My wife and I are frequent and experienced cruisers. As such, while we were somewhat satisfied with our Diamond Princess cruise experience, there are certain factors that should receive Princess attention. The positives first:
The ship is wonderful: clean, obviously well maintained and efficiently operated (at least from the passengers point of view). Its layout is convenient and provides spaces for virtually any desired activity.
Our mini-suite was quite spacious, well designed, well equipped and maintained in a spotlessly clean condition. The only negative associated with our cabin was the continued placement of the stewards unsightly service cart directly opposite our cabin door: this made for a most unattractive sight on exiting the cabin.
The entertainment was well above average: the production shows were very good, the performers and costumes excellent. The comedians and magician were very good and enjoyable. The lounge pianist was excellent and affable, making the Crooners Lounge a great place to be (if a seat could be found).
The onboard facilities and lounge/cocktail areas are excellent. Again, they are well designed, attractive and comfortable. Our concern, however, is with your reserving such areas as the Skywalkers Lounge for your preferred customers. This is a large negative for me, and smacks of prejudice, as it is unnecessary in view of the size of the lounge. And, why open the lounge to the needle-crafters until 10:00 AM, then close it to all but your Elite or above passengers? You have limited use of the front-of-ship lounge for the extra-cost Sanctuary, and now you have eliminated the only other enclosed viewing lounge: the top-of-ship Skywalkers Lounge.
The Library is too small and not well-stocked: the collection is old and shopworn and there are insufficient reference works, maps and guides relating to the ships itineraries.
Our main complaint is with the food and food service, and as this is a major marketing component of any cruise line, it deserves renewed company attention, as follows:
International Restaurant: Breakfast - Soft-boiled eggs arrived cold and hard-boiled. English bacon arrived greasy and cold. While these were exchanged without fuss, this should not occur. Compared with our experience in 2010 aboard the Coral Princess, the menu was diminished in variety, and showed signs of cost-conscious pruning. Dinner - Service was so rapid and stilted that we did not have time to relax and enjoy courses or shipmates. As we were anytime guests, and arrived around 8:00 PM, there was no need for such rushed service.
Horizon Caf: While the selection was broad, there again was evidence of cost-cutting. At breakfast, the scrambled eggs were usually cold to just warm and appeared to be made from an egg substitute (hard and tasteless). The fried eggs were cooked in oil, yielding hard and greasy servings. Bacon was always greasy (frequently not thoroughly cooked), even though posed on bread in an effort to absorb the grease. The sausage was also tasteless and greasy. Even having eggs made to order usually produced unappetizing results. (I did, however, occasionally get soft boiled eggs properly soft boiled.) Milk was available for use with cereal, but not easily for drinking. At lunch, the cheeses were mostly processed, not natural, and selection was limited. Cold cuts were few and inexpensive: Italian salami was offered only once, roast beef (of a poor cut and well done) only twice, etc. The freshly cooked meats were uniformly tough or tasteless, another indication of cost cutting in my opinion. The French fried and baked potatoes were most often cold or lukewarm. In my opinion, some attention should be paid to the steam table/serving process. While most of the food preparation people and table waiters/bus-persons were friendly and helpful, there were several who were obvious in avoiding work. The managers may try their best, but waiting, after ordering, 10 minutes for iced tea or for a table to be cleared and re-set is unacceptable.
Sabatinis was our first attempt at avoiding the International Restaurant. It proved to be a major disappointment. The menu does not indicate that the appetizers are served as mandatory small plates. Though we individually requested that certain items be omitted, no attention was paid to our request. Instead, the automatons served all the appetizers, one after the other, in a rapid-fire manner. The entrees were just acceptable. Certainly nothing to write home about. As only a few customers were dining, the rushed serving pace was unnecessary. We determined that we would not re-visit Sabatinis.
The steakhouse was just as disappointing: I ordered a strip steak Pittsburgh or Black and Blue, but received a steak covered with butter showing only lightly cross-hatched grill marks. I sent it back, requesting that it be served better charred and without butter. The steak I finally received was more completely seared (not charred), and still showing evidence of being buttered. Clearly, the kitchen does not have the ability to broil steaks at the high heat required to achieve this common steak-lover request. Even more disappointing was the presence of a lot of gristle. Having taken the time to have the steak re-done, I did not send it back. We determined that we would not re-visit the steakhouse.
It is noteworthy that we frequented the specialty dining rooms on our Coral Princess cruise in 2010.
Our dinner experience in the Vivaldi dining room was far better: our traveling companions found a quiet table in a back corner attended by an experienced, attentive and caring Ukrainian server and her assistant. They quickly learned our preferences for beverages, and promptly complied with our requests. Dinner was not rushed, but rather served to the pace we desired. While the menu was quite varied, the quality of the food was often not to our expectations. Meat was occasionally tough or tasteless, the lobster was actually over-cooked lobster tails, and several times soups and other dishes were served cold or lukewarm. The exchanged items were usually better, but again these kinds of problems should not occur.
Your room service menu options have apparently also been reduced, and charges are now made for items previously provided at no extra charge. I do not understand this change, and feel it is a further example of nickel-and-diming your customers.
In conclusion, we believe that the negatives primarily associated with the quality and service of the food and dining offset the positives of the attractive price of this repositioning cruise. We are disappointed, in view of our generally excellent experience aboard the Coral Princess in March, 2010.