My friend from high school and myself delighted ourselves with a 3 day cruise. Flew to Vancouver for 2 nights before sailing out of this glorious port. (My favorite second to San Francisco, where we live) We stayed at Blue Horizon, my third time there. You can't beat the price and the view. They say harbor view is best so we asked for that this time. But I have had three different views now and they are all pretty spectacular. Plus it's located on Robson Street, you can walk almost anywhere from there. Or bike. We rented a tandem bike and rode around the seawall. Highly recommend, that was so much fun!!! I took her to dinner to celebrate her graduation from grad school last year. She never threw a party so I threw one for her at Seasons in the Park. Oh my goodness, it's about a 20$ cab ride and so worth it. Sits atop a hill in Queen Elizabeth park and the view of Vancouver is amazing. We sat on the outside covered patio in the rain in front of a fireplace and they provided warm blankets too. So Vancouver was fabulous, then we took a taxi to the port, about five minutes away. (oh, don't forget to get a cupcake at Cupcakes a couple blocks away).
Embarkation was pretty slow. Slowest I've ever endured, actually, but that was the fault of the port I think. Two cruises were embarking at the same time. Once we got to the Princess area it moved a bit faster.
Our stateroom was your standard balcony, I suppose. We loved it. We had a balcony dance party before dinner (bring a mini speaker for your iPhone to play music). Played 80s music and had so much fun. Brought our champagne down from sailaway to finish it up.
Standard Princess ship, except that this one has a THERMAL SUITE!!!!! Last time I had access to a thermal suite I thought I didn't want to part with $50 but I was wrong. Totally worth it if you like that sort of thing. Otherwise, it seemed like the others. Except that Vines on this ship does not have a pizza oven and that was really sad.
The ship itself seemed in ship shape. haha. Not run down. Really nice and clean. Food was really good in the dining room, buffet, and fish and chips were good. We didn't really have any misses on this one, yay! At least where food was concerned...
Now for the staff and overall service.
I've been worried since Carnival bought Princess that service would go downhill. Not that Princess was ever perfect, but they have never actually bait and switched me before! Well, now they have. As mentioned, a friend and I were taking a long girl weekend, and we had never been on a cruise together, though we have known each other since high school. We were so excited, and she said she would buy us a bottle of Dom Perignon for sailaway. Having never tasted this champagne, I was quite excited. She makes extremely good money and is quite generous :) We tried to buy in Vancouver but it was 287 dollars. Even she balked at the overcharge, saying she purchases it at home for about one hundred dollars. I found a bottle of pink rose Veuve Cliquot that I thought was charming, plus I love pink champagne. She said that was more close to what the actual price should be so she bought that instead. She has money but that doesn't mean she doesn't want to get a good value. So we board and plan to drink that. But it was in her suitcase and the bags hadn't arrived so we were going to have to drink something from the bar. Out of curiosity, we asked the price of the Dom. I told her their Korbel (which she won't drink) was very reasonably priced so maybe Dom would be too. We were quoted 129 dollars. She said "Sold!". Very reasonable. The waiter agreed with us, saying their prices were very good. We told him the story about how much it was in Vancouver and 129 was so much better than that price! So our bucket finally arrives just before we get to the Lyons Gate Bridge, he takes photos of us, we clink glasses as we enter the bridge, people ask what we are celebrating, we say nothing, just old friends from high school. It was so much fun! We were about halfway through our first glass of champagne, chatting with people, gazing at the glorious scenery, sharing our bannister spot with people. The waiter comes back and says can you sign the ticket. She quickly takes time out from our fun to sign and then we carry on. Later that night as we are getting ready for dinner she is changing bags and she notices the ticket she signed says $179 for the bottle. We can't believe it. I'm thinking, Princess would not do that, we will go talk to Passenger Services later and surely they will correct this. WRONG. We explain the story and are basically questioned as to whether it was a language barrier. It was not, he spoke perfect English (from the Philippines). And even if it was, should they really be having people serving alcohol who might have language barriers? The woman says she can't do anything, we drank it. We have to speak with food and beverage. So it's our job to hunt down their managers for their mistake when we are trying to enjoy and escape completely on our very short cruise? Ok, so we talk to the maÃ®tre d because we don't know how to locate food and beverage manager. He says he will talk to the manager, can't believe that happened to us, how horrible, that should not be happening on Princess, etc. etc. That was the last night so we did not have an opportunity to speak with him again. He took down our information so we thought maybe it will be deducted from the final bill. NOPE. It was not. My dear friend had $50 basically stolen from her by Princess. It is bad business practice, to say the least, but also extremely stupid of them not to cover for their own mistake over $50!!! She said she still would have paid that price if that was what she had been quoted. But she was not and they cheated her. They stand to lose tens of thousands of dollars from this woman. She loves to shop and vacation and drink wine and enjoy spa treatments. I didn't have to talk her into paying $50 for the thermal suite for the 3 days. She didn't blink. Just said, absolutely! And booked spa treatment. Princess is led by idiots if this is how they are going to treat their customers. Quite unbelievable. I'm platinum level so it will be hard to leave. But I have cruised other lines who I'm pretty sure would not treat guests this way. Time to search around for an organization that doesn't find it acceptable to cheat guests.
I also wrote about this in the survey Princess sends out after the cruise. Nobody even bothered to contact me about it. It fell on deaf ears, apparently. Nothing. Unbelievable.
Our cabin stewardess was not that wonderful either. She was friendly, but I had written in our pre-cruise information that we were celebrating my friend's graduation and her balloons and congratulations poster weren't put up until the night before we disembarked!! Why bother at that point?? It was kind of embarrassing. You talk all highly about Princess to your friends and then they let you down several times over the cruise...
We enjoyed dancing at Skywalker's, I was so excited we were on a ship that still had that. It's the coolest thing, I hope they leave it on a few ships. Good music.
Our day in Victoria was splendid. We went to Craigdarroch castle. I recommend. It's fascinating. And had to visit the Fairmont for their chocolate bars. So yummy and it's so cute in there. Then I asked our taxi driver from the castle to take us to the pub that has a Guinness brownie and he knew exactly what I was talking about! Irish pub or something. We had poutine, dark matter beer and a chocolate beer which was utterly ridiculously delicious, and the brownie, which was possibly even more delicious than I remembered (ate it on Alaska cruise last July). Must eat. MUST EAT!
Disembarkation was a bit chaotic because I'm guessing SF port is still under construction so immigration had to come aboard and we had to pass inspection before disembarkation. But Princess did do a fine job here, telling us to continue to relax in our rooms or wherever we wanted since that was so chaotic.
In summary, Princess is not like it was ten years ago. It is slipping. I believe it could very easily be bumped up to that same level where their customer service was excellent. But right now I am sad to see where they are. May have to cruise NCL next time. I like them too, very much. (Are they also Carnival??)
However, so far no cruise is a bad cruise. And now me and my friend have more funny jokes about our adventures, good and bad, we make a joke of it. Even though the $50 thing isn't really that funny...our cabin steward stealing our ice bucket caused a cabin rant that we will be laughing about for the next 20 years. As long as you can laugh about substandard service you will be okay.