This was our 6th cruise with Princess and 12th cruise overall. It was also our first visit to New Zealand and Australia. We have been very with all of the previous Princess cruises, but this one was disappointing due to the condition of the ship and the fact that there was a Norovirus outbreak that they could not eradicate over a 3 week period. As expected, the demographic of passengers were seniors. 90% of the passengers were from Australia, as this is an Australian based ship. Below are some of the issues we experienced that we feel should be passed along:
• The mattress in the upper berth had a 4” diameter blood stain on it
• Sheets had large holes
• Stewards implied that the tap water in the staterooms may not be suitable to drink due to the age of the pipes, and suggested passengers order pitchers of water from room service, as it was from a different source
• The thermostat did not work and the fan blower ran constantly. After we called 5 times to report the problem someone finally showed up. No attempt was made to repair the thermostat, and the technician only removed the fan cover and adjusted the fan speed.
• The food in the dining room was average, not nearly the quality we experienced on past cruises
• We were disappointed that Anytime Dining was not an option. We were told this was because the Australians prefer assigned dining times, although we did not hear this from any of the Australian passengers we spoke to. We later learned that this ship is unable to offer anytime dining, but no reason was given why.
• We were told by fellow passengers that the dining room was half empty on formal nights. Passenger demographics are changing with fewer people interested in formal dress. We dress well, but don't do formal. If Princess thinks formal nights are necessary, they should consider designating one dining room formal and the other casual. Passengers shouldn’t be treated like second class guests and be forced to eat at the buffet just because they don’t want to wear formal dress. This is offensive. Our 40-50 age group prefers casual luxury. We wonder if Princess is catering toward the senior demographic and going the way of Holland America, or will revamp the cruise experience to appeal to a younger crowd.
Horizon Court buffet
• The food was repetitive with little selection
• As there was a Norovirus outbreak on board, the staff dished out the food and drinks rather than helping yourself. The frustrating part of this was that some of the staff did not have sufficient command of the English language to understand what you were requesting
• The waiters seemed uninterested in taking drink orders, staring straight ahead as they walked past the tables, avoiding eye contact. Several time we had to get up mid-meal to seek out someone to bring us drinks, as we were not permitted to serve ourselves
• There were large pieces of food on the floor under the tables on a regular basis. Since at most times only one side of the buffet was open, there was sufficient time to clean up between meal times.
• NOT ONCE did we see the chair armrests wiped or sanitized. Since it is impossible to sit down at the table without touching the chairs, and the virus was going around, this was a major issue.
• The tables were just given a quick wipe off with their flimsy rags, nothing was sprayed on the tables after diners left.
• Doors did not open and close properly
• Elevator went down when should have gone up
• Elevators bypassed selected decks without stopping
• NOT ONCE did we see elevator buttons wiped down
• All seat cushions was flat and way past their useful life
• Seat upholstery was worn and dirty
• Carpet was discolored and stained in areas
• NOT ONCE did we see the hand rails by the stair elevators wiped down
• While competing cruise lines are offering modern and innovative live performances, Princess is putting on stale production shows and showing movies at night in the Princess theater. We could watch movies at home. Entertainment needs a major revamp.
• While docked in Melbourne, all passenger were required to vacate the ship from 10am – 4pm for Norovirus sanitation. We were told that the shuttle busses would run every 30 minutes between the port entrance and downtown. At 3:10pm we arrived at the shuttle pick up point. No bus showed up until 4:30. By this time, about 120 passenger had gathered. The bus that came held 26 passengers. 5 minutes later, a larger bus that held 58 arrived. This left about 30 people left behind waiting in the rain for another bus. This transportation was poorly organized and should have taken into consideration the horrendous traffic in Melbourne (it took 50 minutes for the one way trip)
We booked all our shore excursions directly with independent tour operators, as we learned long ago that most times the excursions offered through the cruise line are double in price, and often are the same tours you can book yourself.
Summary: We don’t believe the staff was doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the Norovirus, as noted. When we expressed our concerns to the purser’s desk, we were given a prepared response that they were doing what was required per the situation, etc etc. The cruise before ours was sick, it continued through our cruise, and was still infected when we disembarked in Sydney (where all passengers again had to vacate the ship for the day for sanitation). The passengers cannot be held solely responsible for the spread, as was implied by the captain’s announcements. As for the ship’s condition, despite it’s age, there is no excuse for blood stains, ripped sheets and dirty chairs. While we will probably cruise with Princess again, we would never again sail on this ship.