Wow! Friday's news item -- Princess Latest to Offer Freestyle Debarks (the line introduced an announcement-free debarkation process aiming to improve one of cruising's most loathsome elements) -- has struck such a nerve among Cruise Critic readers that we feel compelled to pass along the comments.
Debarking on most big-ship lines generally involves incessant morning announcements instructing various groups -- based on color-coded luggage stickers -- to report at such and such place, where they wait for a second announcement allowing them to get off the ship. For many, it's often the low point of a cruise vacation. Princess tells us they've ended such unpleasant experiences.
Here at the Cruise Critic news center, it's often hard to gauge how the new cruise line programs and procedures we write about, especially at infancy, really stack up (at least it's a challenge until we get onboard and try them out). Public relations reps typically say something nonsensical like "the response has been overwhelmingly fantastic." Being cynics, we most often cut those comments out of reportage -- of course they are going to say that.
But in this case Princess' PR got it right, at least based on what we've heard from readers. The feedback has been almost unanimously positive.
Here's a sampling of comments:
From Jacqueline H. Trietley, who sailed aboard Dawn Princess just last week: "The new procedures worked well. We met in the Princess Theater and this is the easiest debarkation process we have had. We were one of the first passengers to leave as we had an early flight. It was nice not to fight for a space in the atrium."
There were "no throngs of people blocking stairways and passageways leading to the gangway," writes Mary Lou Snyder. "Instead we went to our assigned waiting area in Explorer's Lounge at the designated time, and relaxed in comfortable seating until our group was called."
Scott DeSander concurred: "I loved how they debarked the ship without announcements."
Okay, so not everyone has embraced the new debarkation procedures -- and admittedly perhaps not every ship in Princess' fleet of 17 has got it right yet. Writes J.Hollerorth, a reader on a cruise-a-month pace who experienced the new process with Princess on November 3 and then again on December 8:
"The first time in L.A. was absolute chaos. We were told to report to Sterling on Deck 7 at 7:10 a.m. Princess was running late and the first group who was supposed to go off at 7 a.m. did not get off until about 7:20 a.m. By that time you had people everywhere with their bags -- in Sterling, in the atrium, in the corridors. We were all jammed in and no one was moving.
"Many people had more bags than they could really carry themselves. The Princess people finally just gave up and just started herding people off the ship regardless of what group you were in.
"The second time in FLL was much better. We were told to report to the casino on Deck 6, again at 7:10 a.m. Once again Princess was running late and no one got off the ship until well after 7:30 a.m. The Grand Princess personnel seemed to have better control of the crowd and kept everyone in the casino until the ship was cleared."
So tell us: How do you feel about debarkation? Which lines do the best job? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. And, finally, is it one of those cruise traditions that should be on its way out? Tell us in today's daily poll on cruisecritic.co.uk.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
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Princess' New Debark Policy Strikes a Nerve
February 5, 2008