On March 23rd, I took my mother on a cruise aboard the Caribbean Princess to celebrate her birthday. We eagerly anticipated the cruise for months prior and expected to enjoy ourselves. We have taken several cruises in the past and have heard positive feedback about Princess from other passengers. My mother has talked about wanting to go on Princess for the past few years, and I surprised her last year when I told her that I booked it for her birthday. We did not expect that the cruise, which took place March 23rd to the 30th, would have been a costly mistake demonstrated by repeated poor service every day (and several times throughout the day). The service was so poor that, at this time, I would not consider booking with Princess again. As you will come to read, you will find that the staff was extremely rude, disrespectful, and inconsiderate throughout the ship in various departments. There were problems every day---in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
On day one we were treated poorly. We departed Fort Lauderdale in the afternoon and wanted the balcony door to open in our cabin, R301. We attempted to open the door, though were unsuccessful. We called the front desk staff, which sent up two people who did not know how to open the door, and by the time the door was opened, it was two hours later (at nearly midnight). Two hours to open a balcony door is unacceptable. We had to call the front desk several times and were repeatedly told "10 minutes" or "soon."
Early in the cruise, we saw the GoSmile advertisement. We were interested and made a consultation. The young woman provided us with consent forms, and I go through them meticulously. I can not help that, considering I am a critical care nurse. Consent forms are given for a reason; they are given so the client knows the risks/benefits of a procedure. I noticed that there were some areas of concern for my mother (who has veneers, crowns, and a denture) and for me (asthma and a history of melanoma). We asked her questions about these, which were cautioned in the consent form. She was getting impatient with the questions and said that the forms are "old" and "you will be fine." She could not show us pictures and was upset that we would ask. I asked about the light and if it emits radiation; she responded with "of course not!" I said that I thought it would be a good idea "if we hold off." We were walking out of the room and she tore apart the papers. I could not imagine talking down to people like that prior to a procedure if they had questions. It is unethical to degrade people in such a manner, and I would (rightfully) lose my job.
Each night, we went to the Princess Theater for entertainment. The wait staff would scan the room for people in the theater for whom they would offer a drink too (people they saw were formally dressed up and thus they would get a larger tip). We were never offered anything to drink; yet, they would make eye contact with us. It was as though we were treated as second-class citizens and only the people they considered "VIP" were offered any kind of drink. We were ignored. One of the evenings, I called out to one of the servers and asked for something to drink. They said that they could not get us iced tea, since they do not have that at the bar. We asked for water, and he returned 20 minutes later with water. My mother asked for two straws (one for her and for me), and he yelled at her saying, "the straws are only for the soda or drinks. If you wanted a straw, you should have asked for it with the water." Well, when we go to restaurants, the servers carry extra straws in their pocket...so, this came to us as a surprise. He came back with several straws, handed them to my mother, and we realized that on this boat we have to carry our own straws in our pockets. The following night, we asked for water but forgot the straws...we got the straws, 30 minutes later, after asking three servers. Unbelievable! So, my mother made it a priority to keep a straw in her jacket pocket while walking throughout the ship. I am shocked by this; I spent nearly $2,100 so my mother can walk around a cruise boat with poor service and a straw in her pocket?
However, the lack of offering liquids went throughout the ship. On the 15th floor or in the cafes, we would ask for iced tea and the staff would say that they could not get it for us, though mostly they would not offer us anything. We asked a server (who just put iced tea on the table for four men) if we could have iced tea too, and she said that we would have to go to the dining room (this was the night of the Ultimate Deck Party, so the 26th--my mother's birthday). The staff would say that iced tea can only be given in the main dining rooms. The same story applied to lemonade or iced coffee. We have been on different cruise lines before and iced tea was available everywhere, even if you poured the iced tea from a pitcher into a glass yourself. This was an everyday problem...obtaining hydration was so difficult that we would bring the drinks back to our stateroom. When you would ask for something to drink, such as iced tea, the staff member would give you a funny look and a reason why they could not get it for you: this was everywhere. We would hang out on the 15th floor outside a lot, and the workers would offer everyone else but us something to drink.
Throughout the dining areas, though especially the various buffets, the workers continued to be incredibly rude. We would be eating food (with our mouths full and food still on the plate) and the workers would just take the plate. They did not even ask if we were finished or still working on it! This was an everyday problem. I have had better dining experiences at Denny's.
We would ask questions to staff workers throughout the ship, and they would talk down to you or belittle you as to how you could ask such a question. It was as if it has become so common knowledge to them that they expected the guests on-board to know where places were, if the food was included in the meal plan, and the times to get back on the boat. One of the many examples of this would be when we asked the gentleman outside the Palm Dining Room if the food was included in our package. We did not know if the food would cost extra or if it was part of the standard package. He yelled at us to "look at the menu! Look at your card! It says "anytime dining!" You need to read the menus!" Unfortunately, him yelling at us occurred on my mother's birthday. We asked him about the card as it said to present the card during dinner for a "festive treat." We did not know what that entailed (considering this was our first time on Princess) and we thought he said "steak." So, we repeated the word "steak" to him and he said, "No, I said cake! Cake, not steak!" I was flabbergasted by how rude this man was outside the dining room, especially knowing it was her birthday with the card. I wanted her to have a memorable and enjoyable birthday; this was far from what occurred. He did not apologize for his rude behavior but had an exasperated sigh. From here, we went to the Island Dining Room.
We had gone to the Island Dining Room for my mother's birthday. We presented the card and happily told them it was her birthday. There was an open table for two available---no signs showing a reservation. The hostess continued to insist that we sit with others at a larger table. I asked her four times if we could sit at the table for two, considering it was a special occasion, the table was clean, and nobody was sitting there. She finally gave in, though why should I have had to ask four times? Why should I feel like I have to continue to ask people for basic service? I looked around the room to see who was sitting at the tables for two; all the people sitting at the tables for two were dressed up with wine bottles in hand. We do not drink alcohol and thus it appeared that they were trying to save the tables for those dressed up and whom they thought would be purchasing liquor. This judgmental attitude on my mother's birthday struck a huge chord with me. After dinner, I wanted to speak to a supervisor.
I spoke to Sanjay at the front desk. This gentleman was a true gem. He would follow up with our complaints to management. He had Andre Markovskyy call us, which was a very poor experience. Mr. Markovskyy was rude and insisted that everyone treats everyone the same. I explained to him that he could not speak about everybody; he could only speak about himself. This made him irate, to which he said, "I'm sorry you feel that way." I could see that we were not getting anywhere in this conversation besides him becoming argumentative and I requested to speak with someone else, which is how I spoke with Leigh-Anne Davis (the customer relations manager).
We spoke face-to-face with Ms. Davis, who understood that our problems were related to service and that the solutions should be simple. We only asked for simple things that were not out of the ordinary. We were asking for hydration and respect. She was very concerned, listened, and responded courteously. Ms. Davis followed up with various department managers about what we were saying. She said that if things did not get better to let her know; we called her the next day to let her know how things were going.
After speaking to Ms. Davis, things seemed like they were improving a bit. We were offered water in the Princess Theater, though brought our own straws (since we have learned that they come at a premium on the ship). However, when we asked for water in the International Cafe, the waitress never came back with it; so, after 20 minutes of watching her serve others, we went on a hunt for water.
We went to the 15th floor for pizza on that Friday the 29th just a few minutes before 11am. We saw that the pizza was ready and asked for a slice. Again, we did not know that they opened at 11am. Ernesto yelled at us, "11am! We open at 11am! Look at the clock!" He had an angry scowl on his face and pointed to the clock. We patiently waited as did another man who pointed out to Ernesto, "Well on my watch, it is perfectly 11:00." I would have been happy if he just said, "we are just finishing setting things up. Can you give us a few more minutes?" The attitude was so poor.
We knew that we would be leaving early on Saturday morning to get to the airport. We filled out the room service card for fruit, danishes, and yogurt. We selected the time for 6:30am for everything to come. We got off the boat at 8am and the food we requested never arrived to the room. Never have we packed so soon to fly back from a vacation, and we found ourselves packing up on Friday the 29th and asking the front desk if we could "check out." We were so excited to get off the boat and go home.
If I treated anyone like this at work (as a registered nurse), I would be fired. In public service, there is no room for awful attitudes, unkind tones, and poor service. Besides our experience with Ms. Davis and Sanjay, we found that workers on the ship to have an argumentative attitude and a poor attitude. Most of the workers seem burnt out from the job, not even smiling, even walking in what looked like a daze at times. I worked very hard to pay for this cruise, thinking that it would be well-worth the 12-16 hour days. The boat got us from point A to point B, similar to a taxi cab. I am requesting for a 50% refund of what I paid, considering the boat had acted as a taxi cab and got us to the places, and thus this is what I believe is fair to the cruise line and to myself. I am hoping to work this out with this Department. This trip was a huge disappointment. Furthermore, I have never paid this much for a cruise before and have had better service on other cruise lines. The saying is that you "get what you pay for." I expected that by paying more money to go on Princess that the payback would be superb service. As my mother told Ms. Davis, "I thought we would be treated like princesses."