Returning from our cruise on Pacific Princess, I would like to give some feedback. As in my previous business life, feedback should be taken as learning opportunity and starting point for improvement. Without critic we will never see improvement and growth. I had this summary sent via two different travel agencies to Princess Cruises, however, no answer since 3 months.
Our trip started at Frankfurt (Germany) with a 2 day pre-program in Mumbai. The time spent in the city as well as in the vicinity was worth the money. Hotel (Taj President) and sightseeing were well organized and professionally conducted. Mumbai is the city with the largest contrast between poor and rich we ever saw.
We embarked on Sept. 1, 2006 in Mumbai (Bombay) and disembarked on Sept 15, 2006 in Bangkok. Despite the monsoon season we had sunny to fair weather condition and an almost mirror flat sea, besides some tropical rain at noon or night.
The ports of call had been changed after we booked. Colombo was dropped for safety reasons, added Mangalore instead, which was no adequate replacement at al. All other ports of call had interesting points to visit and included Cambodia and Vietnam.
Positive items first:
- Food at dinner time was excellent, high quality, nice presentation, sufficient list of different items to select from,
- Service at dining area very friendly and supportive with an excellent taste
- Stateroom steward provided all help needed in due time and kept our room tidy and clean.
- The stateroom itself included a balcony, which used at night time in these tropical nights, the room itself provided more than sufficient storage capacity, everything ok
- Service at bar areas friendly and quick, not urging or pressing
- Very fast check-in process at Mumbai, very well organized disembarkation in Bangkok
- Some performances at show time had been extremely good (e.g. Piano & Banjo)
- Pacific Princess offers two speciality restaurants, however, because of the quality of the standard dining restaurant we did not use them.
Items to improve:
- Embarkation process lacks positive moments like a welcome glass of Champaign, or someone guiding us personally to the stateroom.
-Service and environment in breakfast/lunch buffet area was somewhat strange:
- The starboard side of the buffet restaurant is close to the centrally located dish washing facilities, emitting an extreme noise at each opening of the doors,loudly rumbling carts are used to transport plates and silver ware in and out of cleaning area
- cleaning of garbage cans and pulling sacks filled with garbage or dirty table cloths in the midst of the area where people are sitting for either lunch or breakfast.All men assigned to this job express their hate of both the work and the guests sitting there.
- plastic chairs at outside areas are dirty with spilled coffee and food stains, cleaning frequency far too low, no seat covers,
- coffee supply the worst I ever met (lousy quality, only two self service filling stations and one cart for direct service, nobody looking for refills,therefore coffee on cart luke warm. Compared to any coffee shop just unacceptable),
- no fresh fruit juices or fresh milk supplied at breakfast buffet.
- Food at breakfast buffet somewhat boring, every day same fruit selection, egg station was not able to produce a decent omelette or fried eggs, used partly eggs with an extreme pale yolk without any taste. However, very good and tasty selection of bread. As a tip, the guy at the hamburger station (pool area) produces really good fried eggs and omelettes to your choice during morning hours. - Pool was closed for maintenance for about a week, while we had bright sunshine (however, it will be always at the wrong time anyway)
- Lift system is used for transport of cleaning personal with their respective carts and utilities at the time passengers are heading for dinner, keeping passengers waiting. (Should be kept in background anyway)
- The restroom check system is nicely set up, but does not function too well, more than once we observed sign-off at the door w/o checking the facilities
Show time events had a good variety of events. The dancers and singers might need a new choreograph and some singers need refreshing training on how to hit the right tone. The announcement and the introduction of performing persons are far too exaggerating, thus, they can never meet the raised expectations. It is a question of taste, but joke telling should never disrespect minorities.
Shore excursions, as far as we joined them, are basically ok and well organized. However, all excursions land at sales points. At that cruise price level this needs to be restricted to true value sites, and, then, need more time in those cases (e.g. Kuala Lumpur Jewelry and Silk/Batik). We observed in Vietnam at planned restroom stops at different places where the same dealers were aggressively selling low value offers, and the identical cripples begging for money.
At a ship, which wants to maintain 4+ stars someone might want to teach the waiters the basic rules of serving at the table like:
- serve ladies first - don't over-fill a wine glass - don't start clearing the tables for next sitting while guests are still at the table - don't rush, no loud chats among waiters.
While we observed some best of the best we also saw quite a few worst of the worst. This needs attention of and training by the supervisors.
Directly booking gratuity might be helpful to have a balanced distribution system. However, it seems to be a contribution of the passengers to adjust for low wages. Eventually, this socialized system disconnects pay from performance. I did not observe the leaders of the crew personally checking their staff's performance and using weaknesses as training and coaching opportunities. My tip: have all automated gratuity re-booked, and use the amount where you are really satisfied with the service. My gut feeling: Some of the leaders are complacent and far too long in their position.
In average lowest service standard compared to NCL, Celebrity, Trans Ocean, and Costa, however, average is unfair because we experienced some best of the best who were outbalanced by a good share of the worst of the worst. Good quality does not only mean in average good; the spread between outstanding and low performance needs to be managed.
Day time attire of service personal needs improvement (worn out, dirty and scratched tennis shoes; someone, not color blind, should look at shirt and short/skirt colors)
Summing up all experiences, Princess might want to have a very close look at the Pacific Princess, or the rating as a high class ship will be lost. We do not want to miss the experience of this cruise, however, for the time being, we will not recommend this ship to friends.