My girlfriend and I just returned today from a trip on the Caribbean Princess in Ft Lauderdale and I wanted to take a few minutes to share some comments with you.
In December 2012 we were on board the same ship for a 7 day trip. That was our first time on Princess and it was absolutely spectacular! The shore and on board staff, the food, the shows all fantastic. It was so great that in October 2013 we were on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines on a 12 day voyage from Barcelona and told everyone how much better Princess was that RCCL. At that time the only thing RCCL did that was better than Princess was their customer service was absolutely world class.
So this year my girlfriend decided to book a surprise 50th birthday cruise for me. We were both very excited when she chose Princess and the same ship as the previous cruise, the Caribbean Princess. The day finally arrived and we headed to Ft Lauderdale for what began the worst cruise we have ever been on.....even worse than Carnival and that isn't saying much! We've both been on 8-9 cruises with several different line so we at least little experience with cruising.
We entered the port, went through security with ease. We got in the line to check in and this where it all went south! We stood in the line for 55 minutes. Apparently some family at the front of the line had some issues with paperwork or documentation. After watching countless people in other lines move to the front and check in while we stood in the same place I finally went and got a supervisor and asked why this family was taken aside and let everyone else check in? The response: "get into a different line." Duh, why didn't i think of that. Except we'd have to get into the back of a new line an continue to wait.
We arrived on board and were surprised to find our luggage was already at our room (but then again it did take us over an hour to check in). My gf had requested robes be in our room and we never got them. We changed into swim suits and went and laid by the pool for an hour, until the lifeboat drill. We went to the drill and then decided to return the the Lido Deck to enjoy some more sunshine. I went to get towels and was told they were out of towels and it would be another hour. WHAT? How can you be out of towels at the pool? That was poor planning.
So we set sail and let our vacation begin. We walked down to the Crown Grill. We had eaten there on our first trip and it as fantastic so we went to make a reservation for one night. The Maitre'd that was there was very rude. When I inquired about a reservation he said, "we are full all cruise, you should have booked sooner, we have over 3000 passengers." No offer of apology, no effort to even try to get us in. Ok then, so we left. So we left there and went to Sabitinis and made a reservation and then went to the Wheelhouse Bar...the only highlight of the cruise (which I will address later). While at the Wheelhouse we heard another couple ask about the All You can Drink package for $49/day. We had no idea about this so we also inquired about it. We had already purchased a few drinks prior to that but the bartender told us that all we had to do was go to customer service and they would be able to credit the amount for us. So later that night we went to the Customer service desk. We met with Francisco. He said that he wasn't sure he could get this approved and would let me know the next day. I told him that the only reason we purchased the package is because we were told the money we had already spent would be credited. All he said was, "well I cant promise you anything" I said, "You cant issue me a ship board credit for the total I spent already?" He said, "I cant give credits for just anything." I said, "Well RCCL does." He said, "Well we aren't RCCL and we don't just issue credits for anything. I cant promise you anything and I will get back to you." So we left customer service, unsatisfied again.
Day 2 was at sea. And here was another day where they ran out of towels. I just cannot understand this. Everyone on the ship is in or near that pool and you are out of towels...AGAIN? We were at the pool from 8am until 2pm and only had one bar service person come by and ask me if I wanted anything to drink. We had to go to the bar to get our own drinks and when we did it was 3 people deep waiting for the same thing. The continuation of the poor planning and poor organization we experienced throughout the weekend. We went to the buffet on Deck 15 and there were MANY times that the food was gone, not refilled and they just ran out...again poor planning! The floors were filthy! They looked like every table had little kids that had dropped food everywhere and no one ever bothered to clean it up! Denny's does a better job of keeping their floors cleaned.
On a positive note the food in the dining room was much better. The two dinners we had at the dining room were very good, but the service was still a bit slow and disorganized.
That evening we received a voice mail from Francisco that we were NOT going to be issued a credit for those drinks. I immediately called Customer Service and asked for a supervisor and spoke to Jefferson, who assured me that he would personally issue the credit for me and he did follow through and the credit was issued. That night we were watching a show in the Explorers Lounge and once again, no one came to offer bar service so we had to go get our own drinks.
Day 3 was at Princess Cays.....ugghhh another disaster. The announcement was made at 8am that we had been cleared by the local authorities but due to tender issues it took us 90 minutes to get off the ship! We sat in the dining room from 9am - 10:30am! They announced that the life boats were being used as tenders and each boat could hold 150 people, but they called tender slip numbers in groups of 60-80. As a bit of advice you should have had towels either on the island or where people could get them at the tenders as there were a LOT of people that didn't know they needed to bring towels with them. So we finally got on the island at 11:00 am. The biggest shock of the trip was when we started to walk down the sidewalk and we see a Princess Cruise Line officer in a white uniform drinking a beer! We were so shocked by it my gf stopped and took a picture and sent them to Princess' corporate offices. We spoke to Customer service about it when we returned and I will let you know in a bit how that was handled. We made our way down the beach, found some chairs and snorkled for a bit. Luckily we brought our own snorkles as many people that booked excursions learned they were cancelled due to the tender issues and getting off the ship. We decided to eat lunch at 1pm and return to the ship. We got in line only to get to the food area and have to wait because there was no burgers or hot dogs ready. Well at 1:30 they closed the buffet. The last tender back was 3pm but they close the buffet at 1:30? We watched a lot of families with small children get turned away because the buffet was closed...again such poor planning.
It literally felt like the Junior Varsity team was running the ship...2nd string, all the new people in training...just horrible. It was like the people in charge had no idea what they were doing.
We took a tender back and stopped at Customer service. we showed them the pictures I took of the officer drinking and they took our name and cabin # and said the head of customer service would call after we departed. Later that evening I did get a call, but I cannot recall the gentleman's name that I spoke to. He told me that this officer was not working and is allowed to drink. I asked why he had a walkie talkie on if he was not working? He didn't know how to answer and I honestly felt like it was all a lie he was telling me. I told him that with everything that has happened recently with cruise ships and ferry boat disasters that my safety lies in the hands of Princess Cruise Lines and their crew and I should NEVER see an officer of a ship drinking beer. He said, "well he only had one beer and officers can drink as long as they do not become intoxicated in the event that there is an emergency they will need to be able to carry out emergency procedures." I asked how he knew that he only had one beer and again no answer. This is VERY UNACCEPTABLE!
I also feel that someone needs to address the guest "flow" in the Horizon Cafe. Guest enter in one end, make a circle through the various stations and end back up at the entrance! You have to walk though the line a 2nd time to get to the exit. Also this area was extremely hot and seemed like the AC was not working in that area.
During the night we constantly could hear an alarm going off in the crew area. It would go off about every 2-3 minutes and was loud and kept us awake half the night! We called the front and report it and it never got fixed.
I do want to address the staff at the Wheelhouse Bar. The exceptional customer service and overall great attitude we expected for the whole cruise were in full swing here and in Sabitini's for dinner on our last night. While in the Wheelhouse bar we had the pleasure of meeting two of the best and most attentive bar tenders on the ship, Jery Mae and Geronimo, both from the Phillipines. I loved the Sorrento Sunset drink that Jerry Mae made for me and she even gave me the recipe so I can make it at home! I also LOVED our waitress (when we were not seated at the bar) Monika (I believe from Germany)...she was so pleasant and friendly and just an overall super nice person. The last person that I want to recognize was Tatiana from Ukraine that was our waitress in Sabitini's. It was very busy in there but she was very attentive and pleasant and we had a great meal with exceptional service from Tatiana. that is the only reason why the services got three stars instead of one.
Overall we are extremely disappointed in Princess Cruise Lines. Although this was only our 2nd Princess Cruise we feel it may be our last. We are very fortunate to live 30 minutes from Fort Lauderdale and 60 minutes from Miami and our choices of cruise lines are unlimited. We expected more from Princess and were thoroughly disappointed.