Regarding the ship: the ship itself is beautiful -- very comfortable and spacious.
Aspects that were very good were:
- excellent cabin and ensuite layout and fittings.
- restaurant food and service (both excellent in the French themed and Italian themed speciality restaurants).
- quality and variety of food in the casual dining area.
- cabin service.
- standard and variety of live music in the lounges in the evenings.
- great series of IPAD classes in the computer centre.
Aspects that were poor were:
- lounge bar hours. During port days, the only bars in operation before 4pm were the outdoor pool bars and the casual dining area bar. If, like me, you are used to having a couple of beers or glass of wine in a comfortable lounge before lunch -- bad luck. Unacceptable, especially when the weather is not so good.
- misinformation in the printed daily program every day. For example the bar hours for the Sky (lookout) bar were printed as open at 8pm when it fact it opened at 4pm. On the Akaroa day, it claimed that the ship would sail for Tauranga at 6pm when in fact the next port was Wellington. Perhaps I'm a pedant but to me these frequent inaccuracies indicate an annoyingly slapdash attitude by those responsible. If the hotel director and staff don't think the daily program is worth checking, why should the passengers think it worth reading?
- bureaucratic intransigence at the front desk. Prior to departure Wellington during inclement weather, I was having a drink in the Passport bar, looking forward to enjoying the scenery outside when we sailed. However at 6.15pm, the blinds closed automatically. The bar staff told me that if I wanted them opened, I would have to ask at the front desk. The attendant at the front desk checked with her supervisor (apparently) and returned to tell me that it was not possible to open those blinds and if I wanted a view I should go to the bar on the deck above. Unfortunately, in that bar, all the furniture is facing inwards making it impossible to sit comfortably and enjoy the view. Again, it transpired the Sky bar was indeed open but the program told passengers it wouldn't be until 8pm.
- mindless pig-headedness over drink package service. Presumably to prevent people with drink packages providing drinks to others, service staff will only provide one drink at a time to those with the package. Sounds reasonable but descends into farce if you want a double serve of wine (to avoid having to traipse back inside and upstairs for a top-up mid-cigar or if you drink spirits with canned mixer (as opposed to the syrup mix from the bar dispenser). In this case I heard stewards (on the rare occasions they appeared) that they would have to deliver the spirit then take another order, and deliver later, the mixer.
Aspects that were terrible were:
- lack of lounge bar staff and attitude of them (when present). While there were some exceptions, the lounge bar service was almost non-existent. On the rare occasions that there were waiters present they seemed reluctant to circulate and serve. Several of us concluded that because we had bought pre-paid drink packages and therefore also had to buy pre-paid gratuities, some stewards saw no further advantage in serving us even though we had already paid for that service. I, and other regular cruise passengers I spoke to, had at various times been kept waiting for 20 minutes or more for a steward to approach the table to offer drinks, if one came at all. This was worst in the Ensemble lounge and the Passport Bar even when those bars were not especially busy. This may not greatly bother first time cruisers who may not know or expect better but this shortcoming is enough to ensure that repeat or word of mouth business from regular cruisers is unlikely. Also, from a business point of view, I cannot understand why the ship would allow so much potential revenue go unrealised because lounges aren't properly advertised or staffed. This is
an opportunity that Princess Cruises certainly don't let slip by!
I found it frustrating that to my mind this ship was 9 / 10 in most aspects and should easily be so overall but because of this couple of very significant shortcomings, rates (to me) only about 6.5 overall. To my mind, the attitude of the lounge staff and front desk staff gave the ship an air of indifference. Missing was the friendly, personal feel I always get from ships like Dawn Princess. I doubt Celebrity will see any more of my money.