Me and my wife went on the Alaska cruise that disembarked from San Francisco. We had both never been on a cruise, so didn't have high expectations or any biases as to what to expect. To sum it up, between the Norovirus and and jail-like "balcony" experience, we were clawing to get off the ship mid-way through the cruise. If it wasn't for the Alaska ports, this would have utterly been the worst experience of our lives.
I don't even know where to start. The minute we walked into this insanely tiny room (1.5 feet around the bed to wiggle by) and a toilet where your left leg is in the shower stall because there is simply no room, we realized it was going to be a bit cozy. That's fine, we can deal with that if the trip is good. We weren't here to complain, we wanted to have a good time! I went out on the balcony when the ship was preparing to leave, and realized that my hands and white T-shirt stuck to the newly varnished balcony railing. It was stuck to my hands for three days and my shirt was ruined. Can't understand why they decided to do this now of all times, but whatever, lets move on.
I believe it was the second day of the cruise where the Norovirus issue was announced and that there would be preventative measures in place. These measures basically caused an hour + delays to be seated. We waited nearly an hour to receive our food. During which, I watched a cockroach scramble by the waiters jug of water. When I told him about it, he seemed unimpressed and said sorry and walked away. It took three hours in total to check in, eat, and leave. The problem here is that this was the issue everywhere, it wasn't a one night kind of thing. If you went to the buffet you had them put the food on your plate for you, which is fine, but we found hair in our food between the two of us three times throughout our experience. The wife literally ended up ordering food that was pre-packaged such as yogurts from the room service menu, 5 at a time, so she could be assured she was not eating something with person's bodily fallout in her food and/or Norovirus possibly infecting her.
When browsing the ships activities, you quickly realize that the Sea Princess is severely over-booked and a small ship. Every activity in the auditorium you had to get there an hour before it started to get a seat. If you didn't, you were forced to stand and watch. A presumably 70+ age woman with air tubes had to stand and watch the show because getting there 20 minutes before it started was not sufficient for finding a seat.
We did the arts and crafts option because the wife loves these type of things. We went there and waited 20 minutes in line before a girl tells us all that the 3 (yes three!) tables were full. The literally had 12 chairs available for this project for the ENTIRE SHIP. The girl was obviously annoyed, probably because she knew this was ridiculous, but she failed to tell people waiting in line for almost half an hour that they weren't going to get to do the activity this afternoon. She snapped at the lady in front of us and cut her off and told her there is nothing she can do and to come back tomorrow and that's all there is to it. Well, we came back the next day, this time an hour ahead of time and played a board game on the table until the wife could go get our materials (I had to fend off the rights to our two chairs, fending off numerous dissatisfied people who couldn't participate). An hour later she comes back with our materials (you only get 2 hours to work on your project). We rush through our projects and the deal is you come back the next day to pick up your oven-baked piece of art. We came the next day, and it wasn't ready. Fast forward a few days because they don't offer it on port days, and again, it was not available. The very last possible day we went down there at 10 am, and again, it was not available! They told us all the items would be available by 1 pm and they were finishing them up. We come back at 1 pm and our items aren't out on the table. I ask the girl where our pieces were. She says if they aren't there then they "blew up" in the oven. At least two people were looking at her like, are you serious? The apathetic girl said that many of the items blew up. My guess is some idiot over cooked the items on too high of a temperature to get them all done within time and they don't want to take responsibility for it.
The quality of the food was overall terrible. Given that you had to wait 3 hours to eat at one of the restaurants, you were left with either two choices: wait three hours for food that coexists with cockroaches, or eat food prepared and served by people with hair in it from the buffet. We ultimately used room service quite frequently, also to avoid Norovirus. At least half the time they sent the wrong items. You order a turkey sandwich and they send you a Roast beef sandwhich. You order a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and they send you nachos.
The TV channels were all centered around trying to get you to buy overly-priced items. I get it, they want to get you to buy the art and jewelry items, that's all fine. It came across though as though they care more about making a buck than they do the quality of the customer experience.
We tried to watch the movies under the stars, but due to it being an outdoor theater, you had to battle the wind and children screaming in the pool directly below it. You literally could not hear 90% of the words. We went back to our jail cell to finish the movie.
There are too many things to list for this review, but the last one I will mention is not to use their wake-up service and early departure option. On our departure day, the courtesy call came in two hours earlier than it was supposed to. We packed everything up, forced ourselves to be awake, and walked out of our cabins with bags in hand and quickly realized it was still 4 am. For whatever reason, they screwed up the time to receive the call. This happened twice. I can only assume it has to do with the change in hours when going to Alaska, but if this cruise is your specialty, shouldn't you have this figured out by now?
Anyways, we went down at the proper time to leave the ship early (literally wanted to be the first ones off if possible!) and there was no one directing anyone on where to go or what to do. I asked the security officer at the exit and he said this would be the exit and to wait here if we wanted to start the line. We obliged. As more than half an hour passes, the room just gets congested and none of the workers took the initiative to put out poles, dividers, or verbally instruct people on what to do. It was a logistical failure and it boggles my mind as to how a cruise ship can be so disorganized.
The people on the ship were nice. Even though we were a younger couple than the average age, everyone was for the most part pleasant. Even though children were screaming in the pools during the movie under the stars, the ship really was a good mix of people and we felt comfortable despite being younger.
The onus of our experience falls directly on a cruise ship that cares more about making money than the quality of their customers experience. We will never cruise with Princess again. Many echoed our thoughts, and suggested to try other cruise liners.