Over the last 14 years, we’ve been cruising once in a year, on a mean basis, visiting ports from Iceland to Patagonia to Alaska to Russia and so. We’ve cruised the Caribbean, the Meditteranean, the Pacific, the Baltic - even the Arctic - and the Atlantic (a Trans-Atlantic from Venice to Rio). Companies include RCCI, NCL, Costa, Carnival, Disney, Celebrity and Princess. We’re around the 60’s and travel with no kids.
Our last three cruises were with Princess - Star Princess (2010 and 2011) and Sapphire Princess (2012). We are Platinum Members, due to the sum of cruising days with them.
After our good experiences in the last three cruises, we decided to stick with Princess. In the end, been a frequent cruiser has some advantages - a reasonable internet allowance and a preferred check-in. We also wanted a cruise which could take us back home, without all that airport hassle (we live in Rio). So, we choosed the first (out of three) leg of the 49-day FLL to LAX cruise. This part of the cruise would be FLL to Buenos Aires (Argentina), but we were granted to disembark in Rio. Under that condition, we booked the cruise. Although he itinerary wasn’t the priority, we wished it was better. St. Thomas, Antigua, Barbados and Trinidad aren’t the best destinations in the Caribbean, but that was it, and there were no alternatives to this cruise.
Prior to embarkation, Princess issued a note stating that they would implement a scheduled check-in, based on the Deck Plan. Our embarkation (Baja deck), would then start at 1:00PM. Moreover, as Platinum Members, we would benefit from Preferred Check-in. Those were good news… or not.
Embarkation was a complete mess, like we have never seen before, in all those years, at all these ports, with any of the companies - even with Princess, even at Port Everglades (FLL). We arrived at the terminal shortly after 1:00PM, only to face a thousand-people crowd, splitted into three huge lines partially under the sun, with NO ONE from Princess to give any information on what were those lines for. There was no scheduled check-in, as advertised. There was no preferred check-in for Platinum Members. The three lines converged to a single door in the terminal, leading to X-ray screening and check-in areas. It took us THREE HOURS standing in line, outside the terminal. As a sidenote, there were other cruises departing from FLL that day, but we didn’t see any sign of that mess outside their terminals, in our way to Princess terminal.
Of course, we complained a lot about that with Princess crewmembers, but the only (rehearsed) answer we got was “It’s the Port Authority”. We didn’t buy it. Port Everglades was chosen the 2013 Port of the Year, terminals installations were expanded and, again, there was no mess at the other passenger terminals.
Later on, we got an inside information assuring that all that mess was Princess’ fault. They simply didn’t know how to handle an issue related to foreign travellers’ visas to South America. Instead of screening those people and keeping them apart of the other passengers, so the lines could move on, they simply got stucked - and blamed it on the Port Authority. In the end, it took us FOUR HOURS since our arrival at the terminal, until we could make it to our stateroom.
We’ve booked B606, a Baja-deck, BB class, balcony stateroom, as we usually do. The stateroom conditions sampled Ship’s overall conditions. Crown Princess is a lady in need for a ship-shape session. Rust abounds, wooden balcony handrails are worn out, one of our linens had a big hole close to the edge, the safe box door handle was a velcro stick, and the list goes on. Bathroom had a bad smell, every time we opened the basin lid (there’s something about it, somewhere here in CC). On the other hand, public areas showed better conditions. The question is: why are staterooms so degraded, when compared to public areas?
Activities and Entertainement
See once, see all. There’s no creativity, when it comes to onboard entertainement: Broadway-style shows, piano players, bands, DJs, movies, lecturers, bingo, auctions. Each time more people come aboard with their tablets, filled with good reading. On the really down side, Princess should consider to ban noisy games and loud presentations from The Piazza. It’s virtually impossible to discuss any (important) subject at Guest Services Desk when one of these activities is beeing carried on. Another question: why in hell have those entertainers to scream at the microphone, when presentation is happening on a quiet place like The Piazza, at no more than 20 feet from a silent audience?
Overall service level is fair. Our best notes go to the Bar Service Crew, at all the bars we went to (many…). Special note to the Vines Bar crew. Guest Services staff had ups and downs. Housekeeping wasn’t that bad (we’ve seen worse), but it varies a lot, even on the same deck.
Food quality still meets Princess’ high standard, from dining room to buffets. Service wasn’t that good but, again, it seems to vary from table to table. We only wished it didn’t vary so much (tables around us seemed to have far better service). By the way, we were in a family trip, splitted into two staterooms, and we stressed out with Princess, prior to embarkation, that we wanted a SINGLE fixed seating table. Useless. They splitted us into two tables. It’s hard to pay all that money only to start a cruise rushing to the Maitre D’ in order to fix things.
Port and Shore Excursions
As we said, in our opinion St. Thomas, Antigua, Barbados and Trinidad are not the best destinations in the Caribbean. We have been to St. Thomas and Barbados before, ok, but there’s a lot of other Caribbean destinations we have been to before that we would be pleased in returning to. Antigua and Trinidad had no appeal and shore excursions reflected that. But, our goal was the final destination, not the itinerary. Even so, they could have done better.
That was another big mess. Again, Princess blamed it on the Brazilian Authorities, but we are getting used to it… It’s never Princess fault.
Back in the year 2011, we came from Venice to Rio aboard the Star Princess. After crossing the Atlantic, she arrived at Recife, first port in Brazil. Three days later, we arrived in Rio for disembarkation. Passports and liquor were delivered to our stateroom the night before disembarkation, as it usually happens. Luggage was collected that night, as well. So far, no news under the sun.
This time, after sailing the Caribbean, we reached Recife, again the first port in Brazil. Again, we were scheduled to arrive in Rio three days later. So, guess what happened the night before disembarkation? Nothing happened.
Our passports were retained and were only delivered THE DISEMBARKATION DAY, THREE HOURS after arrival. Again, Princess blamed on the Brazilian Authorities, who supposedly took long time to examine the documentation, but…. our entrance forms were stamped by Brazilian Authorities THREE DAYS BEFORE, when the ship was in Recife. Again, an inside information assured us that the Brazilian Authorities did come aboard in Recife. By the way, this is the correct procedure: immigration is done in the first port the ship arrives, never in a mid-way port. So, again, it was Princess’ fault. But it was not the only.
Princess didn’t issue ANY disembarkation instruction. We didn’t know how disembarkation would be carried on, just because Princess didn’t know it - or didn’t care about sharing this with a few Brazilian passengers. Guest Services staff was of no help. Luggage was not collected the night before disembarkation - we were (later) told that we would have to handle it, or ASK for assistance.
Liquor delivering was another mess. They simply couldn’t find our liquor. It took one hour and a full description of a “black plastic bag containing 1 boxed full bottle and 1 half-bottle of Rum” in order to them to find the item. Very efficient.
The Bottom Line
In our very personal opinion, Princess Standards have stepped down. Those guys are running a zillion-dollar business and charge us some thousand dollars in order to enjoy the trip. Then, there’s no excuse for flaws. All satisfaction we had with our three previous cruises with them has gone to the ground. There were so many issues (some of them we didn’t list here), we cannot believe in coincidence. We didn’t expect more - we only expected the same, but it didn’t happen. Maybe it’s time to move to another company.