Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Some nitty gritty about cruising!

I had a few questions about cruising before I left, but the answers weren't always easy to find.   So at the risk of descending into trivial detail, I though I'd record some of my observations, even if they're boring!

In relation to electrical outlets, in our room we had  US 110 volt sockets as well as both Australian and European 240 volt sockets (but only one of each, so a power board is useful if it's likely that you'll want to recharge two items at the same time). Princess apparently had no objection to us using our own hair dryer, but I think I read somewhere that they don't like people bringing their own coffee maker to set up in their cabin (I wouldn't have thought many Australians would bother with this, maybe other nationalities are different).
The webcam

There's a webcam on board, which can be monitored on the internet - see http://www.seascanner.com/schiffsposition.php?schiff=Dawn+Princess

I couldn't decide what to call our cabin/room/stateroom. The cruise line obviously always uses the expression “state room”.  I found this a bit of overkill, so used "room" or "cabin:".   We had what's called an “ocean view stateroom” which was comfortable and had a very large window (larger than I had expected from the promotional material, but it may be that not all rooms in this category had such a large window).   There was adequate storage space and good use of mirrors made the room seem a bit larger.  The bathroom was small, but adequate. We had no balcony and the window didn't open.  

We didn't miss a balcony, although their main advantage seems to be that you can open the door if your want fresh air.   From what I saw, it would be possible (but a squeeze) to sit on it, but on our trip it was often windy and the amount of sunshine was limited so the opportunities for this would have been limited.  Maybe things would be different if cruising in tropical waters. 

Our cabin - about midway on deck above the large windows

I can't compare our location (towards the aft) with any other locations, but there was no engine vibration or intrusive noise except for the airconditioning (the temperature could be adjusted but not the fan speed).   

Even though we were directly above the Vista Lounge, we didn't hear anything from this.   The prices for cabins on higher decks seem to be more expensive, but we were quite content where we were (on deck 8, best described as in the middle).
We were told before embarking that there would be two "formal nights", and that dinner or business suits could be worn.  In fact, I took a normal (dark) suit and ties, and this was in fact what most of the men wore,   Only a small number wore dinner suits, and the minimum attire seemed to be jacket and tie with dark trousers.  If you didn't want to bother with this, you could eat in the buffet.

Mobile phone coverage was available on board, presumably via satellite, and I received a message from Telstra to the effect that it's so expensive to use that I wouldn't have been able to afford it!  Internet isd also available, with the basic charge being 79 cents a minute.  This reduces if you buy “in bulk”, so 100 minutes is $69.    One of the perks of being a “frequent cruiser” is that you get a quota of free (but reportedly slow) internet.   As will be apparent form my earlier posts, I got by using the free wi fi offered in the downtown areas of some of the cities we visited, usually limited to 30 minutes.   I paid NZ$10 for 24 hours of access at Port Chalmers because I didn't take my netbook into Denedin where I am told there was a free service.

A daily “service charge” was not added to our accounts (unlike cruises in other parts of the world), but bar and room service tabs etc have space for a gratuity to be added …..so it certainly wasn't a “tip-free” environment.   Apparently the beauty treatment/spa facilities added a "suggested" gratuity to their already hefty charges (I was told that these facilities are contracted out).  On the last day, quite a number of passengers appeared to give envelopes to their room attendants and wait staff.     Did I read somewhere that the crew get paid Australian pay rates while in Australian waters?   If so, my hunch is that, financially, they weren't missing out!

Speaking of the crew, I was expecting a mix of nationalities, but the diversity was greater than I expected.    They had their nationality on their name tag, and amongst those I noticed are are Indians, Russians, Ukrainians, Thais, Indonesians, Filipinos, Indians, Serbs, Bulgarians.... and many more.    The female bridge officer who has made the noon navigational announcement on the first couple of days spoke with a nicely modulated English accent, but when we received a list of the bridge officers, it was clear that a range of nationalities were represented.  

I thought that the price we paid for this cruise was quite reasonable, but the cruise company obviously isn't a charity!    The prices for drinks and speciality coffees were in line with mid-range restaurant prices, although I thought bottled water at $4.95 for 1.5 litres was a bit steep (although all the tap water on the ship was potable). There were plenty of other ways to spend your money, too!    There was an “art auction”(!), numerous photographers who were there are every turn ($19.99 for a print and more for “portraits”), pokies and gaming tables, excursions (at top-of-the-range prices), satellite internet (as mentioned above), several boutiques (lots of promotions and sales talk) as well as charges for the spa and related treatments (not cheap).  [Edit] We didn't need any medical treatment, but we understand that this, too, is expensive.

 On the other hand, all the food was included except for $25 if you want to eat at the speciality restaurant (as mentioned elsewhere,  we didn't bother with because the dining room was more than adequate).  There was also an offer one morning of a champagne breakfast ($41 per double).  “Food” for these purposes includes (beside the main dining rooms, available for all meals) pizzas, burgers, ice-creams and – of course – the buffet (open all day).   The amount of food available is on one view a health hazard! Perhaps not entirely unrelated to this, the lifts seemed to be busy, the stairs less so!

In case it’s of interest, I kept my eyes and ears open for the source of the ship’s stores.   I saw what appeared to be dry goods being loaded at Tauranga, straight out of containers.   I wondered if these had been sent over from California?  The small packages of breakfast cereals at the breakfast buffet were from the US.    At the culinary presentation, the chef was asked the source of some of the seafood and meat, and admitted it came from the US (again perhaps sent in containers from the US and loaded, I believe, in Melbourne).  However, when disembarking, there were many pallet loads of local fruit and vegetables being loaded in Melbourne, and the milk on board was Devondale (obviously Victorian).    Likewise all the wines and beers were Australian, as was the mineral water.  Drums of white paint were also loaded in Melbourne!
Sunrise on arrival back in Melbourne

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