursions were extremely well organized. We went kayaking and had a great time, and afterwards were treated to a picnic lunch featuring steak, lobster, and cold beer. The folks who organized this trip were among the nicest anywhere. This is a surprisingly enjoyable activity, and not nearly as strenuous as it might appear. Getting in and out of the kayaks is a little difficult, so it's not for everyone. This tour finished up quite early in the day, and we had plenty of time to relax before sailing. I didn't hear a single complaint about any of the tours. Jet-boat rides through the rapids also got very high marks for thrills and enjoyment value. Our next stop was Halifax. This time, we had a small but complete pipe band, and an official welcome. We took a bus trip out to Peggy's Cove, and got a complete history of the city and environs from Yackie Jackie (she introduced herself as such), our tour guide. She was a riot, and one of the few tour guides I've seen who could keep an entire group interested for the length of the trip. When we got back to town, we took advantage of the balmy Sunday weather to walk along the waterfront and visit the excellent Maritime Museum. We then had two days of sailing before reaching Quebec City. 5 stops in a row takes a lot out of you even if you take time to relax. I'd planned a couple of sleep-in mornings, which neatly coincided with the days we had to tender, causing my poor wife to miss out on extra sack time. I'm an early riser, so it doesn't bother me nearly as much. The weather turned cool and foggy, but not rough, creating a good excuse to put out the do-not-disturb sign and sleep in. On our second day of sailing, we went a little ways up the Saguenay River. It's very picturesque, and probably would be even more so when the leaves start to change. At the mouth of the river, you can see beluga whales, porpoises, and seals if you get up early. We then sailed up the St. Lawrence to Quebec City, arriving well after dark. It's well worth it to go up on deck and view the city as you arrive. The Chateau and Citadel are lit up, making one of the prettiest sights on the entire trip. You have to see it to appreciate it. The next morning we toured Quebec on our own. The old part of the city is tiny, but very hilly. Walking to the Citadel and Plains of Abraham battlefield is also quite easy, but might be too far for some. The Old City is spotless and quite romantic. You'll find artists, entertainers, small shops, and excellent restaurants. The only downside is that cars are allowed in the narrow streets, requiring pedestrians to keep their wits about them. The centerpiece is the Chateau Frontenac, an elegant hotel that does its level best to protect itself from tourists. Take a couple extra rolls of film, since the city is one of the most beautiful you're likely to see anywhere. You'll alsow find street entertainers. In contrast to Quebec, Montreal was a bit of a let-down. There is plent to do and see, but it lacks the quiet elegance of Quebec. Once again we did not take any of the shore excursions, deciding instead to explore on our own. We hired a horse-drawn carriage to show us around. The driver was very friendly and gave us a great tour, while extolling the virtues of a socialist society. I diplomatically failed to ask why socialism was considered successful when there were so many people on the street begging for spare change. We then took the Metro out to the Casino de Montreal, another bad decision. It's quite large and impressive on the outside. The inside is confusing and extremely noisy, even for a casino veteran. It's mostly slot machines, with a sprinkling of video poker and table games. Give it a miss unless you just have to throw your money at tight machines. After a short visit, we decided that packing for the trip home would be a better use of our time. We finished on an up note by going to what will regretably be one of the last baseball games to be played in Montreal. There is so little interest in the game that we were able to get seats behind home plate about 5 rows off the field. There is no way that similar seats would be available in any other ballpark. For about $20 US, we could experience the view that only the rich and famous can elsewhere. Disembarkation It's always tough to return to the real world. It was for this reason that I bought first-class air travel, so the adjustment wouldn't be so harsh. We cleared Canadian Customs at the terminal, then boarded buses for Dorval, Montreal's older airport. They were not prepared to have busloads of passengers showing up simultaneously, so there were long lines at both the American and Delta check-ins. In another example of bad socialism, the Canadian government requires that everyone pay a $15 departure tax. After getting your boarding passes, you stand in line to pay the tax and receive a voucher, then give that same ticket to another person after standing in line again. It seems that one person could do both jobs, thereby eliminating a line, but that would also eliminate an important government job. Altogether it took over an hour to get through, and we got to skip the longest line by virtue of having low-numbered seats. We cleared US Customs and INS without any difficulties, or nearly so. At the last checkpoint, a customs officer asked us to stop, looked at my declaration card with some suspicion after viewing the pile of suitcases on our cart . He then asked if we were the youngest people on the cruise, laughed, and told us to have a nice flight. In all honesty, we're not that young, but there were maybe only a dozen people on the cruise younger than us. I think one couple on board even called us "whipper-snappers". I quickly regretted not staying an extra night in Montreal to avoid the crush. Canadian airports are about 30 years behind the times, and at Dorval it appears that all flights in and out of the US go through just two gates that share one tiny seating area. Flight information is very hard to find, since they appear to not to have monitors that are everywhere in US airports. The gate staff was noticeably rude. In addition, the facilities are not designed to handle large numbers of travelers. The line to the ladies' room stretched a considerable way down the hall, for example. Weather delays at some airports in the US only made things worse. Fortunately, our flight was on time, and we were happy to be away from Dorval. I felt sorry for those who had flights later in the afternoon and still had several hours to wait. Final Thoughts This was a great trip that far exceeded our expectations. In spite of my whining about airports and such, there was so little to find fault with that the negatives stood out more than they should have. The RP is a beautiful ship, with relaxed but conscientious service throughout. The crew were adept at remembering people, and often stopped to talk when they were off duty. The ship's staff was very visible and approachable, and didn't mind us looking over their shoulders when maneuvering the ship in and out of port. The sun deck overlooks the open-air pilot stations on either side of the ship, used when docking and departing. Do yourself a favor and stay an extra day, at least, in Montreal, or take a post-cruise tour if you are on the northbound itinerary. The airport facilities in Montreal are so inadequate for the large number of passengers that show up after disembarkation that it's easy to lose that enjoyable vacation feeling. The aggravation isn't worth getting home as soon as possible. The total offering of shore excursions was a little disappointing. Since there are only a limited number of sailings on this itinerary, the limit on choices is somewhat understandable. Also, this cruise seems to attract older passengers who might not be as interested in more vigorous activities. Most of the available shore excursions were simply sightseeing tours. We tend to avoid lengthy "bus tours" and look for more unusual things to do. Some obvious opportunities were unavailable, such as a round of golf at the oldest golf course in the US at Bar Harbor, and in no place were sailing or fishing excursions offered. If I had to do this trip again, and I would if given the chance, I'd try to plan such activities on my own by doing some research ahead of time. In spite of that, the tours we went on were very well done, with excellent guides. We heard very few complaints about any of the shore excursions. Most of them offered plenty of time for exploring on your own before or after the tour. The Royal Princess is a delight to sail on. It costs somewhat more than the larger ships for equivalent staterooms, at least, that's what I've observed by comparing and pro-rating the published prices for the Golden Princess and Sun Princess-class ships In fact, we were originally booked on Regal Princess, but changes to Princess' schedules last year put us on board the Royal.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mediterranean and Aegean

We choose this cruise for the itinerary, knowing full well that it was going to be port intensive, and possibly exhausting. It was both, but one of the most interesting trips we have ever taken! Because of the nature of this cruise I’ll recap the travel arrangements and ports / excursions first, then cover the ship, service, etc. We purchased our own air because of the open-jaw nature of the flights: inbound to Lisbon, return from Istanbul. We

paid about ½ the Princess air price using a consolidator that our T/A found, AND we got our miles! Since the flight from SFO on Lufthansa had a very tight connection in Frankfurt we elected to go in a day early to avoid missing the ship (connecting flight arrived in Lisbon at 3pm, ship departed at 6pm). It turns out this was a good choice: While we had no problems with our connection, there were over 40 travelers who did not receive their luggage until part way through the trip. About half of these situations were caused by tight connections on the day of sailing. We did use the Princess pre-cruise stay package and transfers. We were pleased with the hotel: Le Meridien Park, and the transfers from the airport to the hotel and from the ship to the airport in Istanbul. All went very smoothly! Day 1 – Departure from SFO Our Lufthansa flight departed San Francisco International at 4:35pm, connecting in Frankfurt the next day at around 1pm for the flight to Lisbon. We cleared immigration in Frankfurt and didn’t have to do so again in Lisbon. We did NOT have to collect our luggage in Frankfurt and recheck it! Day 2 – Lisbon – arrival from Frankfurt While waiting for our luggage at the airport we went to the ATM to obtain some Escudos. This is becoming our standard practice when traveling in Europe. No more ordering foreign currency from our local bank in advance, and paying their fees. ATM’s are almost universally available, and the cost is usually only a $2 foreign ATM fee from our home bank. The Purser’s desk was able to change any left over bills, but not coins, back into dollars, then give us Pesetas, Dracmas’ etc, but at a low rate of exchange. ATM’s give a better rate, when you can use them. On our arrival in Lisbon a Princess Representative met us outside the baggage area. After a wait of maybe 5 minutes she placed us in a taxi for the trip to our hotel. The trip to the hotel took about 20 minutes. Unfortunately our driver spoke no English, and our Spanish was to rusty to afford any conversation, so we didn’t get any "sightseeing" on the trip into town. Check-in went smoothly, and we were in our room, with our bags, 30 minutes after leaving the airport! We then went back down to the Princess check in desk on the mezzanine level and confirmed our arrival, cabin number, etc. At that time we were offered several tour opportunities for the following morning prior to boarding the ship. Having heard good things about Sintra we selected that excursion and were pleased with the choice. After unpacking a minimal amount of clothing for the next day, and pretty much repacking our suitcases, we went out for a meal at the Ritz Café about 1 block down the street. It had been recommended to us in lieu of the Hotel dinning room. We had a good "local" meal, at a reasonable price, including some very good Portuguese wine. Day 3 – Touring Lisbon / Sintra – Embarkation. A continental breakfast was included in our hotel stay, but we opted for early room service to help overcome our jet-lag induced fuzzy headed state. We don’t usually use cream in our coffee, but we sure did that morning! By 9am we had our bags outside our door for pickup and transfer to the ship, and then went downstairs to join our excursion. We had a lovely ride through the countryside to the old city of Sintra, then on to Cap de Roca (the western most point on the European continent) and back to Lisbon along the Atlantic coast. We were impressed with the country side in this part of Portugal. They seem to grow just about everything! One big problem is the traffic congestion. I sure wouldn’t want to drive to work in Lisbon! We will go back to Portugal on a land trip some day. On arrival at the port we waited on the bus for about 10 minutes, then proceeded inside the terminal for check-in. Total elapsed time from arrival at the port to being in our cabin: about 30 minutes. Princess does have a very good system for embarkation! Dropped our carryon bags in the cabin (Carib, 231) and headed to the Lido Café for some nourishment – after all, it was going to be another 4 hours to dinner, and we had only had a continental breakfast! Time to get into the spirit of things! Later met our cabin steward, Rogelo (call me Roger). Bags showed up about an hour before sailing!! At the first dinner we met our water, Virgilio, and asst. Waiter, Anthony. We had selected early seating for the first time because of the hectic excursion schedule we had chosen, and it worked out well. Only one night where we were a bit rushed to get back to the ship and ready for dinner, and we made that just fine. We also found that the Head Waiter at the station next to us, Rosario, had been our Head Waiter on the Regal Princess last Fall, and the Maitre ‘d, Angelo, had been the Maitre ‘d on the Sun Princess in 1997. Day 4 – At sea – ah, a chance to catch up with our jet lag! Tonight’s attire – Formal for the Captains cocktail party, pictures, etc . One note: While dressing for dinner I realized that I had forgotten my tux shoes! A quick call to the accommodations department, and a pair of tux shoes materialized in time for us to go to the Captains Cocktail party! Cost: $10 for the cruise! Given the size of my feet I might not take my shoes again! Saves a LOT of room in my suitcase! Day 5, Mothers Day Sunday – Palma, Mallorca - Dress – First Semi-formal (of planned 3 semi-formal nights – actually only had two semi-formal nights) Ships in port: Legend of the Seas, Sea Wind Crown and the U.S.S. Wasp, a helicopter assault ship. Funny story: one of the passengers on our ship became VERY excited when she heard the name of the warship: seems her son is stationed on the ship! Can you imagine HIS surprise when he heard his name on the P.A. system with the announcement: "John Smith, please see the Officer of the Deck – your Mother is at the gangway" On Mothers Day, of course! We took the tour of Palma including a trip up the mountain to the castle / fort – great views of the harbor and City. This tour usually includes the Cathedral but it was closed because it was Sunday. They substituted the Spanish Village which contains replicas of major Spanish sites. We learned that Father Junipero Serra, the founder of the California Missions, was born in a small town just outside of Palma. Very pretty island – we would go back for a land vacation if Hawaii wasn’t so close! Day 6 – Barcelona, Spain - Dress casual Ships in port: Noordam, Sea Wind Crown We took the Barcelona highlights tour, including a drive down Las Ramblas, up the mountain to the site of the Olympics, and then to La Sergrada Familia. Tour of the cathedral in progress was interesting. I had been there 20 years before and the have made SOME progress. It will be interesting to compare my pictures from 1979 to those I took on this tour. Day 7 – Monte Carlo / Monaco Dress – Semi-formal We opted for the excursion to the Medieval Village of Eze, in France. This was a tender port, and with all the construction going on in the port, as well as the set up effort for the following weeks Monaco Grand Prix, the ship was limited to one tender dock, so things went a bit slow. Our tour first headed UP the mountainside, then south down the coast for a bit to give us some great views of the Riviera. We then headed back north, and a bit inland (by this time WELL above the sea!) to the village of Eze. This is a very picturesque, and somewhat touristy, mountain top town. The location was chosen to protect the village from the constant hordes of invaders that plagued the area over the years. WARNING: LOT’S of walking, up hill, stairs, uneven pavement, etc. Well worth the effort, and lot’s of interesting shops. My wife actually found a wall tapestry that she wanted for our home! Prices were VERY reasonable compared to shopping at home as well as the prices we had seen previously in central France. Purchased toys for the Grand Kids, and several items for our son and daughter as well. Again, lots of shops, with good merchandise. Day 8 – Rome Dress - Casual Ships in Port (Civitavecchia): Rotterdam VI and Melody Opted for the Walking Tour of Rome – be forewarned, this excursion takes you across Rome, on foot, from the Trevi Fountain to St. Peter’s, with a lunch stop mid-way. Saw things that we had missed on our previous visit to Rome, but St. Peter’s was VERY crowded – this tour does NOT do the Sistine Chapel nor does it do the Coliseum, Forum, etc.. Day 9 – a Blessed day at Sea to rest our weary legs! Dress – Formal Day 10 – Olympia, Greece Dress casual Back to the grind! We took the full tour of the site of the original Olympic Games. Turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip, at least for me! We had considered skipping this excursion and staying on the ship – almost nothing to do in the small port, but sure glad we went on the excursion. The Peloponnesian peninsula is lush, and the site of the games induced goose bumps. We had a very good guide. Did some shopping in the village of Olympia – actually found some pottery we liked and managed to get it home in one piece! They pack VERY well, and give numerous discounts in most stores, i.e.: You are from the ship? 15% off. You pay with cash (travelers checks in this case) another 10% off, etc. Saw similar items in Athens and Santorini, but no better prices. Day 11 – Athens! Dress - casual This city has always been on my wife’s list of ‘must sees’, and we will go back. Took the full tour, Acropolis, city tour, Plaka. Not enough time to see it all! I took almost two rolls of film! Shopping in the Plaka was a bit of a disappointment, but we really enjoyed the Acropolis and the Olympic stadium built for the 1896 games. One note: They were preparing for the presentation of the Olympic Torch to the Australian Olympic organizers that night! We had missed the lighting ceremony in Olympia by about 2 days! Day 12 – Santorini Dress - Casual Ships in port – Silver Seas Silver Cloud and Ren 5. Another surprise port! We took the tour of Ancient Akrotiri (sp?) followed by a VERY harrowing bus ride to the top of the mountain! These bus drivers are incredible! This site has been dated to 1600 BC – and appears to have been vacated BEFORE the volcanic eruption that destroyed the island and swamped the surrounding islands and civilizations with a 60 foot tidal wave. I can believe that this area might have once been the home to the legendary Atlantis! We had lunch at Archipelagos, one of the many restaurants overlooking the caldera. It is actually only a door at the top of the cliff, leading down the stairs to the restaurant. Great food, interesting view, and they DID speak English! We then did some more shopping for jewelry, scarf, t-shirt, etc. We took the tram back down the mountain (we were NOT going to ride the mules down!) then back on the ship about 3pm – we were getting VERY weary! Princess provided two one way coupons for the tram, to ALL passengers. Nice touch I thought. Day 13 – Kusadasi for Ephesus - Dress – Formal (last of 3 formal nights); Ships in port: Silver Cloud, Stella Solaris, Radisson Song of Flower and one of the Adventurer ships. Another of my wife’s Musts! And it is spectacular! How do they find these sites? Took the tour that included the house of the Virgin Mary, Ephesus and the ruins of St. John’s Basilica. The only negative, and there were LOT’S of positives!: tour guide seemed in a bit of a rush to get us back to Kusadasi so we could attend a lecture on Turkish rugs! We skipped this "educational" presentation, did a bit of wandering around and then headed back to the ship for something cold to drink. I did get a bit sunburned. We were very impressed with the state of the ruins at Ephesus, but left the Virgin Mary’s house a bit skeptical. No documentation to prove the authenticity of this site, but it is an interesting story. The ruins of St. John’s Basilica, on the other hand, were pretty impressive – 1st century AD! And supposedly St. John is buried in the crypt below the remains of the alter. LOTS of history in this area! Day 14 – Istanbul - Dress - casual Ships in Port – this is a very large port, and the ships are scattered, so I did not manage to get any names. Given the vast amount of water traffic, including freighters ferries, water taxis, etc, I decided to give up my search and enjoy the scenery from the ship! After transiting the straights we arrived in Istanbul at 1pm. We took the full tour, including the Blue Mosque and St. Sophia’s, with the final stop being the Grand Bazaar. My wife actually bargained in the Bazaar, for what I believe is the first time EVER, including several trips to Mexico! Needless to say, I was impressed. We bought a number of small items (bags are getting VERY full by this point!) and returned to the ship around 5pm to prepare for the disembarkation ordeal: Packing, farewell dinner, etc. Day 15 – Disembarkation We were up early (3am!) for our 5am departure. Process went VERY smooth – we did not have to find our bags on the pier as they had been sent on to "bonded storage" at the airport the night before. We were off the ship by 5:15am, and after a fairly lengthy bus ride we arrived at the airport just before 6am for our 7:55am departure. OUCH! What a line! Seemed like half the ship was in our line, and the Lufthansa folks didn’t come on duty until 6am. Lufthansa finally had 3 people working the check in process by 6:20 or so, and the line began to move. We were on our way to find a cup of coffee by 7am – no luck! Had to wait for a cup on the plane! Flight to Munich went fine (another time change!) then a 3 hour layover – not sure if I’ll ever complain about a tight connection again! Finally on our way to SFO – taking the polar route – 10 ½ hours, two movies and two meals later we arrived, did the customs bit and found our ride. Home by 4pm Pacific time. All in all, figured we had been up for almost 24 hours, with almost no sleep on the plane. Observations : Ship – We had heard a lot of very positive comments about the Royal Princess, and I can say that I liked her – the layout was to my liking, and she had a nice sense of size. However, my wife was not overly impressed with the layout of the ship and prefers the layout of the Sun Princess class to the Royal Princess. She also preferred the Regal P. over the Royal. Cabin – We were aware that the cabin layout was a bit different than other ships on which we have sailed, but we were not prepared for how narrow the cabins are! We did like the size of the bathroom, and the full tub was a major plus to soak our weary bodies after a hard day ashore hiking through ruins! BUT – the drop down bed was VERY uncomfortable (guess who slept on that one!) and the makeup of the room with the beds in a "queen" configuration was very confining. We had decided to leave the beds as singles prior to the cruise, and having seen the impact on the space available in similar cabins that did have the "double" bed we are glad that we made that choice. Another note relative to the cabin: Soundproofing leaves a lot to be desired. We had a substantial amount of late night noise from late seating neighbors coming in around 11pm – not that they were unusually noisy, just the usual getting ready for bed routine – the sound really traveled between cabins, unlike what we experienced on the Sun Princess – On that ship we didn’t even know we had neighbors, and one of them had a really bad cold and cough! Food - We found the dinning room food to once again be good, in some cases very good. BUT – having sailed eight months earlier on the Regal Princess we found the menu’s to be almost identical! My wife could pick out my menu choices each night! Portions were more than adequate, and more was always available if one so desired. I will admit to having two desserts only once! (how can one pass up either Tiramisu or Bananas Foster?!?) We would not classify the food as gourmet, but it was good – especially the pasta’s! AND, we didn’t have to cook or serve it! Desserts were generally ok, and the Baked Alaska was one of the better one’s that we have had! But a few nights we passed on the dessert. Coffee in the dinning room was always very good. The variety of the food in the Lido varied from day to day, but it was generally good, and there was always something we liked. Quality was better than average for a buffet style line, and there were always plenty of choices, as well as a mini-salad bar. We did not eat at the alternatives available, i.e. Pizza or the Lido in the evening. We had expected to do so given some of the lengthy shore excursions we had selected, but we always managed to make it to the dinning room for dinner. Stateroom Service: Very good, unobtrusive service. Ice in the ice bucket in the refrigerator every morning and evening, turn down service, etc. as expected. Cabin was always neat and clean. Dinning room Service: Waiter and asst waiter were good, but not outstanding. I think we are seeing a dilution in the talent pool with the expansion of the industry. Our servers were good, just not top notch as we have come to expect. We found the same on the Regal Princess in the Fall of 1999. We also found the "begging" for "excellent ratings", though understated and not repeated more than once, to be a bit obtrusive! The pasta’s and dessert’s prepared by the Head Waiter were generally excellent, and we did tip him for his efforts. Well, at least I appreciated his pastas! Our waiter decided I must be Italian! Entertainment: Given the nature of this trip we didn’t make to many shows! And NO late night disco for us (my feet were killing me!). What we did see seemed to be the norm anymore: a comedian a couple of nights – ok, but not great; a juggler another night, again, just ok; production shows with some good dancers, but the headline vocalists were merely ok. We didn’t participate in the Bingo, or deck games types of activities because we were off the ship so much, but I did actually attend one art auction, and DID buy a small painting that I liked. First time for everything I guess. Shore Excursions: We found EVERY excursion to be run very well, with knowledgeable local guides (Princess actually took several guides on board in Olympia, to cover 3 ports, then flew them back to Athens from Santorini!) Prices were a bit steep for some of the excursions, but since we docked a ways away in Rome, Olympia and Ephesus there is a high upfront transportation cost on these excursions. Side note: In Rome one couple almost missed the ship: they had taken the train in from Civitavecchia and their return train was cancelled. They had to hire a taxi (at a cost of over $140!) and still missed the ship, even after the Captain had delayed sailing for almost an hour! They then had to pay a local boat to bring them out to the ship and board via the "rope" ladder. So much for beating the cost of the ship’s excursions! General Ships Personnel: We were again impressed with the overall quality of the Princess staff, both dockside, on the excursions, and on board the ship. An example: I mentioned earlier that over 40 passengers (might have been Cabins) did not receive their luggage when we sailed from Lisbon. There had been some airline problems, but it also turned out that at least one of the hotels used by passengers had NOT conveyed their luggage to the ship. This was NOT the Princess pre-stay hotel we used (thankfully!) but another Lisbon hotel. Princess did everything in their power to get the luggage to ALL passengers! We saw bags delivered on Palma, our first port, and every port thereafter. Some passengers didn’t receive their luggage until we got to Athens, over half way through the cruise. This was NOT Princess’ fault! Everyone we talked to who had this problem had nothing but praise for how Princess handled the situation. They had offered ALL passengers in this situation a $500 ship board credit to be used to purchase essentials in the boutiques, regardless of the reason for the missing bags! We enjoyed our Princess experience, and will cruise with them again, but we probably will go longer between Princess cruises and try another line for our next cruise for some variety. So many ships out there, so little time! Dall & Pat Barley

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Nov 30, -0001

Iceland and Norway

The Cruise Director and his staff did a great job of keeping us entertained, and the show entertainment seemed well received. Food is the only place we had much to complain about. There was plenty of it and maybe we are too pickie. Most of our cruising has been done with open seating, whereas Royal Princess has two seatings. For us, 6PM wwas too early and 8:15PM was too late. Also, when you all sit down together at one time, the whole

dining room seems to be in a race to get you served. We took the majority of our meals in the LIDO. Open seating, usually by a window, with no hustle and bustle. Menu selection was not always that great, ( one evening was buffalo) and most all meat and fish is put on at beginning of trip. Even though we were cruising the coast of Norway, the salmon, we were told was frozen. All the personnel had a genuine desire to help and make you happy. Any problems were promptly corrected. All in all, we would say  the cruise was very good value for the money.

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Nov 30, -0001

Scandinavia/Baltic

Stateroom: Adequate size. Two twin beds, desk, TV, and minifridge. Closet space was limited. Bathrooms lacked a fan and doorstop. I had to use a towel to keep the bathroom door open. Cabin Steward: The cabin was always spotless after she left, but some mornings it took longer to be cleaned. Room service order was incorrect the first morning, but was correct every other day. She also delivered breakfast early one morning when

I had an early tour. Kudos to her for that! Dining Staff: Excellent. Orders were always correct. The junior waiter and waiter remembered our coffee orders after the second day. A very nice touch. Service was never intrusive. Head Waiter: Very accommodating. Ensured my dietary restrictions (Kosher/Vegetarian) were always met, he even special made pasta without meat. How wonderful of him! Food: Satisfactory. Buffets had ample selections. Sit-down breakfast excellent. Dinner always had quite a few well-prepared choices. Desserts were fantastic, especially the soufflés. "Alternative dining" in the Bistro is a true plus, like a private dining room at sea. Ports: Interesting itinerary-- Dover to Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Two days in St. Petersburg, Tallinn, and Gdansk before returning to Dover. Gdansk, Poland was extremely interesting and a "must" on Scandinavia/Baltic itineraries. Not every cruise line includes this fascinating port. Shore Excursions: A good value. Special accommodations made at the Hermitage for our group. I recommend taking a morning Hermitage tour to avoid the late morning/afternoon crowds. The shore excursion staff did an excellent job of directing traffic when hundreds of people were waiting for various tours. They were very friendly and accommodating. Shore excursion talks broadcast throughout the day via on-board closed circuit TV. Entertainment: Shows were fair. If you've sailed on Princess within the last three years, you've probably seen them ("Ports of Call," "London Pub Night," etc.) Gaming: Small casino. Bingo and horse racing very fun. Usually two daily bingo sessions on sea days. Lectures: Very interesting guest speaker. Religious Services: Well-attended Friday night Sabbath services held in the movie theatre with wine, challah, and gefilte fish. Sunday religious services, I can't comment on those... Cruise Director Staff: Fun and friendly. The cruise director's on board lectures were very worthwhile. These talks are also broadcast throughout the day. Overall, this was a great vacation. An interesting itinerary, good mix of passengers, fun crew, with plenty of activities to pass the time. The Royal Princess is a small ship when compared to some of the megaships sailing, but never felt claustrophobic. She was the first ship with all outside staterooms. A good value for your vacation dollar.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mediteranian

Dissatisfied to the point of considering legal action. I have vowed to promote a international boycot of Princess Cruises until I get a phone call from Alan Buckelew (President). My 14 year old son was misdiagnosed (Appendicitis) by the ships doctor and was within days of passing away. We were sent to a horrific hospital while being assured that the care would be fine.......it wasn't. I have sent 2 letters directly to Mr. Buckelew and have been

completely ignored. Given the circumstances, the food was the least of our concerns. Fine. Fine. Get off the boat as much as possible. 16 days in an italian hospital because of Princess Cruises inept medical staff.

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