Our family was on the April 5, 2014 California Coastal cruise with the norovirus outbreak that made national news. We occupied three mini suites aboard the Crown Princess. One of us contracted norovirus.
The previous cruise also had a norovirus outbreak and embarkation was delayed several hours to sanitize the ship so there was a long line and no lunch.
Once the cruise began, the staff seemed slow to respond to the new norovirus outbreak. It wasn't until nearly half way through the cruise before handrails and elevator buttons were being regularly cleaned.
Infected passengers were confined to their cabins with their non-infected cabin-mates. Normal cabin-cleaning service stopped, and a slower less-reliable sanitizing teams came. Fresh linens and towels became scarce, beds were unmade, room service slow and inaccurate, plumbing clogged, and it took many calls and trips to the front desk to get the simplest tasks done.
For those uninfected, the food was bland and flavorless. Not necessarily low quality, although certainly not high quality, but reminiscent of tasteless hospital food. Several steps below Las Vegas buffet food. There were no salt and pepper on the table because of norovirus outbreak. I bought my own seasoning in San Francisco and brought it to the dining room. In the main dining room or buffet, the hot entrees were cold. Amazingly, frozen desserts were served cold.
The itinerary had two sea days in a one week cruise. There should have been port stops in Catalina and/or Monterey, especially considering the banal activities and bad food.
Our dinner server worked extremely hard and efficiently. She had only one helper and she was obviously overworked. Through no fault of hers, we didn't have enough time to look at our menus and felt rushed by the frantic atmosphere. Dinner was not a relaxing experience. I've been on many cruises, and have never had this issue. In most of the dining rooms and especially the buffet, beverage service was slow or never came. My water glass was empty more often than partially full. During some meals we had no beverages.
I have been on about ten cruises from the low end to Oceania, including a Princess cruise in the past. I thought Princess was a decent cruise line before this cruise. Even the few Carnival cruises I've taken were better. I realize that because of the norovirus outbreak, it is unfair to judge Princess by this cruise. That said, when faced with challenges, does an organization rise to the occasion or flounder? Taking everything into account, this cruise was unbelievably bad. It really had a low-budget / bargain feel and I'll not travel with Princess again.