On the third or fourth day out of Southampton, red spots appeared on Kay's face, arms and legs. Next day there were more of them. That night numerous bites were discovered on her body, even under underwear.
On 31/8/2009 the ship's doctor diagnosed Kay's spots as bed bug bites. I also found bites on my body which also continued below my underwear. Next morning the nurse diagnosed mine as from bed bugs as they were in the typical pattern left by them.
All crew, other than the medical staff, said we could not have been bitten by bed bugs. Constantly crew claimed the spots were a reaction to the orange juice or the washing powder used on the sheets. This was repeated like a well rehearsed mantra.
We were asked to send all our clothes to the laundry. We spoke to one of the reception crew who said we could retain some to go to the dining room, clothed. Many hours after promised, the items were returned in dribs and drabs. Most of Kay's had been damaged. My dinner jacked had shrunk so the inside lining hung below the outside material. There was no apology for the late return or damage.
My jacket arrived after Kay had been to reception. She had spoken to an unhelpful person so I went. I gave my room number and name and asked to see the supervisor. Before I spoke, the supervisor demanded to know why I was complaining about the person who summoned him. He was hostile and constantly tried to put words in my mouth. I asked him not to. I was accused of interrupting but thought it was the other way around. I was told (not asked) to come back in the morning.
Next morning we waited in the regular long line at reception and spoke with a person who denied bed bugs had bitten us. Even though we informed her of the doctor's diagnosis she said it must have been the orange juice or something else. This crew member was adamant she had spoken to us on the telephone. Obviously she thought we were someone else but continued to argue. We were told to go away as no one was available to help. When advised we were asked to come back that morning she, without commenting, left the counter and went into a rear room. Later the supervisor I had spoken with the previous evening came out, looked directly at me and quickly disappeared. A while later a more senior ranked person came to us.
Again we were faced with "there are no bed bugs on this ship". Kay and I blurted out the doctor's diagnosis. He backed off and gave an apology. Not for the bites or clothing, but for not being aware of the doctor's diagnosis. Kay cried in full view of the crowded reception area. There wasn't an invitation to go to a secluded area.
In fairness, we received chocolate coated strawberries and flowers (the latter Kay returned as each time she saw them it upset her) but there wasn't a note with either. We didn't receive the message claimed to have been left on our telephone. Later we were informed the message system was faulty. We were offered wine but as Kay was on medication for the bites and later a cold it was declined.
We were assured if we submitted a claim for the damaged clothes it would be credited to our account.
Our cabin was fumigated twice and we had to twice douse ourselves head to toe in lotion and not wash it off for twenty four hours. Kay had so many bites on her face, arms and legs, one day on a crowded ferry, the only unoccupied seats were those either side of her.
The crew maintained and continues to deny there were bed bugs in the cabin. This is hard to comprehend. We did not board the ship with bites and they rapidly increased up until the fumigation. After that there weren't any new ones.
If not bitten by bed bugs, what else was in the bedding?
The crew must have believed something was there to so thoroughly wash our clothes in hot water and twice fumigate the bedding, cabin and us.
One of the crew said another passenger was bitten by bed bugs but later claimed he could not recall saying it. When leaving the ship, passengers in a cabin near us complained of bites and were going to the medical center.
The estimated cost to replace the clothing was initially $1035. A claim was lodged but as we went to wear items more were found to be damaged.
Credit was not passed so notes were left at reception. Eventually we received the message; " if we could produce receipts or credit card statements while onboard, we would receive immediate reimbursement" .
Who keeps receipts for clothing and if so, would they take them on holiday?
We sought a meeting with the Passenger Services Director. This occurred near the end of the twenty six night cruise. He was sympathetic, said our holiday had been spoilt, but was unable to pass credit. We were shown an e-mail acknowledging Princess damaged the clothing and reimbursement would be made if we provided evidence of purchase or obtained a replacement quote.
While on antihistamines to relieve the itching Kay often fell asleep. Later she was victim to a cold which was prevalent on the ship. She missed dinner and other meals on three or four days and spent many more days asleep.
We disembarked with numerous others in Dubai. New passengers boarded there. Many had booked similar packages at the same hotel. This caused chaos as the rooms for the incoming guests were not ready. Staff did the paperwork for the incoming clients who then checked their luggage, left it in the foyer and went sightseeing. The baggage was unsecured for approximately an hour and if any had gone missing, it may have been difficult to make a successful insurance claim.
If we had not experienced the bites, the destroyed clothing and the way we were treated, the cruise would have been great. However, due to these events and the long delay in receiving compensation the memories are very unpleasant.
All ports of call and navigating the Suez Canal were extremely interesting. We did our research beforehand. At some cities we took the ship's tours and at others went solo. Quality of food in dining room. * * * * (All *'s are out of five) The waiters at our table rated five star. Two of the best we have experienced on shore or onboard.
(Before we met, Kay spent seven years averaging almost two nights per week in five star hotels. For three years I slept every night in four and five star hotels throughout the Pacific Islands and South East Asia. During another four year period, I stayed approximately seventy weeks in Australian hotels/motels. They ranged from capital city five star establishments down to unrated accommodation in country locations. We know the difference between excellent and substandard service.)
Quality of food in buffet * * * The "hot" food was only warm and wondered if it was hot enough to stop bugs multiplying.
Less than 20% of passengers sanitised their hands before entering the area. With the rampant colds and coughs onboard, we thought crew would be stationed at the dispensers to encourage people to use them. If they had been, there may not have been as many colds onboard.
The buttons on the controls at the juice station had brown stains on them. When at sea, there were three occurrences during lunch, where there were no containers to dispense drinks into. On other occasions the concentrate had run out. At times here the floor was sticky and was not cleaned during our meal even though crew were walking through the spill.
Coffee out of plastic cups is not ideal but after three mugs with cracked / broken handles and several others which leaked, we paid for cappuccinos.
The cappuccino cards were excellent. They were even greater value when a cappuccino and hot coffee were ordered at the same time. The latter was free.
When at sea It was difficult to find a seat for breakfast and lunch in the court. There were times when the air conditioning struggled in this area.
The majority of the crew in the servery and attending the tables looked disinterested.
Evening Dessert Station - Horizon Court * * * * * Excellent choices and quality, with very friendly and efficient crew serving it.
Pizza / Paster Restaurant * * * The lunch service was excellent. The pizzas were tasty, but as usual outside of Australia, lacked the volume of toppings Australians are used to. (Around 80% of passengers were Australian and thus were not catered for. We did hear complaints)
Cappuccinos * * * * * Excellent and constant quality throughout the ship.
Stateroom * * * A bit small but met our expectations. Lighting was excellent for reading. For a short period there was no hot water. We heard others weren't so lucky.
Shore Excursions * * * * To us and others they were expensive. Apart from one all met expectations.
Due to a medical emergency the ship docked late in Istanbul. Six cruise ships were in port with numerous buses traveling along a set route. There was a massive traffic jam. Our bus only had time for twenty minutes in the bazaar. There wasn't time to view a carpet demonstration. We waited over a hour and a half for the return bus. During that time the ship's shuttle bus made three trips.
It was classed as a walking tour yet several relied on an assortment of walking aids. One lady was recovering from a knee operation. These people complained when walking short distances. Others couldn't keep up and requested the guide to slow down. (We heard one of these passengers making similar complaints while walking to the Acropolis in Athens.) There was friction between a few slow and fit walkers.
We placed a note in the suggestion box proposing it may be beneficial if future descriptions of walking tours made it absolutely clear it is a walking tour and required a reasonable level of fitness. This was not responded to. Instead the tour operator was blamed for the shortened excursion and it would receive a warning. We had not asked for a refund but were advised if we were not happy, "take it up with Sydney when you arrive home".
If the ship had docked on schedule there would have been sufficient time to complete the tour. This was overlooked by Princess. Instead, the tour operator was wrongfully blamed. It is not known if the operator was at fault for the late return of the bus or not.
Shore Excursion Desk * * We understood if a tour was booked, either the tickets or a note indicating you had been unsuccessful would be placed in your letter box.
After several days we did not receive either for a tour we booked. Attempts to clarify the situation were unsuccessful. The last time we contacted the desk the male Caucasian said something which was not understood and was asked to clarify it. His reply was, " I am speaking in English and it is not my fault if you do not understand".
Kay crossed over to reception and without mentioning the above spoke with one of the crew who we knew was very helpful. A telephone call was made to the excursion desk which resulted in tickets being swiftly conveyed to reception.
Children Activities n/a
Atrium - SAFETY ISSUE A lady dining with us each evening fell on the central staircase. A gentleman dining with us assisted another woman who slipped and fell on these stairs. We also heard of another fall. On the three occasions the victims were active people and at the time the sea was calm.
These stairs are a hazard which should receive immediate attention. In the latter days of the voyage, crew were fixing lights to single steps to coffee lounges / bars etc but the atrium stairs had not received attention before we left the ship.
Onboard Activities * * * At sea we always found something to do.
Evening Shows/Entertainment * * * The quality of the performances were worlds apart. One comedian was pathetic. Many left the show before it finished. On the other hand, others were skilled and very professional. One of the best shows was the crew 's performance. They involved and related to the audience and were superior to several "imported" entertainers.
Cruise Director Half a * There was an instance on her TV segment where she was rude and disrespectful to passengers and their suggestions. At the suggestion box I passed a comment to her along the lines of; opening the box each day must be like opening Christmas presents as you do not know what is in it. Not so was the reply, the only comments are complaints.
My thoughts were, if there are complaints, does any one delve into them to see if they are genuine? From her attitude I concluded she wouldn't.
Assistant Cruise Director * * * * * Was funny, knew how to work an audience. Beat the cruise director hands down.
Cruise Lecturers * * * Those on the up coming ports were very informative. The speaker had previously visited many and those she hadn't, had thoroughly researched them.
Segment on the galley. The two crew members giving the demonstration and the subsequent tour of the galley was woeful. Did not rate a half a star.
Lecture on Finance * We could not understand why an American was chosen to speak to mostly Australians (a show of hands revealed three Americans in the audience) on the recent financial crisis and American aspects of financial planning? Often he mentioned he was seventy three and still retained a few clients. If he had even moderate financial planning skills, why was he still working? A younger and dynamic Australian would have been appropriate.
Overall Cruise Rating * Many passengers would have rated the cruise higher, but our's is a reflection of what was dealt to us. We had an unfortunate experience which was handled inappropriately by Princess. Numerous passengers, later our friends and people we had never met before, considered our encounter was poorly handled. Many suggested Princess should have refunded our tickets. We have unpleasant and unsettling memories and are constantly reminded of them when people ask if we have received compensation.
Dealings With Princess After The Cruise
The Passenger Services Director stated our cruise had been spoilt, but Princess has not offered any compensation for the cost of the voyage.
We were informed the crew advised the shore operations there was no evidence of bed bugs and they took all necessary steps to ensure our issues were addressed adequately and promptly.
We totally disagree with the above.
After being told four or five times there was no evidence of the bug or blood on the sheets, we looked ourselves. We found a fresh blood stain and photographed it.
The ship's doctor and nurse independently diagnosed bed bug bites. We bore no evidence of bites before boarding. No further bites appeared after the first fumigation.
On 3/11/2009 the repurchase of clothing was finalised at $1697.67. All requested documentation was forwarded by e-mail. We expected a speedy settlement.
On 12/11/2009 en e-mail confirmed payment had been approved and to allow ten working days for it to arrive.
On the twelfth day (1/12/2009) we advised Princess the cheque had not arrived. The senior manager customer feedback promptly advised he would get back to us "asap".
As at 3/12/2009 we had not heard from him, however a cheque dated 18/11/09 arrived in an envelope postmarked 30NOV09. The cheque was posted to our bank.
On 4/12/2009 we opened an e-mail which asked us to confirm whether the cheque had been received or not. If it hadn't, the cheque would be canceled and a new one issued. The company was to wait to hear from us before it took further action. Unfortunately it did not wait and placed a stop payment on the cheque.
After e-mails and telephone conversations we arranged for the cheque and deposit to be removed from the banking system. Princess forward an undated replacement cheque by express post which arrived next day. We dated the cheque ourselves to ensure it was not dishonoured when presented for payment.
General There were areas on the Dawn Princess where we experienced crew who were poorly recruited, had insufficient training and / or received inadequate supervision.
It may beneficial if the company employed persons unknown even to the captain and others within the travel industry, to cruise and report on standards onboard its ships. This would ensure the shore personnel received unbiased reports on conditions and how crew respond to passengers. This would lead to a more pleasurable experience for all it's passengers.