We started our cruise as usual by arriving a day early to avoid any travel problems. All went well, especially with the lodging at the Comfort Inn Cruise port.
We arrive on ship with absolutely no problems and everyone at the pier were their usual helpful/friendly self.
While waiting in the pre-boarding room we started to notice the cutbacks; none of the usual cookie/pastry treats or beverages. No big deal, but raised an eyebrow for things to come.
Made it to the room and as usual all was fine. Clean, ready to go but no friendly cabin steward to meet and greet (actually had to track him down for questions, he looked more than the usual pre-board BUSY).
We are Value Added Veteran Cruisers, meaning we have been here before, done the first time cruiser regiment and now cruise for relaxation, on board entertainment and of course the meals in the all inclusive price. We try to make our vacation dollars S T R E A C H as far as possible. This usually allows us to take 2 cruises a year and enjoy all that cruising has to offer. We look for new ports of call and try to limit our on board booked excursions to only the new ports. At previously visited ports we will get off and do our own thing (taxi to beaches, shopping areas and local restaurants to get the local flavor). We are far from what the cruise lines executives would call their high rolling spenders.
This cruise we had decided to fore go the formal restaurants and stick strictly to buffet dining due to the menu cutbacks we notice on our last cruise (Sirloin Steak was dropped from the menu along with some other minor items)with Princess. This worked well with us because the diner buffet usually serves the same menu as the formal dining rooms. Since we dropped the "suit, tie and gown" thing a number of cruises ago you could label us as "casual cruisers"(shorts, tees, Hawaiian shirts and flip flops). Our last cruise was a Norwegian around the Hawaiian Islands and their "Free Style Cruising" fit us perfectly. This cruise the buffet menu was the usual excellent fare offered as before so we were not disappointed.
We choose Princess for the Movie Under the Stars feature on their ships. Our past Christmas cruises didn't disappoint and since we are "obsessed" Football Fans we have come accustomed to watching the playoff games on the REALLY BIG SCREEN. But alas this cruise failed to provide as in the past. When we could find a deck steward to ask if the games would be shown no one knew. We did notice that the usually ever attendant deck beverage waiters were no where to be found (kind of like our cabin steward; cutbacks?). We finally went down to the desk to see if the games were going to be played and were told that the someone would get back to us. The Cruise Director called back and left a message and were told that we would be able to watch them in our room on the TV and that they were replaying the same movie that was playing in the afternoon...MAJOR CUTBACK!!!!
OK, we were not cruising with rabid football fans as in years past. Deal Breaker...maybe.
The one shore excursion that we did take DOM110A for Dominica (our new stop) was less than satisfactory. The tour was changed for unknown reasons and the road conditions over some of the tour was boarding impassable. The garden was a view of a couple of trees and the "Falls" were a little disappointing. We understand that this is a new destination and that the locals are trying to grow a business but this one may need to "mature" before being offered as an on board excursion.
Our experiences during the day met our expectations perfectly, low key and no surprises.
The entertainment at night is where the "cutbacks" REALLY showed. A number of the shows were repeated and the quality questionable compared to the past. VERY NOTICABLE by us and other "cruisers". The Beatle Maniacs show saved us from total disappointment.
The REAL problem for us seems to be the fact that the usually OUTSTANDING Christmas Show was dropped!!! It was replaced by the rerun Motown Show from 2 years ago! Deal Breaker; DEFINATELY FOR A CHRISTMAS CRUISE!!!
To summarize, the cutbacks that Princess has been incipiently slipping in are starting to show. Not only to us but other veteran "cruisers" back home and the gap between Princess and Royal has widened to the point that we will probably going back to Royal Caribbean or trying another line.