I don't normally write reviews, good or bad, but since there doesn't seem to be much on this particular cruise I decided to write. This was my fourth cruise and my second with princess.
First I would like to say I had read the reviews the mentioned norovirus in some December cruises but it appeared that the issue had been solved. However after arriving in fort lauderdale, it was all over the local news that the Crown was coming in to port loaded with people ill with norovirus.
Our travel agent emailed us to report late to the port as the ship would receive intensive delousing before boarding. We arrived at the appointed hour of 4pm to the convention center. There were already tons of angry passengers there and you were given a boarding number based on when you arrived. Mine was L and I joked it stood for last! That was prophetic. We were in the last group that boarded about 7.45 pm. We were starving and thirsty (the drinks in the convention center provided by princess had long since run out). So we headed to the buffet. Folks it was sad. I am not talking about the fact that the crew had to dish out your food as a safety precaution. There just was not much there! I am just used to cruise buffets being this huge beautiful display of food of all varieties. This was not and honestly they never got better the couple of times we tried to eat there. Until this cruise I had never even had breakfast or lunch in the dining room. Now you kinda had too if you wanted anything nice. And still there you were rushed because so many others had the same idea. Dining room food was OK but honestly not up to the standards of the last princess cruise I was on.
We tried several times to book the specialty restaurants to find them fully booked. We knew something was up when we got up early to get the reservation to find them already booked. A crew member finally confided that only elite passengers got the few reservations available. Why few? Well its hard to complain about this but we were told that so many waiters were sick that specialty restaurant waiters had to move to the dining room. We went by the steakhouse and confirmed that it was virtually empty with two guests and 1 waiter at 7pm.
Beyond all that. We missed princess cayes because of the late start. About an hour from docking in Curacao we were awakened by the captain telling us that the CDC ordered him to return to FT Lauderdale. So no Aruba either. So basically we got 4 sea days to spend washing our hands and being paranoid every time your stomach rumbled.
I would like to say though that most of the crew worked very hard to keep things clean and see to the guest needs. I did have a bartender at Vines tell me I should go to the buffet when I asked him for water. I explained that I had been waiting in line for an hour to use the free phones to make travel arrangements and didn't want to lose my spot in line. He did give it to me but not until I got in his face.
As much as I am bitching here I have to say that much of it probably could have been avoided if the sick passengers had cooperated. It was routine for sick quarantined passengers to leave their rooms. And probably more didn't report that they were sick so they didn't get quarantined. One crew member told me they estimated that for every 1 reported case of norovirus, 2 go unreported on the ship. I even had one passenger admit to me his wife was sick before she got on the ship at the convention center. And it was totally routine to hear people complain about all the precautions. All of this stuff probably contributed to the quick spread of the virus and the cancellation of the cruise. I really don't know what more princess could have done short of locking in sick passengers and prescreening before the cruise (not just the form you can lie on). I am not advocating that. It is just a comment on human nature that it is practically impossible to accomplish.
In any case, I think princess was very fair in that they refunded the cruise in total and in our case even refunded the fee for the sanctuary. Also a 25% discount on a future cruise. Unfortunately what they cant give me back is my vacation time. Oh well, as my girlfriend says, if they advertised it as a free 4 day cruise to nowhere, we would have jumped at the chance.
I did just think of a way a cruise line could encourage passengers to report the virus and maintain quarantine. How about they prorate that passengers fares for the length of time quarantined?
It would certainly be cheaper than letting them infect the whole ship. If that was policy it could make a difference. I doubt too many people would want to fake sick to abuse the policy.