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Emerald Princess Review by Graham Hampsheir

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Cruise Report - Emerald Princess 23rd - 26th April 2016
Having cruised with Princess a few times we thought a 3 night mini cruise be a fun thing to do. Guernsey might not be the most glamorous destination but we’ve never been there (tried twice) and to be honest it was more about the ship than any islands that got in the way! We drove to Southampton and used the valet parking facilities, with 3000 people getting on the ship it was a coincidence that our travelling companions Eddie and Tracy Townson were two cars behind us in the queue to board.

Once onboard we bought our drinks packages and the four of us went to the MDR for lunch. The menu was limited and the waiter called me fat, I would have been offended but he did have a point to be fair. I can’t remember what I ate so it must have been ok, I normally remember if it was bad (there was plenty of bad food - watch this space) The waiter took our wine and prosecco orders but not before taking the peas out of me again for ordering a Virgin Chocobanana (I like them).


Our room was as expected, we went for an interior this time thinking a balcony was an unnecessary luxury on such a short cruise in April - in retrospect, we should have gone for the balcony. It was great to meet fellow P&O Cruise Fans members on the first night - Florry Blackmountain + Simon and Annie Snowball-Wix and Barry. I was surprised to discover that it’s not ‘Florry’s real name and that IS Annie’s real name. Between you and me, Florry is actually ‘Rita’....it had me thinking....if Rita had actually married Annie’s husband, she would sound like a Chinese breakfast cereal - Rita Wix...anyway, I digress ...they are lovely people and I think that should be allowed on cruise ships. Ian Hardacre was also onboard but refused to associate with us ‘Crooners Bar’ lowlife and chose to drink all the Korbel in Explorers rather than raid our supplies. We had managed to get our booking linked with that of our friends so that we could all dine together but somehow Princess managed to mess that up, there were several issues like this and on a short cruise like this, it’s very annoying to have to spend so much time queuing up at various desks trying to put right what Princess had got wrong.


To call this a cruise was very mis-leading, it took us 39 hours to travel to Guernsey - approximately the same distance as it is to Plymouth, we did this at an average speed of around 8 knots...it was more of a ‘drift’ across the channel rather than cruise and it was very embarrassing to be overtaken by windsurfers and canoeists from the Lyme Regis YMCA. The upside of the leisurely sailing was that it allowed Sergio in the Crooners Bar time to actually bring us the drinks we’d ordered 24 hours previously... Now what was I moaning about? - Oh yes, the slow boat to Guernsey....anyway, we got there eventually and having gone ashore I was wondering what all the rush was for?


We got the tender after having to hang around in the Da Vinci dining room for almost 30 seconds...the Elite member of our group ensuring we could get on the next available tender. Whilst obviously being convenient, I did feel a bit guilty about jumping the queue, not sure I am a fan of this kind of elitism - all men (and women) being born equal and all that. The tender ride ashore was very ordinary, not unlike any other tender ride I've ever had - nothing out of the ordinary. Anyone who has ever been to Guernsey will probably agree that is with a doubt absolutely unspectacular! - we wandered around the streets trying to find some sort of difference between the local environment and any run down town in the UK. The old quarter was full of empty shops, tattoo studios and tatt shops. I'm not sure when Guernsey was evacuated but I'm quote convinced that the passengers from the ship were the only people on there apart from a couple of survivors from the recent zombie apocalypse. I'm actually building Guernsey up a bit here, the reality is an island full of tax legislation manuals would have been more interesting.


The day wasn't a total washout however as things got really exciting on the tender back to the ship. The journey seemed normal enough until we turned the corner to reach the landing areas on the side of the ship facing away from the coast. There seemed to be less shelter there and I'm not sure what the normal procedure is but I would have thought the ship would be turned so that we disembarked the tenders with the ship acting as a shelter from the wind and tide? This wasn't the case however and when we arrived at the ship, 6 or 7 tenders were fighting the sea conditions which had deteriorated over the past couple of hours. Tender number 19 went in for an attempt and actually managed to get tied on, only for the cables to snap and send the craft back out into the swollen seas. By now our tender was getting thrown around like a top and a mixture of panic, sea sickness and a deep seated fear of drowning was probably helped when I shot a selfie video of myself giving details of my last will and testament. Everyone on the tender was then sent into panic when a large explosion was heard on top of the vessel....it turned out to be the hatch being torn off by the wind and sent flying through the air like a frisbee into the sea! In all we spent about an hour trying to get back to the mother vessel, thoughts turned to what would happen if we couldn't get back! - Surely the ship wouldn't wait overnight and maybe we would be put up in a deserted hotel before being flown back in the morning or stuck on a ferry! Anyway, we did manage to dock after conditions eased but the drama wasn't over as when half our tender was unloaded, it had to leave the ship as a medical emergency on the tender behind necessitated immediate evacuation. I don't have any details of this, I hope the person was ok and maybe suffering from nothing more than a panic attack. Suffice to say a drink or two were needed after this episode so we went back to Crooners to see if our drinks that we had ordered two days before had arrived yet....they hadn't.


Sometimes asking for a table of six is a bit of a lottery, in the past we’ve had to share our dining experience with puffed up, snotty retired bankers who treat the waiting staff like peasants, soup dribbling old ladies and people who’s idea of dressing up for formal night meant wearing socks. On this cruise however we were lucky enough to have fantastic, and very funny fellow diners. As is the usual, I had two baskets of bread rolls on the table but for some reason the others thought they could help themselves to them! - a quick rap on the knuckles with a shiny spoon soon sorted out that problem...the cheek of some people! Being a 5* dining experience, I went for the burger and chips. I normally like my beef medium to well done but the waiter didn’t offer me a choice and not being one to make a fuss, I went with the flow. Sure enough the gastronomic delight turned up a couple of hours later, plenty of time to cook it well so as you can imagine, I was quite shocked when the beef patty started ‘mooing’ at me. To call it a burger was in the least an ambitious claim, it reminded me of a squashed steak tartar ball which had seen the glancing heat of a candle as it passed by. In truth, when it comes to food, I am not the worlds most extravagant diner, I like simple food and my second favourite course on a ship is the soup and the aforementioned rolls - in the past I have been known to order the soup as a starter, soup course and main course...yes I love it! The soup and rolls on the Emerald didn’t disappoint - my compliments to the soup chef, I hope he gets a fair share of the gratuities. I said the soup was my second favourite course, my favourite without a doubt is the Princess Lovegasm Dream...sorry, that should read Loveboat Supreme...what genius came up with this idea?!? My compliments to the Princess Loveboat Supreme Chef, I hope he gets a fair share of the gratuities. Once again, despite the staff being excellent in the MDR, the service was very slow and drink orders were forgotten. I don’t blame the overworked staff there for this, they are doing their best but obviously they are the point of reference and have to take all the complaints which really should go straight to their bosses.


Due to slow service, we missed the theatre shows on the first two nights but as a friend and golfing buddy of mine was the guest entertainer on the 3rd night we managed to get to his show in the theatre, being a busy ship I didn’t want to miss out on this so I placed a towel on a seat in there just to be sure of seeing his show. In the past I have always been impressed with the ‘production’ of shows on the ships so I was a bit disappointed to see Jeff Stevenson doing his comedy act in front of the curtain with no production at all. A sign of the times I suppose, Jeff was his normal brilliant self and we all enjoyed his show and his topical ad libs about this particular cruise (some of which I’ve nicked and used in these blogs!) A highlight of the cruise for us was the $500 slots tournament which my girlfriend managed to win - it paid our onboard account and gives a bit of spending money for when we go to see my Son’s show at The Metropolitan Rooms in New York on the 9th June (tickets available at the box office - oops, sorry, forgot myself there! So three nights on the Emerald Princess - they weren’t perfect but we were lucky to meet some great people, spend time with them and have a really good laugh.


Disembarkation was very smooth, having queued in the past to get off the ship, it was a surprise to be able to wander off at our leisure at 7.30am...just as well as I was booked in to play golf 120 miles away at 10.30am! In summery, in my experience, mini cruises have their place, they shouldn’t be compared to longer ‘proper’ cruises and you shouldn’t expect them to be the same. Guernsey for all I have said is probably a lovely little island, don’t be swayed by my review of it, we went on a cold wet April day and headed into the centre of a run down shopping area - who knew? Give it a chance, read other reviews on cruise pages, Tripadvisor etc. I will say there were lots of ladies at the port giving out maps etc, they were obviously very proud of their island and were very professional in their roles.

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