We boarded the ship late because of an emergency and it went downward from there.
First, I must say that the service on this ship for the most part is excellent, except for the passenger service and captains circle desks. Their systems to not communicate. We are past passengers and my husband has the top loyalty status, Elite. We have sailed on the Aurora (P&O UK), Canberra, Pacific Sun (once, no more) Sun Princess and Diamond Princess. I have enough loyalty points to have Platinum status. We have accumulated this in the past three years, so you can see we have been on these ships regularly, 2-3 times a year and a lot of days. From reading reviews I, too, can see the Carnival influence. Big company, impersonal.
We boarded the ship late and it went downward from there. After a couple of days we sent to passenger services to check our account. Lo and behold, our on board credit was not there, along with the fact that my husband has free laundry and they were charging us for it because it was charged to my account. After three more frustrating days of going to passenger services and captain's circle desk, we were told we would not get the on board credit due from a previous cruise, because we had an Australian letter and had booked with a travel agent on line in America. It appears from discussing this with others and a travel agent, that this line is trying to force Australian residents to book through Australian travel agents, although they are not competitive.
Another item I want to discuss is the discretionary hotel charge. Australian residents are against tipping and until a few years ago, cruises included tipping. Princess automatically adds $10.50 per person per day to your account unless you go to passenger services and sign a paper rejecting it. We prefer to tip the persons we see. Princess pays their staff a small salary and they depend on the rest from tipping which is the way most American businesses do it where tipping is involved. A great number of passengers do not know this and discover it when they get their statements, which is frustrating. It took us three trips to the passenger services desk to get this corrected.
Because we did not embark at the original port, they were not prepared to process us as normal and we had to go later to set up method of payment.
Now, after all of this, you might expect I could be totally negative about the rest of the offerings. Not so, because we totally enjoyed some of the entertainment including a singer from near where we live who was entertaining also. A second male singer who sang Tom Jones songs was also very entertaining. There were others who were not what you would expect on a ship this size and status. A 60 yr old female singer from America. She must have been good once, but has passed her "use by date". An American so called comedian, Ugh! told jokes I heard 50 years ago. Then you would expect some new production shows, but after the third time of Piano Man, it gets a bit dull. The selection of a person who gave port talks on AU and NZ was an American who lived in Hawaii and a great number of passengers on this trip were AU and NZ. Many got up and left his lecture. I have lived in AU for five years now and I knew more than he did. As far as the art auctions go, they are getting a bit old. Princess supports mainly the same artists that we have seen in the past three years, Why no some new ones?
I am noticing that more and more passengers are setting up private tours. Could this be that the tours from the ship are on the expensive side? On board services can be expected to cost nearly twice what they would be on land. More and more people are rejecting having their pictures taken. The cost of pics is also very expensive. Because of our status, we get some free minutes on the internet, but their equipment is old and I suspect their systems are also limited because of the speeds. They say this is because of satellite communications, but in port, it is the same. Food is heavily laden with salt, which is not healthy. We had better food on this cruise than the last one, but still get overcooked food. The staff is encouraged to put out food just because some people will just accept it. Don't ask how I know, I just started to ask questions of other passengers and such. On our cruise in Feb/Mar 2009, we complained about the overcooked food and thereafter the staff just hovered over us, like they were frightened. These ships depend on people from countries that need jobs and basically they are treated with fear and intimidation. If the staff complains in any way, contracts are canceled or they are sent home for many months up to a year. You may say that this is their choice, but not all cruise lines do this. I will continue to search out cruises for the best price and where we want to go. The on board credit will not affect my decision, it is not worth that much. It was just a big disappointment when we did not get it when we expected we had done our part. After this, Princess may or may not get my repeat business.