We wanted our 50th anniversary to be the cruise of a lifetime; we wanted to visit the world's greatest monument to love - the Taj Mahal; and we were avid fans of Princess cruise lines (we're Platinum members). Given those criteria, the last segment of the World Cruise 2012 on the Pacific Princess (March 29 to April 30) seemed perfect, so we booked it. Once they got our money - we went through hell.
Firstly, we couldn't book any excursions. No matter how we tried, their computer had us locked out. We were told that, because the trip was part of a world cruise, the excursions had to be booked on ship, even though we continued to receive emails from Princess asking us to update our profile. Finally, in February, with the help on one of their customer relations people (Taji) we were able to get on-line.
Once she and I started the process, she stated "Oh my gosh, they're duplicating." When I asked her what she meant, she told me I was getting multiple excursions (including singles) whenever I selected a port. We then stopped the booking process, and she told me to make sure that I immediately went to the Excursion Desk on board to take care of this, because she had no control of it. I asked her to please make a note in my account data to the effect that the computer was acting up, and she said she would try. Whether she tried or not, it didn't work.
A week or so later, I called back to find out what had booked, I found that we had booked the Taj Mahal trip, but that they thought we were booked as four singles, thus charged the extra almost $500 each; plus I found the bookings were non-cancelable. I got upset: I told them this was our 50th anniversary trip - and they didn't seem to care that we were having so many problems. When I talked to different Customer Relations people, I got such a runaround, I was in tears. I kept getting told that it was the ship's fault, and they couldn't help me. Finally, I demanded to speak with a supervisor. Debbie was business like, and not a bit helpful or sympathetic - she treated me like I was an unreasonable idiot and I got mad as well as tearful. I admit, I used a word I shouldn't, but only after almost an hour trying to deal with this issue. She told me she would look into it and get back to me. I never heard from her or anyone else. I still didn't know what we had and what we could do. One thing I could not understand why I got different answers to the same questions: as a former quality expert, this told me that they had a major training problem. They didn't even understand how their computers were supposed to work.
The week before our trip, I went on line again to try to get a copy of the cruise brochure, so I could see what was available without having to stare at my computer for hours. This process took a while, so I went about doing other things, only to find that my computer screen displayed the initial screen to select the brochure. I called Customer Relations, and explained what had happened and was told it was my computer, and I needed to clean out various files, restart it, and try again. I worked for a major computer company for 25 years, and I knew that was likely wrong, but I complied, just so that could not be used against me again if the same thing recurred. It did. And I tried once more, this time I watched for the entire 28 minutes, and found the problem: their computer displayed a message stating I was being logged out because it was taking too long. After over 90 minutes of my time wasted, I again called Customer Relations and told them what had happened - they again tried to tell me it was my computer's fault, but I over-ruled that one, and asked them to please send me a pdf containing the brochure (I also explained my problems in booking and why I needed the brochure). They told me they couldn't send me any file, but that my travel agent could get one. It was late Friday, so I had to wait until Monday until my agent was available.
On Monday, he called to get the brochure, and was told he couldn't get one, and was asked why he was even trying. When I explained the entire mess to him, he got in contact with a Princess Business Development Manager to try to help. I don't know whether she did anything, but the Taj Mahal booking was corrected. I found this out by, yet again, calling Princess' Customer Relations. I asked the person with whom I spoke how many duplicates I had, and whether I was still booked for multiple singles on the Taj Mahal excursion. He told me we had a double booking and no duplicates he could see, so what was my problem. I gave up. We decided that we would never go through this again - at least not with Princess.
When we got on board, we had 62 excursions booked: we had duplicates, triplicates and for one tour, six bookings. I took the entire envelope down and told the excursion person to cancel everything. He started to ask me about it, then he looked through the stack, and said he'd cancel them, no problem. (I later found that many others on the cruise who joined as we did, mid-cruise, had duplicate bookings, but Princess maintained their 'innocence' in this issue - somehow we all had fumble fingers or something - NOT a way to solve this problem). The cruise director also verified that we did have only a double booking for the Taj trip.
On board, we found the crew to be as helpful and nice as always, our room was fine, and the passengers to be the usual mixed bag. We also found that one passenger claimed to have been assaulted by another - she had bruises to prove it - and that the person in charge of security did nothing about. This was not all that reassuring.
Another thing we found was that Princess is beginning to raise prices on many of their extras and decreasing some of the perks. For example, we were served margarine each night at dinner. And the butter served in the buffet was so old, it tasted like everything in the refrigerator - not nice. I know some things are getting more expensive, but I do not think, during this economic downturn, the wholesale costs are that much higher (I know about Zero based budgeting) to warrant such increases.
Also, we ended up booking many of our shore excursions ourselves (as I wrote, when we left, we didn't know what we had, what we didn't have, and had no help from Princess to discover either state), and, not only did we save a ton of money (a couple of thousand over the term of the trip) we had a wonderful time and saw things those on the ship's tours did not see. We also got back to the ship a lot sooner (6 hours sooner in one case).
The way we were treated prior to the cruise - our special 50th anniversary celebration - was so egregious that we have determined that this will be our last Princess cruise. We aren't happy about it - we thought we had found 'our' cruise line. We were wrong.