Princess declines, but still delivers a good time: Sea Princess Cruise Review by drb888
Overall Member Rating
Princess declines, but still delivers a good time
Embarkation: San Francisco
Embarkation was a bit of a nightmare, but that was due to the Norovirus outbreak, and the need to do a top to bottom disinfection. It meant we sailed about five hours late, and for some reason, we couldn't make up the time in transit, so our itinerary was changed at the last minute. That was unfortunate, because I really wanted to see Haines, and it also meant we had to tender into Juneau (there were four other ships there at the same time).
Once on board (at 7 PM!), I went straight to dinner. I wasn't expecting much that first night, because they had to accommodate just about everyone at the same time, but they made a gallant effort.
My cabin was midship balcony on the Baja deck. The Sea Princess is an older ship, with the More balconies carved out of the hull. If you're going to spring for a balcony, make sure it's on the Baja or Aloha decks, as the opening on the Caribe deck is smaller. the balcony area is smaller too - pretty narrow, but fine for one or two people. The cabin itself was just a bit smaller than on larger ships, but again, fine for me. the bathroom was tiny, and I'm a big guy. But although the toilet and sink area is very small, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the shower enclosure was actually larger than on the larger Princess (or RCL) ships I've been on.
Service was excellent in many areas, from my cabin steward Ramon, to the dining staff/buffet staff, the bar staff, etc. and that really made a big difference in the overall enjoyment of the cruise. OK, there were a couple of bad experiences: Anytime dining on the second night was ridiculous: a 40 minute wait for a shared table for starters. We sat down at 8 PM, and waited about an hour for our appetizers to arrive. At 10:00, several people at our table had not yet gotten their main entrees!. I complained to the maitre 'd, and I have to say that from that point on the lunch and dinner service improved for me. the second time was at the afternoon tea. Our table waited forever to get tea. then we had to wait another 10 minutes to get sandwiches brought around. then another 10 minutes for the cakes, etc. Ridiculous. After that, i had tea at the buffet, where they had exactly the same selection, with no waiting.
But you also have to understand that for the first seven days of the cruise, we were on 'red' status, which means that the crew were CONSTANTLY cleaning, and there was absolutely no self-service in the buffet or anywhere else (even of butter, or salt and pepper). Well, it worked, because we had no outbreaks of Norovirus on this cruise (or perhaps, so few that it didn't make a blip).
Food: well, this is where it seems like Princess is declining. While the breakfast and tea at the buffet were good or very good (those scones were addictive!), the lunch in the buffet was dreadful. I mean, most of the items were inedible - either the sauces were weird and oversalted, or the pasta was either mushy or undercooked, selection was poor - avoid the buffet at lunch! Lunch and dinner in the dining rooms were by and large good to very good. There were a few truly exceptional dishes, like the beef short ribs in wine sauce, the poached orange roughy, the lobster tails and giant prawns on the second formal night, and the veal ossobuco, and several others. However, there were also some real stinkers. STAY AWAY FROM THE LASAGNE, and pass up the 'fritto misto'. I went to Cafe Corniche once. the pizza was decent, but I wish they had more choice of toppings.
The ship: Sea Princess is desperately in need of a dry dock. Lots of common area upholstery was worn or dirty, cushions were old and in need of replacement or refurbishing. Public restrooms were shameful: doors that didn't close, peeling paint, discolored toilets, etc.etc. And the layout was very odd as well, with Horizon Court in front, and the spa aft. One good thing - you were not forced to go through the casino to access other parts of the ship. So, in brief about the ship: Good: Horizon Court - beautiful, large, never a wait for a table; the Library and the internet cafe were great - separate spaces, comfortable, well-appointed, a pleasure to use. Spent lots of time in the super-comfortable armchairs in the library! Promenade deck was nice, wide, and very pleasant. Not so good: Casino chairs were very uncomfortable, and they had very limited table games. Worst of all - no international cafe, and although they advertised a 'Patisserie' in the atrium, there was none, which meant that although you could get specialty coffee drinks at the Explorers bar, you couldn't get anything to nibble along with it.
the spa was fine, but everything was tiny: Tiny steam room, Tiny sauna, only two showers, and...no lockers!!
I'm going to skim over the ports, except to say that the big highlight of the cruise was Glacier Bay. I really appreciated that the captain cut the engines and let us appreciate the natural beauty in relative silence and peace. And also, we didn't just cruise up to Marjorie Glacier and back - he took us around several inlets and we saw a whole bunch of glaciers. Truly a memorable day.
Final analysis: I had a great time. I'm one of those people that notice everything, but doesn't let it get in the way of my enjoyment. Sure, it's nice to cruise on a ship that has recently been through dry dock, and were the food is more consistent. But you'll still have a very good time. I did. Less