My wife and I are frequent Princess customers, having done many sailings on the various ships in the Princess fleet. We also have done numerous sailings on other cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity etc., so we believe we have a fairly broad perspective as experienced cruise line consumers.
Unfortunately the recent August 18 fourteen night sailing of Crown Princess to the Baltic Sea fell far below our expectations. Here is a rundown of our issues:
1. Toilets. A significant number of staterooms, including the room in which we stayed, were impacted by four straight days of toilet issues affecting multiple zones, beginning on day two. As a result, we and numerous other passengers had to leave our staterooms to use public bathrooms. Aside from the obvious inconvenience, this extended toilet outage caused us significant personal stress. We heard that some of the toilets near us actually overflowed with raw sewage. Luckily that did not happen to us, but the hallways near us had an unpleasant odor the rest of the trip.
o What really troubled me was no sense of urgency regarding this issue ' ranging from unconcerned matter-of-fact reactions when reporting toilet issues to very slow response times and not going to all possible lengths to make 100% sure a blockage issue was resolved.
o I finally asked for the head of engineering to call me with an explanation of what exactly was being done to rectify the issue (he never called to do that).
2. Shore excursions. Due to the nature of the itinerary (except for Oslo and Copenhagen, the Crown Princess docked in locations that were not walk able), we used Princess-operated shore excursions in most locations. Our excursions (typically moderate to strenuous walking tours) in almost every case had multiple customers who were unable to walk at anywhere close to a normal pace. On numerous occasions we passed along our concerns to the staff and provided suggestions for handling such situations (for example, designating one group for customers with walking difficulties).
o Unfortunately, the excursion staff seemed to only care about maximizing excursion revenues, rather than the customer experience. We suggested several ideas ' explaining the amount and speed of walking, and having someone screen people as they departed for an excursion. The excursion staff gave excuses why they couldn't tell anyone no or seek to steer customers into groups that of more consistent walking abilities.
o Rather, we learned that customers with walking disabilities would actually be told to meet in Wheelhouse, then pre-boarded into 'walking' tours. We heard from more than one of our tour guides that Princess had instructed the guide to go slowly, and make sure not to go too fast for the handicapped people put into the group. In other cases, those with walking issues very vocally insisted that the guide proceed slowly.
o As a result of the handicapped people on virtually every walking tour (not only ours but many other groups we witnessed), itineraries were shortened or rushed in some of the most important parts of the route.
o We were in the majority with regard to our views. Many fellow excursion passengers very vocally expressed their unhappiness with how Princess was 'managing' the walking tours.
o On departure day, we had booked a combination tour to Stonehenge and Gatwick airport transfer. We and the other people who had signed up for this tour were informed in Explorers Lounge shortly before we boarded (and too late to make other arrangements) that Gatwick departees would have to go to Heathrow Airport first, since there weren't enough people for a profitable bus of our own. Not only that, the Heathrow people we were placed with were spread across many airlines, so we spent well over an hour driving to the many Heathrow terminals. The extra airport and how it was managed cost us two extra hours of time. Had we been informed ahead of time, I would have arranged private transportation involving far less hassle.
o Overall, we spent $1,448 on excursions, and sadly most of our excursions were very sub-par.
3. Internet. We've been on many ships and use the ship's wi-fi on each sailing. I've never encountered such internet unavailability and slowness.
o For several days, each log on attempt was met with a 'too many subscribers' error message. The internet manager told me it was a seat license issue, that all available connections were being used when that message appeared, and that he had requested additional licenses.
o After several days that availability issue was resolved, but once we were able to connect, the bandwidth was terrible. I would estimate the internet connection to be 6-10 times slower than average. Normally on a ship I can connect, download email and USA Today in 3-4 minutes. On this sailing, I'd typically give up with only one or two sections of the paper downloaded in 10 or more minutes. A frustrating waste of time, and we felt very out of touch.
4. Food/service cutbacks. We understand that Princess has made cutbacks, like many businesses, due to the softness of the travel market. On the positive side, Princess has the very best pizza of any cruise line. Unfortunately, with each sailing the cutbacks are more noticeable and are beginning to approach unacceptable levels. Here are a few examples:
o No main dining room open on port days
o Food in the buffet is now mediocre at best
o Elimination of hot appetizers (e.g. at Captain's Circle Elite/Platinum events)
o Fewer wait staff (at least it feels that way) and waiters now press customers to order much more quickly
5. Speaking of Captain's Circle, on other lines the host/hostess is at virtually every loyalty event. On this sailing, we only met the Circle Hostess at the Platinum/Elite party on day 12. We expressed to her our surprise about not seeing her, for example in Skywalker's for Platinum/Elite cocktail hours, and she told us she was 'too busy doing paperwork'.
Unfortunately, based on this most recent cruise, our next sailing will be on a premium line such as Oceania, Azamara or Regent. That said, we will probably give Princess another chance.