Saturday, October 19, 2013

Thursday, 10/10/13 Fly to Sydney Friday, 10/11/13 Dawn Princess Boarding and Sail-Away

Thursday, 10/10/13 Fly to Sydney
Friday, 10/11/13 Dawn Princess Boarding and Sail-Away

Required to have bags outside door of hotel room by 9:00 a.m. for pick up and transfer to airport.  Then breakfast.  At 11:00 a.m. check out of hotel and go to Princess hospitality room for bus to airport.

Arrive at airport, and see again the largest airport terminal building in the world -- and most likely the most beautiful.  The Princess guide on the bus to the airport helped everyone get a luggage cart and then went inside with the group to help everyone find their check-in location.  Air China check-in, F-12.  After check-in, found a Haagen Dazs ice cream store and got some ice cream.  Noticed that the entire second floor area -- which overlooked the first floor -- was restaurants.  Then, through security into the International Departures part of the terminal building.  A few restaurants were in this section of the terminal, but I went first to find my gate.  Well, my gate was at least a mile distance, and when I finally got there, I found no restaurants or food, but only a machine for water and sodas.  Fortunately, I had some peanuts and candy from the ship.

Boarding was a stampede from the bus that led to the plane.  Seats were very narrow and with no leg room at all.  Could not stretch both legs at the same time.  Very hard, uncomfortable seats.  The plane going to Sydney was packed with Asians; I assume that most were Chinese and the announcements were in both Chinese and English.  I noticed that a large number of babies and small children were on board, and in my section -- Economy class.  I also noticed that many of the people seemed to know each other and were talking excitedly and happily -- and loudly.  After take-off, I fell asleep, having had little sleep the previous night.  However, I was awake again in a very short time because of the loud noise in the cabin from loud talking, laughing, and crying babies.  The loud talking and crying babies continued until dinner was served about 7:00 p.m., and then resumed immediately.  At 10:00 the captain turned off the lights, but the crying babies continued, and continued, and continued all through the night.  I slept for perhaps two hours all night.

At 2:30 a.m. the captain said we would be landing in two hours, so breakfast was served.  He also announced that watches should be turned forward by three hours, as Sydney was three hours ahead of Beijing.  Soon a pretty orange dawn appeared and then sunrise.  The plane landed on time at 4:15 a.m., or 7:15 Australia time.

Passing through customs was not difficult, but then getting the luggage was a nightmare.  The luggage situation seemed out of Africa or some other third-world country.  One bag appeared and then a wait of half an hour for the second bag, and then another wait of half an hour for the third bag.  Then the true horror began.  Thousands of people had to pass through two one-person doors to be checked by security.  One of the lines was for Australian “Fast Track” passengers, and there were few of them.  The line for the other door grew longer and longer as the wait continued, until there must have been at least a thousand people waiting.  People were growing more and more unruly, shouting at the poor young woman who was guarding the door, and eventually, she let passengers pass through the “Fast Track“ door as well.

After finally passing through the security check-point, I found the Princess representative, a young woman who told me that the bus would be in 45 minutes; the time then was about 8:00 a.m.; she suggested waiting at a coffee-shop next to her.  After a few minutes, I asked if I could wander down the hallway, and she said “yes” and that there was another coffee shop area down the hallway.  As I got to that area, I saw another Princess representative, who told me that I should not wander too far as the bus to the ship would be coming soon, and if I missed the bus, I would have to wait for another one later.  I got a cup of coffee at a McDonalds restaurant, but it turned out to be cold.  I sat in the coffee shop with other Princess passengers, and we waited and waited and waited.

Finally at 11:00 a.m. we were told that the bus had been called, and it would be arriving soon.  We were led to a bus area, and again we waited and waited.  Finally the bus came, and it was large enough for all the passengers, but not the luggage.  Some of the luggage was put onto the bus, and the bus had to return for the rest of the luggage.  The bus finally left the terminal building at 11:20 a.m.

Clearly, this situation was horrible.  Some of the people could have been taken to the ship sooner, as the bus had to make two trips anyway.  Instead we were all required to wait for more than three hours -- why?  So that Princess could save a few dollars making only one bus trip to the ship, rather than two.  The weather was beautiful -- sunny and warm -- and we could have gone for a walk and taken pictures, but instead we were required to wait for more than three hours at the airport.  If we had been told the truth by Princess, I would have taken a taxi to the airport for less than Princess charged for the transfer, and then I would have gone for a walk in the nice weather.  Instead Princess lied about the wait time, and we were all stuck in the airport for hours.  Just another example of horrible Princess passenger service.

After arriving at the cruise terminal, the check-in process was easy, and boarding was no problem.

The ship is older, and it is very different from other Princess ships.  Pretty, but cramped.  The cabin is a bit larger than cabins on newer ships, but there is much less closet and shelf space.

The sail-away was very beautiful.  The weather was perfect, and I took many photos of the downtown area of Sydney as the ship sailed out of the harbor, including the old bridge, the new bridge, and the opera house.

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