Our first Princess Cruise was on the Diamond last fall to Asia. Despite the Norovirus epidemic on board ship it was a great experience. My husband and I took an over the counter preventative measure called SACCHARO-B (http://www.globalmedikit.com/products/Travel_Health/CytoMatrix_Saccharo-B) which was suggested by the nurse who gave me the required vaccines for the trip, and we attribute not being one of the Norovirus victims to taking these. This natural remedy cannot be purchased at just any drugstore but at a Travel Pharmacy. Surprisingly there were only a few hand sanitizers, located mainly at the entrance of the Horizon Buffet and dining rooms.
The Cruise Director and his assistant on the Diamond ensured our mornings would start on the WAKE Show with zany antics, quick wit, trivia questions, winners announced from the previous day, and all the activities planned for that day. Bottles of champagne were used as prizes for challenging but fun events, like horse racing, ring tosses, trivia pursuit, egg dropping contests, putting contests, etc. We enjoyed this cruise so much so that we booked 4 more Princess cruises while still on the Diamond Princess, such as The Grand Princess which took us to Hawaii in March 2013, a one day cruise on the Golden from Vancouver to Seattle in May 2013, The Pacific Princess for the Transatlantic in December 2013, and the Golden Princess for the South American Cruise in March 2014. In order to become a Platinum member one requires 50 days of cruising on the Princess Lines to reap the benefits of 250 free internet minutes each and free laundry.
Alas, our expectation for another glorious cruise on the Grand Princess to Hawaii for 15 days in March was not to be. We arrived at the Pier in San Francisco where an investigation by the Coast Guards aboard ship was taking place delaying our boarding by 2 Â½ hours and our sailing by 5 hours. This understandably was out of Princess's control. We were fortunate to be only a few of the passengers allowed to wait inside the terminal, but hundreds of others had to wait for over 2 Â½ hours outside under the hot sun. I am sure that bottles of water handed out would have been appreciated. Our first indication that it was not going to be as much fun and relaxing as our previous cruise was when we turned on the Wake Show the first morning. The Cruise Director, Sammi, did not make much of an impression with us so we opted instead to turn on the news every morning. There were far less games, and if you are religious there was plenty of opportunity to attend mass, sometimes twice a day, Bible study, etc. Aside from Trivia, fun, passenger participation in competitive games were frowned upon, as the Cruise Director stated that she didn't approve of competitive events and wanted passengers to bond together and form friendships!
When being served at the bar, requests of less ice had to be made, as the bartenders tend to fill your glass to the top with ice leaving little room for liquids.
Tendering at Maui was very long, tedious, hot, and humid for those located in the life boats. There were only a couple of locations available for our boats to dock at Maui, so long waits took place while we waited for one to become available.
Anytime dining was no problem when we were on the Diamond and we were able to walk in any of the two restaurants available to us. On the Grand we could only dine at certain times and when we tried to reserve a time were told that we could only reserve if there was more than 2 in a group, and after a certain time. After a Â½ hour wait the first night and almost an hour the second night, we decided to go with Traditional dining which turned out to be the best decision made on that Cruise as our dining mates were terrific.
An incident took place aboard the Grand which still irks many of us who were affected by a decision made by the Cruise Director with a little help from the Captain..... Having Bridge lessons in the mornings and playing duplicate bridge in the afternoons were fast becoming a favourite pastime for many of us especially having a well, respected retired teacher as our instructordirector and his helpful assistant/wife to guide us. During one of our afternoon duplicate bridge sessions in the Michelangelo dining room a table of Mahjong players were enjoying their game in the same room were boisterous, and quite loud. The instructor asked his assistant if she would ask them to quiet down a bit. Her third approach proved to be fruitless. The instructor then decided to ask them himself. According to our instructor when he approached the table they were all speaking a foreign language and ignoring him. He asked if anyone spoke English, and that question resulted in a racial discrimination charge against him, and having him and his wife being removed from the boat at Honolulu. Without a thorough investigation, the Cruise Director took it upon herself to inform the bridge instructor that his contract was finished, and that he will no longer work for Princess Cruise Lines. I have learned that teaching bridge was all voluntary, as the instructor and his assistant/wife pay their own fare, and have been doing this for enjoyment and it showed. Letters written by those affected by this decision to the Cruise Director and Captain to reconsider fell by the wayside. Unfortunately, our cruise as well as all the other passengers participating involved with the bridge group was tarnished by the humiliation, and injustice experienced by our instructor and his assistance/wife. There is apparently an investigation taking place and hopefully the decision will be overturned, unfortunately, too late.
To prevent a future disappointing cruise experience, we will cancel any future cruises with the same Cruise Director, Sammi Baker or the same Captain.
On a more positive note, Bernie, the vivacious, funny, and bright, assistant director brought life to every party and event was just what the cruise needed. The stateroom attendants were amazingly hard workers who managed to stay cheerful, positive, and professional at all times.