I’m sorry to say that had this cruise been our first on Princess, it would have been our LAST. We’ve had 5 positive experiences, so we had little doubt that our 6th would be problem-filled, but it certainly was. Princess has joined the Carnival/Costa “family” – and I’m afraid the result is NOT good.
THE GOOD (MOSTLY):
We’re both on tight budgets, so opting for an interior cabin was a must, however we never felt “2nd class”. Our room steward, Dante, did an excellent job of keeping our environment clean and looking good with his twice-daily visits. As you’ll read later, he maintained his good spirits, despite “challenges” from the ship’s faulty equipment. We ordered morning coffee from room service and it was always delivered piping hot and on-time by Clifford.
We’re not partial to sit-down dining, so we used the Horizon Court exclusively. We got to choose from a wide variety of menu items, sample new ones, and return to the buffet for more of the ones we liked. The food was always fresh, and well-presented. If there’s a down-side to dining on a Princess ship these days, it’s the desserts. They’ve taken the “economic” route. Most of their dessert offerings were “pre-fab” items that had been made onshore and frozen. The soft-serve ice cream (served at a venue off one of the pools) was really ice-water. It lacked the rich taste of the soft-serve offerings from Dairy Queen, McDonald’s, etc. Perhaps Princess should brand it as a “diet” dessert.
The onboard specialty acts (comedian, pianist, illusionist) were great, as were the singers and dancers, but I got the feeling that much of the singing and music was pre-recorded.
The ship offered an internet lecturer as part of it’s “enrichment” program and he was a joke. His lecture was supposed to be about developing websites as a means of aiding one’s business, but he focused on the “quick buck” business of registering domain names that others would buy from you. What should have been a 10 minute discussion, ran on for 5 sessions. I gave up after 3. If Princess offers these “experts” any sort of compensation for their “work”, the cruise line is being ripped off.
Another cruise line offers guests the services of a Microsoft-trained computer expert. Princess’ offering looked like a bargain-basement version, and was a complete waste of passengers’ time.
We’re not drinkers, so we didn’t partake of the ships’ lounge offerings. Those who did seemed pleased.
Speaking of drinking, a mid-cruise check of our billing showed mixed drinks. A visit to Customer Service rectified this, but passengers would be well-advised to check their onboard account frequently.
We chose an excursion that included the Skyride and Bobsled in Jamaica – combined with a climb of Dunn’s River Falls. What a great day! However, the Falls are really not for those who have heart problems, breathing problems, or whose joints don’t work as well as they once did.
We also purchased a shore excursion in Panama that included a visit to the Visitor’s Center at the Canal, and a boat ride on Gatun Lake. The Visitor’s Center trip was worthwhile, but our guides did little to earn their $$ at that stop. It was pretty much self-guided. The Gatun Lake boat ride was interesting, but we saw no wildlife – our bad fortune. I realize that Princess has no control over that. My only complaint was our difficulty in understanding one of our 2 guides. His accent was extremely thick. We switched guides (and buses) halfway thru the trip – problem solved. I assume Princess contracts with local tour companies for these excursions, but they could do a better job of insisting that guides are good communicators.
Our cruise was marred by what the captain called “norovirus”. We were not alone. News reports indicated that several other ships, on various cruise lines, were also stricken to a greater or lesser degree. One of us spent three days in our cabin – eating nothing but bread and Jello. To it’s credit, the ship adopted numerous measures to help lessen the spread of the virus. We chose not to report the incident, and it’s a good thing we did. Reports from other passengers indicated that the ship’s medical department charged them hundreds of dollars for diagnosis and remedies.
Our dose of unpleasantness came in our cabin, when the fire sprinkler directly over our bed erupted on a Monday afternoon. We brought it to the attention of our cabin steward, who immediately changed the bedding, which was soaked right down to the mattress pad. We also contacted onboard Customer Service. When no further eruptions occurred the next day, we assumed the matter had been addressed by the ship’s maintenance personnel. On Wednesday, the sprinkler erupted again – same procedures. Customer Service was notified a second time. When it happened again on Thursday night, and we had to report the incident a third time, the Customer Service agent said she’s “take it to a higher level”. Apparently, that’s’ what it took because the eruptions stopped.
Through it all, our cabin steward maintained his cheerful and cooperative attitude. While they were pleasant, Customer Service personnel apparently had no ability to address the problem after the first two reports.
As I’ve pointed out to Princess management after we returned, had this happened in a land-based hotel, we’d have changed rooms, or changed hotels. Onboard a sold-out ship, those aren’t options.
I would have thought that Princess management would have made a serious offer of restitution for the problems we experienced. Not so. We were offered complementary dinners at one of the ship’s upscale restaurants while we were onboard. We declined.
Upon notification after our cruise, Princess management offered us each a $100 credit toward a future cruise and $50 in onboard credit. This, after 3 days of being drenched from above by an obviously faulty sprinkler. I have to wonder how that sprinkler would have performed in the event it was really needed! We have also declined this offer and will take action involving our attorney.
As I said at the outset, had this been our first Princess cruise, it would have been our last. Suffice it to say that we’ll think long and hard about traveling with them again. I sense that now that Princess is part of the Carnival/Costa family, we’ll see continued belt-tightening.