This was our 12th cruise—our 4th with Princess (which is owned by Carnival Corporation) and it was the worst overall. Caribbean cruise Dec 7-14. Hardly anything went well starting with our arrival at Houston airport. It was a cold, blustery day and they had us wait for an hour for the ship's shuttle bus in a cold area of the airport. People were bundled up and still cold. Then the hour long bus ride to the terminal on a bus with air conditioning and loud music. But the best was yet to come. At the new Bayside Terminal the security line was so long that it snaked outdoors and we left were standing in the cold wind off the water for an hour. A rare occurrence in Houston? Not from what we've read. What was Princess/Carnival thinking? We know they don't operate the terminal, but they book it for their passengers and to not anticipate cold weather sometime in December is unforgivable.
On a positive note, the food in the dining room was better than we remembered. But why does Princess/Carnival bother with a dress code? On a formal night a man was seated at a table next to us wearing jeans and a plaid shirt. At a dining room lunch I saw a woman in a bathing suit wrapped in a piece of shear material that left nothing to the imagination. The 'Dress Code' is a joke.
Then there is the new liquor policy. I had read something about it so I was not surprised. We were allowed to bring on one bottle of wine per person at embarkation. But nothing was allowed to be brought on from the ports of call. They set up a table with a crew member there to confiscate any alcohol and it would be returned to you upon arrival in Houston. One of the pleasures for us of cruising is sampling local wines from different countries. Hope other cruise lines don't follow Princess/Carnival in this regard.
Ports were Cozumel, Roatan and Belize. But the ship did not pull into the regular piers. Instead, in the first two we pulled in special docks built by Carnival. Both were basically the same...Carnival Shopping Centers with identical stores. In Belize, the ship was anchored out so far from land that we had to image that there was actually a city there.
Other people on this site have written about the trouble with the Houston Channel being closed by fog. We were on the ship when the Captain announced at 7 am—just when we should have been docking—that the channel had been closed all night and that we were just starting to enter it. We would be 3.5 hours late arriving. I actually feel sorry for Princess Lines. They can't control the weather. But didn't anyone research this port before opting to use it? I overheard that Princess/Carnival was offered a special deal if they used the Bayside Terminal instead of the Galveston Terminal. Maybe it paid off for Carnival Corporation but the toll was taken on the passengers. In looking at what will happen in the future, it appears that next years' Caribbean cruises will be out of Florida and not Houston. But that can change.
Luckily for us, we had a very late return flight out of Houston. We were to have left the ship at 10:40 am but didn't get off it until just after 2 pm. At the airport we shared many tales of woes with fellow cruisers!
Our first cruise was on a Carnival ship and we never wish to repeat that again. But more and more the lines owned by Carnival Corporation are appearing to become clones of the mother ship as the distinction between the various lines is disappearing. For instance, Carnival had the 'hairy chest' competition. This cruise had the 'hairy legs' competition. Even Cunard has been affected with watch/jewelry sales blocking the path to the dining room on formal nights. If you enjoy the 'fun' ships of Carnival, you have much to choose from. If you prefer something different, you may need to do what we're doing. Looking elsewhere.