Princess v P&O

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Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 10 Jul 2018, 16:22

I sort of promised and hinted I’d do this, so here goes.

Princess in the Blue Corner, versus P&O in the Green Corner (an obscure reference to the colour of the tint in their glass windows and balcony fronts!)

Or more specifically Sapphire Princess versus Azura/Ventura. And even more specifically travelling as Elite passengers versus our expectation as Caribbean next year.

There’ll be quite a lot of this so I’ll be writing and posting it in bite-sized chunks.

So first to the ships themselves, and of course they have a lot in common. All three are based on the Princess Grand Class design, so if you know the P&O pair it will all seem very familiar on Sapphire. In fact much more in common than different. I’d say there are more differences in décor and style across the P&O fleet than across these three ships.

Sapphire and her sister Diamond were built in 2004, so slightly older than the P&O pair. They were also built in Japan, unlike the rest of the Grand Class built in Italy, but you wouldn’t notice if I hadn’t told you.

Like some later Princess ships, Azura/Ventura have one more passenger deck than Sapphire, the Riviera Deck. They also have one more public deck at the stern, with the Epicurean restaurant as well as the Bar overlooking the stern. On Sapphire there is just a single venue there, the Skywalker’s Nightclub.

Although the extra deck means A/V have more passengers than Sapphire, that is not obvious in terms of crowding inside the ship as P&O make better use of the public space. For example Sapphire’s Casino goes right across the ship, and was sparsely populated, whereas P&O have used part of that space for an additional pub style bar. That bar also provides an additional entertainment venue, so Karaoke, for example, doesn’t have to compete for space elsewhere.

There is also a huge Internet Café on Deck 7, which again, since the ship is now wi-fi throughout, is little used and largely wasted space.

There are fewer speciality restaurants. Sabatini’s (Italian) is in the same area as Sindhu. There is also the Sterling Steakhouse, which alternatives with the Crab Shack, as an area of the buffet in the evening, in the same way as the Beach House works. But the Wheelhouse Bar, in the same location as the Glasshouse, is just a bar, not a food option. And there is no Epicurean equivalent.

I can’t answer for how crowded it will get on open decks in sunnier climates. We were up to the North Cape so it wasn’t really sunbathing weather. But I do think A/V have more sunbed areas up on deck so I guess the crowding will be pretty similar. Princess have a stated policy of removing items from unoccupied sunbeds, but we have no idea how well they police it.

One final difference outside. You have to choose between indoor pool on Ventura, or Sea Screen on Azura. Sapphire has both.

Décor is very similar. The differences don’t smack you in the eye. The atrium has the same panoramic lifts though the view from them is rather obscured by some ornate gilt work on the glass. The atrium stairs are laid out differently and there is no dance floor, just chairs and tables. Overall we though the P&O atriums with the striking black marble arches are more impressive.

Pretty much everything else is in exactly the same place on all three ships, so you won’t get lost!

We loved the ship as much as we love Azura and Ventura, so I’d have to mark this category a score draw.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 10 Jul 2018, 17:14

Boarding.

Well we can’t really compare here as our status was slightly confused and we have yet to experience boarding on P&O as Caribou! Plus our recent boardings as commoners on P&O have been smooth and painless when we’ve turned up at the times allocated.

We were both Elite, the top Princess loyalty grade (largely earned through our P&O trips but we just got in under the wire as they’ve not put a stop to that – not surprising as there were over 500 Elite on this cruise!) and Club Class – more on that later. Both get us priority boarding, but on paper at least it works differently from P&O.

Princess have allocated boarding times, but they are not as random as P&O appear to be. They are deck by deck, so the allocated time for our deck was 13.00 (the second batch) and they undertake to have cabins ready when you board at your correct time. Clearly they prioritise cabin preparation in the same order.

As priority boarders we had priority within our allocated group. So we couldn’t just turn up at 11.30 and get fed and watered until we boarded and then again on board. There seemed to be no such facility as offered by P&O.

Once we arrived, at our allocated time (we’re good like that) there were two queues and we were directed into the priority channel and got on board very quickly. That said with so many people having priority boarding the other queue wasn’t long either.

Next year our status will also be confused on P&O when we are Caribou and have a suite – so another case of double priority boarding. The following week we are doing a Cunard cruise with just a day on shore between, so we’ll be able to do a three way comparison.

But based on our experience so far, no chance yet to try P&O’s cava and curly sandwiches, and with the immediate availability of the cabin I’d say a modest win for Princess.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Manoverboard » 10 Jul 2018, 17:15

I would have marked the physical attributes of Royal Princess and Adonia in exactly the same way.

ps … they were of course the same ship, the former having a casino which was replaced with Andersons, a good swap me thinks.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 10 Jul 2018, 17:17

Cabin

We chose a Mini Suite on D Deck, what P&O call a Superior Deluxe Balcony Cabin, our preferred home on Azura and Ventura.

The layout is identical but the finishing touches of P&O are missing. No flowers, sweeties or chocs on boarding. Or is any of that loyalty related?

No slippers of any variety, neither loyalty nor cabin related, but there were robes.

When we asked about the slippers the loyalty lady said they only put them in suites on Princess. And since there were over 500 Elite passengers on board how could they possibly……..?
I know. 500 pairs at under £1 a pair. When we’ve paid barely £2.5k each for the cruise. A real bank buster! I never know I cared about slippers.

No fuzzy focus binoculars or atlas either.

And no tea and coffee making facilities. We really like the flexibility of just having a brew when we wake up. However, room service were very efficient and tea for two appeared within 5 to 10 minutes maximum when we rang for it.

There was wine, which did relate to the particular grade of cabin, which I will explain in a moment.

And there was vandalism in the name of technology, which I guess will spread to P&O shortly if it hasn’t already.

These cabins began life with a couple of tvs, mounted in the unit between the bedroom area and the seating area, one facing each way. And a couple of pictures on the walls, with illumination from small lights in the ceiling.

Now that has all changed. The tvs have gone. They could have been replaced by 32 inch, or thereabouts, flat screens in the same location. Instead the pictures have also gone and there are 40 inch screens on the wall, nicely lit by the down-lighters (they didn’t think that bit through), and the purpose built unit forlornly empty.

Probably just me, but I don’t get the need for huge tvs in cabins on a cruise ship. With so much going on around the ship and outside my window, just something I can look at the news headlines on is good enough. I don’t need to sit on the sofa watching re-runs of Casualty and The Durrells at cinema proportions!

The selection of tv channels is pretty similar to P&O, with the usual live channels when they can get them, a webcam to see where you are going, some music options, re-runs of the port presentations, a location map, weather forecasts and some view on demand films and tv series.

There no account info on the tv, but there is an on-board app connected via the wi-fi which gives that as well as other ship info. It also provides access to the internet. As part of the Elite package we got 250 free minutes, but it is, as usual very slow, not helped I’m sure by all the other passengers with free access!

No doubts on this one. Overall a win for P&O.

So back to the wine. That came with Club Class. That deserves a post all of its own

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Manoverboard » 10 Jul 2018, 17:25

The larger TVs would surely be beneficial if the weather was cr*p and the ship was crowded in the public areas, also very useful for folk who are temporarily poorly or have less than 20:20 vision.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 10 Jul 2018, 18:36

Club Class and Dining

Lumped together because Club Class brings its own dining room as part of the package.

Club Class is relatively new on Princess. It covers suites and the top grade of mini-suites, mid-ships on D deck.

When we booked, on the opening day of booking for this cruise, we judged it wasn’t worth it. It currently costs about £300 per person more than the next grade down. Of course that gives you a better position on the ship as well as the Club Class benefits. These include the Club Class restaurant, a couple of half bottles of wine on boarding, priority boarding, a luxury bed and one or two other things.

But most of it we were going to get as Elite passengers anyway, so we decided against it and booked the nearest cabin to mid-ships in the next grade down.

But how wrong we were and how lucky too. We got an email a few months before departure saying our cabin had been upgraded. Not us, the cabin. They’d moved the grade boundary so four extra cabins in total became Club Class. If we return to Princess again we’ll never book anything less.

First the simple thing, the bed. We have never before anywhere on a cruise ship or a land-based holiday had a bed so comfortable. It had a thick mattress topper totally masking the join in the two mattresses as it converts from twin to queen. It is the only holiday bed that matches our bed at home, and that has a ridiculously expensive mattress.

Then the dining. I perhaps need to explain how dining works compared to the P&O ships. The basic restaurant layout is the same except Sapphire and her sister have a mid-ships difference compared to all the other Grand Class ships. As with Azura and Ventura there is a large stern restaurant on Deck 6.

But whereas the P&O pair and most of the other Princesses have two mid-ships restaurants, one on Deck 6 and one on Deck 5, each of these is subdivided on Sapphire, to make four, two on each deck.

The basic dining concepts are the same as P&O, with traditional two sitting dining in the stern International Restaurant, though the sitting times are slightly earlier than P&O, at 17.45 and 20.15.

Three of the mid-ships restaurant are Anytime Dining, the Princess version of Freedom. Anytime is 17.30 to 21.30 with the same pros and cons as the P&O version, so if you like Freedom you’ll like Anytime.

Then there is Class Club, which is something else again. We’ve never experienced any direct comparison but maybe others can help. It’s clearly not quite as up market as the Cunard Grills, but feels a step above their Britannia Club. There is certainly nothing to match it on P&O.
So here’s the deal. Club Class is about two thirds of the fourth midships restaurant on the starboard side of Deck 6. It’s the two thirds nearest the window. The remaining third we understood was overflow from Traditional.

But it has been completely refitted, with acres more space between the tables. Some are dedicated tables for two. Most are for a maximum of four, but some of those (the square ones) have cunningly folded tops that can be extended to a table for 6 if needed. But essentially you are seated in the group you arrive in. If you arrive as two you get a table for two.

Opening times are the same as Anytime and you really can turn up any time and get a table immediately. Actually to be fair we had to wait for five minutes once, but that was only because they were setting a table by the window for us. It’s not surprising the wait is minimal. There are only about 120 people entitled to use this restaurant, compared to 400 in a similar space in each of the three Anytime restaurants.

So you arrive at the door to be greeted by, in our case, Casey. On the first night she asked our cabin number and checked our names. She never asked again and never got it wrong!

She passed us to the Head Waiter, Mark, who took us to a table set for two. He also got our names, made sure how we wished to be addressed, by first name, as Mr and Mrs, or Sir and Madam, and never got it wrong.

Every night we got one of those tables big enough for four but with just the two of us. Most nights we were directly by the window. If not we were only one row back. And the aim is to seat you in the same area of the restaurant, so we were only ever served by three different pairs of waiters. At most each pair of waiters had five table to attend to, mostly with only two people at each, occasionally four. So the service was relaxed and attentive.

The menu was essentially the same as other main dining rooms, and exactly as P&O had a selection of different dishes each night, but also some standards available every night. But there was always a special not on the main menu and these included lobster thermidor and surf and turf and similar higher end offerings.

The Club Class restaurant is also open for breakfast every day, and for lunch on sea days, exclusively for Club Class passengers.

Overall we thought the Main Dining Room food was better than P&O, but there may be an element of novelty in that in as much as we can pretty much recite the P&O menus now.

Moving away from the MDR we didn’t feel the buffet selections for lunch and afternoon tea were as good as P&O, though the buffet operation was slicker with waiters constantly offering drinks including tea, coffee and soft drinks served to your table. Breakfast orange juice was excellent, far better than P&O’s watery reconstituted offering. And we didn’t have to play hunt the Earl Grey tea bag as we do on P&O!

The only speciality restaurant we tried was Sabatini’s, which was good in both food and service, but we didn’t think sufficiently better than the MDR justify the $29.99 per head cover charge. But maybe we were spoiled by our Club Class experience.

Overall a victory for Princess.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 10 Jul 2018, 18:37

Manoverboard wrote:
10 Jul 2018, 17:25
The larger TVs would surely be beneficial if the weather was cr*p and the ship was crowded in the public areas, also very useful for folk who are temporarily poorly or have less than 20:20 vision.
Personal preference I know Moby. But I think 32 inches in a room the size of a cabin is big enough.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Happydays » 11 Jul 2018, 08:35

Hi Merv, good review keep it coming 😂

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by david63 » 11 Jul 2018, 09:53

Mervyn and Trish wrote:
10 Jul 2018, 17:17
And there was vandalism in the name of technology, which I guess will spread to P&O shortly if it hasn’t already.

These cabins began life with a couple of tvs, mounted in the unit between the bedroom area and the seating area, one facing each way. And a couple of pictures on the walls, with illumination from small lights in the ceiling.
That has already happened on P&O (cannot remember which ship, maybe Arcadia).

The TV had been moved onto the wall which meant that two pictures had been removed to accommodate the TV but the wall had not been cleaned before the TV was installed which meant that there were two areas of the wall that were a different colour - looked very untidy.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by towny44 » 11 Jul 2018, 10:22

Mervyn and Trish wrote:
10 Jul 2018, 18:37
Manoverboard wrote:
10 Jul 2018, 17:25
The larger TVs would surely be beneficial if the weather was cr*p and the ship was crowded in the public areas, also very useful for folk who are temporarily poorly or have less than 20:20 vision.
Personal preference I know Moby. But I think 32 inches in a room the size of a cabin is big enough.
I know our situation is different to normal AB passengers but we do use the cabin during the day quite frequently. Consequently a reasonably sized TV and a good range of TV channels, which must definitely include Sky Sports News, are fairly important for us, something that my letter to P&O, in lieu of the pointless post cruise questionnaire, will be detailing, along with a fairly extensive list of minor service standard complaints.
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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by GillD46 » 11 Jul 2018, 10:27

We also use our cabins as we often need to lie down, so a decent TV, ideally with a DVD player, and good range of channels is important to us too.

We had often take our own DVDs as the selection available on board isn’t great.
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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Stephen » 11 Jul 2018, 11:19

We had two 40" TV's in our cabin on Britannia, one on the wall at the end of the bed and one on the wall in the seating area. Although Mrs S can take or leave them (not literally) I liked them and didn't find a problem with their size. Great watching a movie on a sea day when the weather is rubbish. Picture perfect and now slow downs.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Stephen » 11 Jul 2018, 11:25

Enjoying the reviews Merv, although your not selling it to me just yet.

It doesn't sound too bad for the hierarchy 'Clubbers', I'm wondering how it is for peasant status such as me. Some gruel perhaps, thrown through a cat flap in a cupboard resembling a cabin along with a bucket and chuck it :D

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by barney » 11 Jul 2018, 13:15

Never done Princess personally but a mate of mine describes it as P&O with knobs on :)


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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Grando » 11 Jul 2018, 13:56

We like both! Personally think that Princess loyalty benefits are better than P&O, we have done a few Princess where we have had a week touring before boarding, our last one was Sydney to Singapore and the free laundry was much appreciated! Free internet and mini bar were also a bonus. We have recently had our future cruise deposit returned with no bother as due to Grahams health we can only get insurance for Europe at the moment, so looking forward to Ventura in November, hopefully we will be able to take another long distance Princess before too long!
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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by GillD46 » 11 Jul 2018, 14:43

We liked Princess too. Food is always subjective, but we felt better than P&O as was service, but it was less formal. The loyalty were very good indeed, many of them doubled if in a high grade cabin.
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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Kenmo1 » 11 Jul 2018, 16:18

We will be travelling on Sapphire Princess in October and have also done Grand Princess and Caribbean Princess We like Princess for the food and the elite loyalty benefits which are very superior to PO but for some reason we still use PO for most of our cruises. I think it is probably due to the Britishness of the entertainment and the atmosphere on the ships, especially Oriana. That statement sounds very narrow minded of us but I can't think of any other reasons other than PO are usually cheaper and we always find the staff super without being 'over the top.' I tend to find the Americanised 'have a nice day attitude' a bit false.

Good grief - I'm starting to sound like some of the whiners and moaners on PO.

Some good comparisons there Merv and look forward to reading the next instalment.

Maureen

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by barney » 11 Jul 2018, 17:05

Kenmo1 wrote:
11 Jul 2018, 16:18
We will be travelling on Sapphire Princess in October and have also done Grand Princess and Caribbean Princess We like Princess for the food and the elite loyalty benefits which are very superior to PO but for some reason we still use PO for most of our cruises. I think it is probably due to the Britishness of the entertainment and the atmosphere on the ships, especially Oriana. That statement sounds very narrow minded of us but I can't think of any other reasons other than PO are usually cheaper and we always find the staff super without being 'over the top.' I tend to find the Americanised 'have a nice day attitude' a bit false.

Good grief - I'm starting to sound like some of the whiners and moaners on PO.

Some good comparisons there Merv and look forward to reading the next instalment.

Maureen
Strange that you say that Maureen because my friend says exactly the same.
They loved Princess and thought that overall it was slightly superior, but P&O is more them .


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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by CaroleF » 11 Jul 2018, 22:17

May I ask do you find that, overall Princess is more expensive on board than P&O as they charge an extra, I think it's 15% service on top of whatever the item, drink, alcohol costs? This is one thing that's always put us off trying Princess.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 12 Jul 2018, 09:09

Entertainment, costs, passenger mix, formality and loyalty benefits coming up in future instalments

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 12 Jul 2018, 16:42

Dress Code

Okay let’s get this one out of the way without starting a war.

The Princess code is marginally less formal than P&O with only three formal nights in 14 rather than four. The definitions are pretty much the same.
In terms of adherence our two Princess cruises showed a lot fewer actual dinner jackets on the posh nights, but generally a good style of dress in the main dining rooms. We saw no assaults by vest or shorts clad rebels.

The lower number of DJs may well be because both our Princess cruises were fly cruises for the majority of passengers. Despite departing Southampton this time, only 800 out of the 2,800 passengers were the home crowd (more on the passenger mix later). Our previous Princess cruise was in Alaska, departing from Vancouver, but many of the Americans had travelled longer to get there that we had!

A marked change is the Americans mostly interpret the formal dress code as being for dinner only and rush back to their cabins to change after. There is not the P&O encouragement to retain it in bars etc.

As far as casual is concerned I didn’t really spot any major differences. Some people really were smart casual by our standards. Some were wearing stuff that looked like it hadn’t been washed in weeks and would have been rejected by the Oxfam shop. And there were a few outright rebels, even outside the dining rooms on the posh nights, with items seen including denim dungarees and a hoodie, dresses styled like bin bags with gaps displaying grey underwear and cardigans which had seen better days. I'm happy with casual, but dirty sat next to me I do find offensive.

So it’s all down to personal taste in dress codes. For us a victory for P&O. Others would see it as a Princess win.
Last edited by Mervyn and Trish on 12 Jul 2018, 16:42, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 12 Jul 2018, 17:04

Passenger mix and behaviour

I’d expected that with this as a round-trip cruise from Southampton the dominant passenger group might be Brits, but not so. The biggest group was about 1,000 Americans fly cruising, many with land tour extensions in the UK or Europe.

Brits numbered about 800.

The next largest groups were Australians, Canadians and Japanese, with smaller numbers then of other nationalities.

But apart from the dollar currency it made little difference on board. Much of the trip had a British feel, immersing the visitors in bits of UK culture (alongside the Norwegian views outside). The last night entertainment was awash with Union Jacks.

And we saw exactly the same mix of people. Mostly lovely, with extremes of incredible courteousness and crass rudeness. The latter a minority but of course loud and obvious.

We witnessed staff treated appallingly, as well as on one occasion a waiter politely addressed by a Canadian as “Sir”.
Pretty much the same as P&O. A draw.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Stephen » 12 Jul 2018, 17:11

Mervyn and Trish wrote:
12 Jul 2018, 17:04
Passenger mix and behaviour

I’d expected that with this as a round-trip cruise from Southampton the dominant passenger group might be Brits, but not so. The biggest group was about 1,000 Americans fly cruising, many with land tour extensions in the UK or Europe.

Brits numbered about 800.

The next largest groups were Australians, Canadians and Japanese, with smaller numbers then of other nationalities.

But apart from the dollar currency it made little difference on board. Much of the trip had a British feel, immersing the visitors in bits of UK culture (alongside the Norwegian views outside). The last night entertainment was awash with Union Jacks.

And we saw exactly the same mix of people. Mostly lovely, with extremes of incredible courteousness and crass rudeness. The latter a minority but of course loud and obvious.

We witnessed staff treated appallingly, as well as on one occasion a waiter politely addressed by a Canadian as “Sir”.
Pretty much the same as P&O. A draw.
Must have been either Yanks or Northerners Merv.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Manoverboard » 12 Jul 2018, 18:16

We have stayed in top Hotels in Canada and ' Formal ' is simply a word they do not use … nor indeed require or understand the need for.

We prefer to have choice, to us that means elegant casual but others may prefer to go Black Tie … fine as long as we each respect each others wishes. We found this to be true on every Line, including Princess, bar P&O.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by towny44 » 12 Jul 2018, 18:24

Manoverboard wrote:
12 Jul 2018, 18:16
We have stayed in top Hotels in Canada and ' Formal ' is simply a word they do not use … nor indeed require or understand the need for.

We prefer to have choice, to us that means elegant casual but others may prefer to go Black Tie … fine as long as we each respect each others wishes. We found this to be true on every Line, including Princess, bar P&O.
My Canadian BIL always wears his DJ on formal nights on all cruise lines, mainly Princess but also Celebrity, RCI and Carnival as well as P&O.
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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Manoverboard » 12 Jul 2018, 18:29

towny44 wrote:
12 Jul 2018, 18:24
Manoverboard wrote:
12 Jul 2018, 18:16
We have stayed in top Hotels in Canada and ' Formal ' is simply a word they do not use … nor indeed require or understand the need for.

We prefer to have choice, to us that means elegant casual but others may prefer to go Black Tie … fine as long as we each respect each others wishes. We found this to be true on every Line, including Princess, bar P&O.
My Canadian BIL always wears his DJ on formal nights on all cruise lines, mainly Princess but also Celebrity, RCI and Carnival as well as P&O.
There will always be exceptions to any generalisation :lol:

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Gill W » 14 Jul 2018, 14:51

We were seriously considering Sapphire Princes for a cruise next May or June, but in the end a CMV cruise caught our eye for that time period.

So far there's nothing to scare the horses in your comparison, so Princess would still be on the cards for us at some point in the future.
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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by towny44 » 14 Jul 2018, 15:52

Manoverboard wrote:
12 Jul 2018, 18:29
towny44 wrote:
12 Jul 2018, 18:24
Manoverboard wrote:
12 Jul 2018, 18:16
We have stayed in top Hotels in Canada and ' Formal ' is simply a word they do not use … nor indeed require or understand the need for.

We prefer to have choice, to us that means elegant casual but others may prefer to go Black Tie … fine as long as we each respect each others wishes. We found this to be true on every Line, including Princess, bar P&O.
My Canadian BIL always wears his DJ on formal nights on all cruise lines, mainly Princess but also Celebrity, RCI and Carnival as well as P&O.
There will always be exceptions to any generalisation :lol:
Yes my BIL considers himself to be exceptional! :roll:
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Mervyn and Trish
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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 14 Jul 2018, 16:47

Gill W wrote:
14 Jul 2018, 14:51
We were seriously considering Sapphire Princes for a cruise next May or June, but in the end a CMV cruise caught our eye for that time period.

So far there's nothing to scare the horses in your comparison, so Princess would still be on the cards for us at some point in the future.
I've not written or posted the final instalments yet but I think the horses will remain unscared!

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by oldbluefox » 14 Jul 2018, 17:24

Interesting to see the differences between the two lines. Well done Merv!!!

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by allatc » 15 Jul 2018, 09:42

We've done equal numbers of cruises on P&O and Princess and will happily cruise on either if itinerary and price are right.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 15 Jul 2018, 14:52

Entertainment

We’d feared that the entertainment might be too US focussed, our previous cruise Alaska featuring an impressionist who clearly went down well with the Americans but taking off people we’d never heard of. I suppose like Alistair McGowan doing his Dot Cotton to a bemused US crowd.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Everything worked across the board, with several acts probably better known to the Brits.

The production shows were of a similar standard and style to P&O’s Headliners, though with slightly more live music and less reliance on pre-recorded tracks, though the latter did feature. Staging used an LED backdrop as pioneered on Britannia but now being introduced across the fleet.
We enjoyed the shows more but I think that was mainly because we’d not seen them before. If we were regular Princess travellers maybe they’d lose their edge.

All the solo acts were excellent, though we didn’t recognise any of the names when we first saw them.

However they included vocalist Peter Howarth (lead singer with the Hollies for the past 15 years), Chris Watkins, an amazing and energetic violinist (Trish hates the violin, but loved him), The Backbeat Beatles (as part of a Beatles theme that also included an interview with their original drummer, Pete Best), Amethyst (magician and illusionist), Gareth Oliver (a wonderfully original ventriloquist), comedian Jeff Stevenson (whom I’ve also seen praised elsewhere on this forum) and a few others we didn’t sample.

The theatre was packed every night except the first when some passengers had travelled a day to get there.

There were as number of excellent musicians who performed in venues around the ship and no-one really duff.

The Cruise Director was, by the way, Welsh, despite his name, Duke Christopher, sounding more California than Cardiff.

The last night was a variety show featuring a number of the resident and visiting artistes.

Daytime entertainment was very much like P&O, with quizzes, bingo, deck games, craft classes and sales promotions promenading as enrichment seminars! And of course there were daily jumble sales cluttering up the Atrium and the inevitable karaoke.

With fewer venues than Azura and Ventura there was less choice in the evenings, but there was always enough for us.

Our only big disappointment was ballroom dancing, a recent discovery for us on Ventura last year. There was nothing like P&O’s on board dance professionals to run classes and host evening events. The former were done by members of the Entertainment team and a quick glance showed they were not for us. There were some short early evening dance sessions to recorded music, but with no host it took us half the tune to work out what dance it was supposed to be. And what looked like a promising dance with live musicians was again unhosted. And the six piece band outnumbered the dancers.

This may be a classic chicken and egg. Because Princess don’t take it seriously there are few takers. And because there are few takers Princess don’t take it seriously.

But that was the only let down.

Overall, partly through the quality of the guest artistes and partly through the novelty of production shows we’d not seen before, this one was a clear win for Princess.
Last edited by Mervyn and Trish on 15 Jul 2018, 14:57, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by david63 » 15 Jul 2018, 15:05

Mervyn and Trish wrote:
15 Jul 2018, 14:52
The Cruise Director was, by the way, Welsh, despite his name, Duke Christopher, sounding more California than Cardiff.
Was he the one that was on one of The Cruise TV shows? There was certainly a "British" CD on one of them.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 15 Jul 2018, 15:17

Costs

I’m doing this as a straight financial comparison but with no attempt to judge value for money.

We chose Princess because we wanted to do this itinerary right up to the North Cape.

P&O were not doing it this year, though they used to. I’m not sure why not as it is clearly very popular and this one was sold out. In fact we heard that before sailing they were offering some passengers incentives to cancel so they could resell the cabins at a higher price!

Cunard offered a 12 night version but wanted more money for a standard balcony than Princess did for 14 nights in the mini-suite – based on prices when we booked.

We paid £2800 each on the first day of booking for our near mid-ships cabin, more than 18 months before we sailed. The same cabin for the equivalent cruise in 2019 is currently around £3800 if you book now (though bear mind the cabin has now been upgraded to Club Class, which accounts for about £300 of that). That’s pricey for a 14 night cruise. However, as I said, this is a hugely popular and now unusual itinerary.

To compare something a more common and frequent itinerary, 14 nights to the Baltic on Sapphire next June in a mini-suite is “from” £2800. That’s is not the Club Class deal of course. It compares with “from” £2500 for a Superior Deluxe Balcony (the same cabin) on a similar cruise at a similar time on Azura. So not a lot different really.

On board prices are higher though, but bear in mind spirits come in larger measures. My Malt whisky and Trish’s brandy were each $8, but then of course there is the 15% addition (“for your convenience”). So $9.20 really.

Photos are horrendous. $25 for a single 10x8 print. Their option for all your pictures on a USB (though I think you got the prints as well) is $249. Compared to £90 last time we were on Ventura for the USB but no prints). We bought one! There was a decent deal on scenic port photos on a USB and a very scenic DVD of the transit through Geirangerfjord, which we did buy.

Excursions are more expensive too and a similar quality to P&O. We did four. Two were great, one was too rushed and one didn’t include everything advertised. We pointed out the latter on return and without being asked they refunded 15% to our account.

On top of all this of course, the on board stuff is charged in $ so you are the mercy of your bank in turning it back to £. Some offer better deals that others but the exchange rate when we took into account the foreign currency transaction charge wasn’t great with ours.

So on straightforward maths this has to be a victory for P&O, but not so much as to rule out Princess for the future.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 15 Jul 2018, 15:18

david63 wrote:
15 Jul 2018, 15:05
Mervyn and Trish wrote:
15 Jul 2018, 14:52
The Cruise Director was, by the way, Welsh, despite his name, Duke Christopher, sounding more California than Cardiff.
Was he the one that was on one of The Cruise TV shows? There was certainly a "British" CD on one of them.
Don't know. I was washing my hair that day!

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 21 Jul 2018, 19:16

Loyalty

Sorry for the brief intermission, but this is the final instalment.

We are Caribbean on P&O, though we haven’t yet sailed under that category so can’t comment fully on some of the benefits. We are Elite on Princess, mainly due to our P&O cruises, though they have now ended the link for those who’ve not yet sailed with them. Fortunately we got under the wire.

On shore both offer preferential pricing on some cruises and a magazine. Both have a dedicated telephone hotline.

Both offer priority booking ahead of the public release of cruises.

At check in both operate priority boarding, though it works differently. P&O offer an earlier check in time to Caribbean members, with refreshments in the terminal and on board. Princess have a staggered boarding process, deck by deck, and Elite passengers get priority check in within their group. There are no freebies to be had on shore or aboard, but they do also prioritise cabin preparation deck by deck so if you board at your correct times cabins are ready. Our time this cruise was 1pm. On P&O cabins are not usually ready until 2pm. We didn’t try to beat the system by arriving early so I can’t say what would have happened. But at our correct time we were on board within 10 minutes.

Once aboard P&O offer vouchers for champagne for sailaway. On Princess we got two glasses of champagne delivered to the cabin, though I’m not entirely sure whether that was an Elite benefit or a Club Class thing.

P&O offer slippers, Princess polish your shoes for nothing. They also offer complimentary laundry.

Princess give you upgraded bathroom stuff, normally reserved only for suite guests. They also give you a free mini-bar set up to start you off and you can swap items to suit your personal preferences. There were 8 spirit miniatures, plus mixers, a couple of beers and some mineral water. P&O offer a half bottle of champagne on the first formal night. On each formal night Princess deliver (on request) a selection of canapes.
Both offer cocktail parties. P&O does an officer hosted lunch, Princess a complimentary wine tasting (open to other passengers for a modest price).

Princess will deliver complimentary afternoon tea to your cabin. I assume more than a pot of builders’ brew though we didn’t try it. I imagine it’s the same as the posh tea served at a price in one of the dining rooms.

Both have loyalty managers on board.

P&O offer a 10% discount on anything you purchase aboard. On Princess that only applies to stuff bought in the shops.

Princess give free internet time – 250 minutes on our 14 night cruise.

Princess also give priority access to the tenders, though that didn’t affect us as the queues had gone long before we were ready to go ashore.

Finally at disembarkation there is a separate lounge for Elite and the next grade down (Platinum) passengers to await their slot, as well as priority to choose your time.

So on the practical issues such as boarding and disembarking, not huge differences.

On the frills some pluses and minuses on each side.

On things that cost, I priced the things we got for nothing on Princess, along with our 10% shopping discount, and tried to set it against the overall 10% discount on P&O. I reckon it worked out about even, but if we hadn’t them free there are some things we wouldn’t bother with, like the wine tasting.

So on loyalty benefits overall, probably another score draw, but maybe a win on penalties for Princess if it goes to extra time!

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 21 Jul 2018, 19:19

So what's the final result?

One question in the inevitable passenger survey (delivered by email on return, rather than on the ship) is would Princess be your first choice when you next book a cruise.

The honest answer is it would be one of two, along with P&O, or maybe three, adding in Cunard, depending on dates, itinerary and price.

It's definitely in the mix.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Happydays » 21 Jul 2018, 20:02

Good review, I read it all😉
I'm glad you enjoyed it. We were on Princess 2016 (I think) we had the elite benefits but not club class.
We were disappointed with Princess a lovely ship (Regal princess) As I have mentioned before it may make a difference sailing from Southampton but from New York the ship had no atmosphere, we used to think it was the Marie Celeste everyone vanished by 9.30pm! I
We thought the wine tasting was joke we hardly got enough to wet the glass😂 the only people there were getting it free via elite or suites there was a man came with someone who was getting it free but he wasn't entitled to it and wouldn't pay just sat and watched😕

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 21 Jul 2018, 20:57

Happydays wrote:
21 Jul 2018, 20:02
We thought the wine tasting was joke we hardly got enough to wet the glass😂 the only people there were getting it free via elite or suites there was a man came with someone who was getting it free but he wasn't entitled to it and wouldn't pay just sat and watched😕
I must say we weren't very impressed with the wines we tasted. We preferred the rather cheaper ones we chose with our dinner.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Jan Rosser » 21 Jul 2018, 21:56

Thanks for posting your review Merv - good read and I agree with your conclusions - not much to choose between P&O and Princess. I'm actually going on a cruise next year with Royal Caribbean - itinerary being the main reason - I'm anticipating it is going to be pretty casual :roll:
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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by towny44 » 21 Jul 2018, 22:52

Jan Rosser wrote:
21 Jul 2018, 21:56
Thanks for posting your review Merv - good read and I agree with your conclusions - not much to choose between P&O and Princess. I'm actually going on a cruise next year with Royal Caribbean - itinerary being the main reason - I'm anticipating it is going to be pretty casual :roll:
It will be compared with P&O but, if its from Southampton with a high British contingent, the formal dress code will be fairly well observed.
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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Jan Rosser » 21 Jul 2018, 23:00

towny44 wrote:
21 Jul 2018, 22:52
Jan Rosser wrote:
21 Jul 2018, 21:56
Thanks for posting your review Merv - good read and I agree with your conclusions - not much to choose between P&O and Princess. I'm actually going on a cruise next year with Royal Caribbean - itinerary being the main reason - I'm anticipating it is going to be pretty casual :roll:
It will be compared with P&O but, if its from Southampton with a high British contingent, the formal dress code will be fairly well observed.
It is from Southampton John - Baltic cruise - my granddaughters chose it - “the Med is too hot in August” !!!

They have definitely got the cruising bug :lol:
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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by daib GC » 22 Jul 2018, 08:01

Mervyn and Trish wrote:
21 Jul 2018, 19:19
So what's the final result?

One question in the inevitable passenger survey (delivered by email on return, rather than on the ship) is would Princess be your first choice when you next book a cruise.

The honest answer is it would be one of two, along with P&O, or maybe three, adding in Cunard, depending on dates, itinerary and price.

It's definitely in the mix.
I agree a score draw. We both found that the experience of Princess was very close to P&O 80 to 90 % the same. In fact 2/3 of the acts had been seen by my OH on P&O.

You missed out the Elite lounge with the cocktails for $4.99. Along with the mini buffet. A definite plus for me. Compensation for the lack of carry on Gin or cheap Gin to buy for in cabin use.

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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by towny44 » 22 Jul 2018, 08:05

Jan Rosser wrote:
21 Jul 2018, 23:00
towny44 wrote:
21 Jul 2018, 22:52
Jan Rosser wrote:
21 Jul 2018, 21:56
Thanks for posting your review Merv - good read and I agree with your conclusions - not much to choose between P&O and Princess. I'm actually going on a cruise next year with Royal Caribbean - itinerary being the main reason - I'm anticipating it is going to be pretty casual :roll:
It will be compared with P&O but, if its from Southampton with a high British contingent, the formal dress code will be fairly well observed.
It is from Southampton John - Baltic cruise - my granddaughters chose it - “the Med is too hot in August” !!!

They have definitely got the cruising bug :lol:
The Baltic will have quite a few Americans on it, but the Brits should still outnumber them, it was 60/40 on our Canaries cruise last September.
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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by Mervyn and Trish » 22 Jul 2018, 15:47

daib GC wrote:
22 Jul 2018, 08:01
Mervyn and Trish wrote:
21 Jul 2018, 19:19
So what's the final result?

One question in the inevitable passenger survey (delivered by email on return, rather than on the ship) is would Princess be your first choice when you next book a cruise.

The honest answer is it would be one of two, along with P&O, or maybe three, adding in Cunard, depending on dates, itinerary and price.

It's definitely in the mix.
I agree a score draw. We both found that the experience of Princess was very close to P&O 80 to 90 % the same. In fact 2/3 of the acts had been seen by my OH on P&O.

You missed out the Elite lounge with the cocktails for $4.99. Along with the mini buffet. A definite plus for me. Compensation for the lack of carry on Gin or cheap Gin to buy for in cabin use.
You're right Dai - forgot that. We never tried it. Too busy!


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Re: Princess v P&O

Post by cruisin_duo » 23 Jul 2018, 12:06

Thank you for posting your review. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences.

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