Embarkation- Horrendous is not an overstatement. You would think that the Port Everglades Princess staff had never had to check-in customers where visas or other special country entry docs were required. We arrived at the port about 2-hours after the check-in process had begun thinking that we would be able check-in easily and board the ship promptly as we had grown accustom to doing from past experiences. To our surprise the line was +2-hours long and even the most frequent Princess cruise customers who normally get priority treatment had similar waits. Princess blamed the wait on their need to check each passenger’s special paperwork required for entry into Brazil and Argentina. In reality Princess mismanaged the check-in process as they had options to speed up check-in but relied on their SOP which failed them. My suggestion would be to add more check-in clerks, allow check-in to start earlier and then work the passenger line sorting out those passengers who have the proper docs from those that do not.
Ship Maintenance- Everything on board the ship was clean and in good working order. It was apparent that the ship’s crew works diligently to keep the ship in good condition.
Cabin Steward- Absolutely the best we have ever had on any cruise including the premium cruise lines. Greeted us immediately upon entering our cabin then quickly followed with 2-glasses of “welcome to Crown Princess” champagne. My wife asked for more hangers and he immediately went and got her more than we needed. This pattern of immediate response to our needs continued for the whole cruise. I have repeated examples of these type of responses to our needs. He genuinely felt that it was his job to respond in this way.
Food- In general very good with reasonable preparation and nice plate presentations in the main dining rooms. Some menu items are overstated ie; On one occasion Tiger Prawns were really just medium-large shrimp, the size you would get frozen in a bag at the grocery. Filet was something less than the actual cut of meat yet tasty. The buffets always had a nice variety of food that tasted freshly prepared which is complementary to this style meal.
Main Dining Room Table Service Staff- Our main dining room waiter and assistant tried hard but it was apparent that they had little experience as illustrated by their lack of knowledge of menu item preparation and ingredients. Their skill level was to repeat what was written on the menu so we were on our own to figure out what we were ordering plus looking at the dishes served to nearby tables helped. They performed their functional duties adequately but it ended there.
• On St. Patrick’s Day the main dining room had NO Irish dishes on the menu which we found surprising. I mentioned this to the Head Waiter who gave us a strange response, “We put the menu together months ahead.” to which I replied that St. Patrick’s Day date is well known years in advance, way before Princess plans it’s menu. I was amazed that he would offer up an excuse and least of all, one like this.
Buffet Table Service Staff- Slow and inattentive. The staff in the buffets often lacked promptness in taking beverage requests, refills, clearing dishes, etc. SOP was to wave them down to order beverages and refills were never offered as they rarely made eye contact with the diners making it difficult to get their attention. Passengers frequently had to step out of the way to let buffet personnel and servers pass.
Front Desk Personnel(Purser’s Desk)- We found all of the staff we interacted with to be friendly, courteous and helpful except the Elite/Suite desk personnel who came across as snooty. The others promptly responded to all our requests.
Cabin- We were in a mini-suite center/aft on the port side which we were familiar with from a prior Princess cruise and the cabin on this ship was identical. Everything was clean, in good condition and good working order so no surprises. Any minor issues ie; plugged drain and burned out light bulbs were quickly repaired/replaced.
Entertainment- The ships production performers are all very young but do an excellent job learning and performing the many shows on the ship. The orchestra is more seasoned but also do an excellent job in the production shows and supporting the guest entertainers. The other full time ship’s night club musicians do a very nice job as well.
• The guest entertainers are 2nd or 3rd tier performers whom you have never heard of but do a nice job. They are varied in their acts and are onboard for just a few days when they are replaced by other performers. Magicians seem to be popular on Princess but it was ironic that the 1st two magicians that performed did the identical opening tricks in the same order.
• Movies/presentations- One of the highlights on Princess is “Movies Under the Stars” which was great until they experienced technical problems which lasted the better part of a week and when they got it working again we were beginning the coldest part of the cruise which lasted for 8-9 days so unless you wanted to dress for 40-50 degree weather, “Movies Under the Stars” was out of the question. During the technical problem resolution and cold weather, Princess showed the movies in the Princess theater but that had its own technical challenges as they had to restart their projector every few minutes. The same problem occurred during port lecturers. While all these delays were very brief they were annoying and you ask yourself “Do they really know what they are doing?”
• Broadcast entertainment- It seemed like 1/3 to ½ of the limited # of TV channels were devoted to selling you something on Princess. Unlike any hotel in the world, there are no broadcast network channels which seems unheard of in today’s high tech society. Our cruise was during the 2014 Winter Olympics and every country represented on the ship had teams in the games but Princess did not broadcast them at all.
There are frequent announcements over the ships loud speakers; a daily update from the Captain or other ship’s officer which are informative, morning & evening announcements from the Cruise Director of the activities of the day which are a repeat of what is presented in the ship’s newspaper and on TV and the most annoying are the extremely loud ads to attend the art sales which always imply “once in a lifetime opportunities”.