Princess Cruise line is in a state of marked decline. I have taken more than 20 cruises on their ships, and the quality of their current service and product is noticeably worse than that of Cruise Lines like NCL and RCL whom Princess has traditionally seen themselves as being a cut above.
The problems take 2 primary forms. The personnel are increasingly poorly trained, and the corporation has decided to nickle and dime passengers at every opportunity. I am sure the problems would not be noticeable to relatively new cruisers because they have no standard for comparison. They would not realize that they could have gotten more for less at another cruise line.
First, the issue of poor training. On each of the Princess ships I have been on recently there are certainly a number of high quality personnel who are trying to do the best they can. But cabin stewards now for example are required to take care of many more cabins than they can effectively service. One of the most important services for cruisers new to a particular part of the world is the qualuity of the port advice. On all 3 Princess ships I was on this last year, the person giving advice was well-meaning enough, but flat out did not know as much about the ports as would be known by a casual reader of Fodors. I once asked one of them for port information about the next port. The answer: "Oh, I wouldn't know. I don't have my notes with me." We would often find that the information we had been given was flat out wrong. Had the person giving the advice simply walked off the boat and looked around for a couple of hours she could have avoided the kind of misrepresentations she was providing.
Another area of poor training is the front desk staff. They are persistently arrogant and unfamiliar with what is going on in the ship. The dining staff is also noticeably less trained than a couple of years ago. So, for example when I ordered cream puffs for my room, they brought strawberries. I politely asked "why?" The answer: "Oh, they just ran out of what you ordered. Maybe tomorrow!"
Now to the nickle and diming:
1. The fitness instructor was taking huge fees for giving information that could be gleaned from reading any of the popular magazines in the ship library.
2. We were in a suite. Now the firm does not use sheets on the beds.
3. They charge $3.99 to activate your Internet account. This charge is bizarre and new.
4. There are no fresh berries in the dining areas. BUT they have them for those passengers who realize they must ask.
5. Several of the amenities to which we were entitled as top-level members of their club were not provided. The reason "we did not have a large enough inventory to provide them."
6. There is no customer service between midnight and 7 AM.
7. There was no skim milk in the buffet, but they did have some again for those who were aggressive enough to ask.
8. The firm just recently decided to no longer provide free access ever for their top customers to teh 2 special restaurants.
9. The entertainment was embarrassingly low quality. Entertainers were billed as Las Vegas entertainers, but I had seen them in 3rd level bars in the casinos where they claimed to have been headliners.
All in all Princess is putting out a disappointing product. I would urge everyone to look elsewhere. The one exception would be that they go to someplace the other lines do not visit. They DO have great itineraries.