We had previously booked Princess’s “Bon Voyage Experience.” But, due to dense fog, the ship arrived into port several hours late, which consequently, caused the cancellation of our experience. Along with a refund, Princess issued Future Cruise Credits (to be used within 3 months). We wanted to see for ourselves what Princess has to offer, so we booked our January cruise.
Pre-Cruise difficulties: We tried booking the cruise on Princess’ website on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, but kept encountering “errors”, so I called their 800#. After a pleasant discussion, our reservation was confirmed and confirmation was e-mailed. We then realized that my husband could receive On Board Credit through the Military Benefit for Veterans, so he emailed all of the requirements on the following Monday morning. A week passed with no action, so he emailed it all again. Another week passed with still no success, so I called. It was the worst customer service I have received from a cruise line! The CSR was, at best, remote… not friendly, not sympathetic, and she didn’t even verify that she had taken our info correctly. After she completely changed her story about why the problem existed, I told her that I felt lied-to and I wanted to speak with someone else. I was placed on hold for Customer Relations. Eventually, Rachel in Customer Relations spoke with me, and WOW, what a difference! She listened carefully while I explained why I felt so frustrated, she made appropriate and sympathetic replies, and verified that she had taken the email address correctly. She promised to follow-through with the other departments to see that this was completed, and then asked if she could also call me back to verify that all was well… which she did! Now happy and ready!!!
Houston Bayport Cruise Terminal: Because CP had had another Norovirus outbreak and had to be sanitized again, we arrived at the port after 2:00 pm. After being directed to a seemingly endless parade of cars, winding through the port area, we finally arrived at the terminal. We tipped a porter for our 3 bags, parked (free of charge for the week due to Legion of Merit license plates) and proceeded to the terminal building. After standing in serpentine lines for about an hour (thankfully it was a lovely afternoon!!!) We found the terminal to be small, but pleasant. Security was typical… no complaints.
Embarkation: We were greeted pleasantly at check-in, given our shipboard keys and directed to the waiting area and then the gangway where we finally (around 4:30 pm) made it to our stateroom.
Stateroom: Our category OZ (obstructed ocean view) room, Deck 8/Emerald, Forward, was larger than we had expected it to feel. I was upset that the separate “Twin Beds”I had requested (and I had made another call to Princess to verify) turned-out to be a Queen bed (DH snores and steals sheet/blanket). We decided the room would “work better” with a queen, rather than the twins, so we kept it as it was. The bed and pillows were too hard for our tastes, so we asked for and received softer pillows. Biggest problem is that the room is over the theater and is very loud whenever there are talks, practices, or performances. If you are a “late night person,” it would not be a big problem. We truly were disappointed that we had no coffee pot in the room! Otherwise, we found the room mostly clean and spacious for this category, and honestly, the view was great. Our, room stewardess, Gemma, was friendly and hard working.
Entertainment: We particularly enjoyed the VINES wine and food pairing. Especially since we thoroughly enjoyed the lovely and warm, gracious company of Mary Wilson (Yes, of the Supremes!!!) The food and wine was great, as was the presentation by Ryan.
We enjoyed some Bingo and “Horse Races.” Bingo ranged in price from $10 to $40 (or more, if you choose) per 4-gane sessions. Pay-outs were $100 - $400 per game, with a Snowball Jackpot, on Friday afternoon, @ $2250. Congratulations winners for the week!
We could have done without most of the shows since we found the ships singers and dancers to be somewhat awkward (as if they had not practiced together enough). We skipped Sunday’s and Monday’s performances because of that (and restaurant timing… see below). However, the comedian Tim McTigue was quite humorous and entertaining.
Restaurants: Anytime dining took us to the Island Dining Room. (They are NOT particularly pleasant if you choose to dine alone! ) Several evenings, we caved-in and sat with other couples who felt as we did about the situation. We ended up with like-minded couples that way, so ultimately, it was quite enjoyable!!! Our biggest problem, although nobody’s fault, is the dynamics of a larger table changes the timing of service, so we missed some events we had planned, each time. We found most meals to be quite good to excellent. (My favorite dish during the entire cruise was the Mojito Ceviche, on Saturday evening.) Food temperature could be a little disappointing sometimes, but that was expected. Buffet meals were fine, although lines were long and disorganized, as buffets get. Seating could also be a problem. The British Pub, on Sea Days, in the Crown Grill (deck 6) offers few selections, but very good food. We found nothing remarkable about the pizza, burgers, and such on deck 15. On Friday evening we ate in Sabatini’s, the food, service and atmosphere were great.
Lounges/Bars: Most of our drinks came from the Explorer’s lounge (deck 7 mid-ship) while we played Bingo or Horse Races. Service was pleasant, drinks were quite good, and priced like most bars across the US.
Cruise staff: The Cruise Director, Marahscalh Stanton, was very lively.
Ship overview: Décor is pleasant. We didn’t feel that the ship was “outdated and tattered” as others have remarked. Pools are typical, although we never utilized any. Atrium area is pleasant and offers plenty to see.
Excursions: In Cozumel we went exploring on our own. In Roatan we went to Mahogany Bay beach, via the aerial chair lifts. Scenery was quite nice and we enjoyed gentle breezes with a smooth ride.
Belize City: We went on the Sergeant’s Cay Snorkel Adventure. Unfortunately, we would not recommend this excursion because entirely too much time was wasted at a “resort” (really?) area signing waivers. We were told on the boat ride, directly from the ship to the “resort”, that we would have “beach time” before our snorkeling. But, where (I guess) we could have enjoyed the beach, too much time was spent signing waivers and/or being enticed to shop or eat. When we reached the site, we did get into the water to snorkel, but I had some minor mishaps that sent me back to the boat (since they wanted everybody to stay together and I was not keeping up). That was fine with me, as we have snorkeled in Roatan previously. We were returned to the ship considerably sooner than the “approximately 4 hours” allowed for the tour.
Overview: For the money, it was an enjoyable cruise. We did not find anybody to perform “above and beyond,” although we cannot complain about service lacking in general. We most definitely did not like the fact that the dining rooms do not have enough 2-tops for the number of guests who DO want them, and we were appalled by the attitude about it. DH and I were not the only ones who felt we were being punished for trying to just enjoy each other’s company. (Thank you to those who shared the larger tables and made it so enjoyable!!!)
And in conclusion, we felt as though we absolutely had to get off the ship as quickly as possible so we were not hindering the crew. With that said, overall, Princess did NOT allow us to “escape completely”.