This was our first cruise with Princess, and will probably be our last. We had previously cruised with Royal and with Holland America, and have generally been happy with cruising due to cruise lines' ability to accommodate a gluten free diet for me. We were disappointed with the Princess experience, as described below.
First, the first day of the cruise we did not depart on time, and were stuck on the ship at the port for 24 hours. The delay, finally attributed to a mechanical problem, caused us to miss one of our 9 scheduled ports (Liverpool), for which we were compensated a mere $75 per person. Later in the cruise, we missed a second port-Edinburgh, for which we were not compensated at all. The Captain said bad weather caused us to abandon the port (which required tender boats), but didn't explain why we could not have used with of the two ports nearby, or why we couldn't steam to our last port a day ahead of schedule, rather than languishing on the seas, merely to keep have more hours of casino time.
The main problem for me on this cruise was the lack of knowledge of the dining room staff as to how to handle my gluten free dietary requirements. The main dining room was not a problem, the head waiter there was excellent, but for breakfast, lunch, the international cafe, and the ice cream court, I had continual issues with lack of knowledge, cross contamination issues, and just plan obstinacy.
For example, in the Horizon Court buffet, several times I asked the manager on duty to identify for me which items would be gluten free. Although they tried to impress me with the speed at which they could identify the various gluten free dishes, I had to point out a number of obvious errors in their analysis. (example, one pointed to pasta as being gluten free, and another pointed to Chinese steamed vegetables, marinated in soy sauce, as being gluten free). When I pointed out that soy sauce contains gluten, the manager see, surprised, and said he had never heard of that. Finally, I didn't bother asking anymore and just stayed with "safe" looking items, because I felt I couldnt rely on the staff.
For the desserts, both in the Buffet restaurant and in the international cafe, they always had at least one gluten free dessert each day. The problem was that they had one set of tongs for all the desserts, so there was cross contamination between the GF desserts and the non GF desserts. This preety much made the GF desserts worthless, unless I took the time to request a new set of tongs. I tried it once at the international cafe, and it took the staff about 5 minutes to go to the back, wash it, and bring it back to me, as many other passengers in the line waited. I felt bad about holding up the line, so I didn't go back to the international cafe again.
In the ice cream court, I requested some soft serve ice cream in a cup, rather than in a cone, because the cone is made from Gluten. The attendant said she was not able to put it in a cup, that it must be in a cone, according to company policy. When I explained that I was allergic to gluten, and I would become sick if I consumed any portion of the cone, she said she was sorry, but there was nothing she could do. I asked for a manager, who she called, and eventually came over to investigate the incident. I explained the gluten free diet, and that I just wanted the ice cream in a cup rather than a cone. He begrudgingly acceded to my request. I went back three more times during the course of the cruise, and each time I had the same argument with the clerk, had to call the manager, and finally got my ice cream in a cup. How much does it cost Princess to clean a cup?
In summary, we had much better luck with gluten free cruising on Royal Caribbean and with Holland America in the past. I would recommend that any gluten free cruisers forget about Princess Cruise lines, and go with Royal or HAL, and I think they will have a much safer and easier passage.