After 10 years since our last cruise, I booked a 12 night adventure with my elderly father. I am 26 and he is 78 with a walker/cane. Overall, we had a great trip and enjoyed our time together - we are not picky people. However, he ... Read More
After 10 years since our last cruise, I booked a 12 night adventure with my elderly father. I am 26 and he is 78 with a walker/cane. Overall, we had a great trip and enjoyed our time together - we are not picky people. However, he mentioned several times while on the ship, and off, that he doesn't think he will sail with Princess again; and I agree.
- Service: 95% of the service we received was exceptional! The genuine care and attention from many of the crew members salvaged the other aspects of the ship. I drink, so the bar staff got to know me over the course of several days and greeted me across the decks (by name) every time they saw me with a smile; even if I was just passing by. The restaurant staff was also wonderful and very caring. Maybe I just have a memorable face but they seemed genuine each time they greeted us night after night. The spa attendants had a bit more of a spicy demeanor but were still very nice and fun. I think they get tired of seeing the same old kinds of people and will treat you well if you take the time to talk with them. I only dealt with one excursion officer for our onshore endeavors who was extra helpful. After only meeting him once, he automatically sent my father priority passes to exit the ship with disability access and reserved us front seats on each bus - something we did not even request or know about. Each time we disembarked the ship, the crew was always very helpful and swift with my father - making a normally chaotic experience a stress-free one. The staff was 10/10, overall.
- Cleanliness: The entire ship was very clean, our cabins were spotless, and the newly refurbished areas were very nice.
- Excursions: The ports and excursions were all fun. We choose excursions that were designed for limited mobility and were simple to get off and on. Princess exceed our expectations with several of their offerings.
- Food/Dining: After the first day cruising, my father and I recalled what we noted on our last cruise with Holland America: "My God, the food on this ship is so much better than Princess!" - a realization that we had forgotten when we booked this cruise. When you are on vacation, food is a big part of the fun. I'm going to break down the dining experiences we experienced:
1. Main Dining Room: Usually decent food. We stuck with shrimp cocktails each night and had about 1-2 good dinners that we would actually order again. Everything else was just meh. Only sent food back once, something I never do, because my steak was virtually raw, not medium. The staff was great, and the food was the best that was included on the cruise, so we frequented it more than the rest.
2. Buffet: The "International Marketplace" was very bad. The salads were like a cafeteria with prepaid dressings that tasted like they were from Sysco. The bread was always bland and dry. Their Asian-style food was like tough meat and veggies with generic soy sauce. Panda Express is more authentic. The only good food I remember getting from the buffet was veal and prime rib, which was only available one day each. I am not a breakfast person, so I cannot comment on the morning options.
3. Slice: The poolside pizza was disappointingly some of the best food on the ship. I did enjoy the pizza and the California toast was pretty decent if you like avocado and a ton of bacon.
4. Salty Dog: The hamburger place was disgusting. A frozen patty with very salty cheese and basic condiments. After one bite of the cheeseburger when we first boarded the ship, I looked at my dad and knew we were in for a rough time. All of the french fries on the ship are also frozen and flavorless with no seasoning. A hamburger is a hard thing to mess up, but the burgers on Princess make Burger King seem like a special treat. I didn't try their famous "Best Burger at Sea" because it was an extra $13, and I had no hope that it would suffice.
5. Crown Grill: At $40 per person extra, we decided not to try the ship's steakhouse. It probably would have been decent, but we decided we would just eat the free food on the ship and put our money toward better things - or even our favorite restaurants back home.
6. Italian Restaurant: I forget the name, but it was the best food on the ship - not to mention a ton of it! There are many courses so don't fill up on the delicious bread. Unfortunately, we waited until the last couple of days to try this spot because we would have dinned here more often if we knew it was good. Worth the extra charge!
7. Planks: Coming from barbecue country, we have high expectations. The food wasn't bad, but it wasn't amazing. It defiantly satisfied my cravings for meat and flavor. The menu was a bit confusing. We were a party of two and thought we each got a choice of 4 meats. However, they brought the "plank" for two of us, which was a ton of food. The order was therefore a little mixed up, but we didn't have a problem with it. The tri-tip was very tough but the flavor was good. The pickles came from a jar and were way too sour. If you are craving BBQ, it is worth the extra charge. Otherwise, skip it.
8. Steamers: You'd think a cruise ship would specialize in seafood... My dad was more disappointed than I was because he loves fish. The starters were good - we loved the chowder. The crab legs and lobster were also good (all I really wanted anyway), but not enough to fill you up. The flounder was inedible. It was smothered and injected with crab meat and overpowering cheese. It was like a VERY fishy omelette more than anything. Not worth the extra charge in my opinion, but it was the only place to get crab legs or lobster on the ship unless you deal with dressing up for formal night in the main dining room.
9. Room Service: Worse than main dining room, terrible hamburger same as the poolside place, very small portions.
10. International Cafe: The ship's only 24 hour place to get food. Cold pasta salads and sandwiches with about 90% bread and 10% filler. The bite-sized desserts were good. The rest was just food for the sake of being food. Nothing worth a second bite. Also had one of the worst mochas I've ever tasted.
- Extra Charges: Don't expect to get anything for free on a Princess cruise. The internet is insanely slow and expensive. I spent a lot of my paid minutes waiting for pages to load. My father was horrified that they charge extra for black coffee everywhere but in the formal dining room. This means you have to pay Starbucks prices each morning if you want any caffeine. I purchased the unlimited beverage package which was worthwhile because they strictly measure a thimble's worth of liquor in each drink. They do have a good cocktail selection, but you cannot get doubles with this package. I was disappointed that all food except for the main dining room, buffet, and pool food areas was an extra charge. Even the real ice cream at the "Coffee and Cones" was an extra cost, only the soft serve yogurt is included. I also didn't like that you had to pay for many of the onboard activities and games including bingo.
- Hidden Fees: Watch out for extra gratuity charges that will be added to your bill, even if you opted out of the prepaid gratuity. We were luckily advised by another guest to print out a copy of our invoice on the last night of the cruise - THANK GOD! We were surprised to learn that a daily $13.50 housekeeping gratuity had been added to each of our cabins, even though the unfriendly service did not deserve it. We cancelled that and tipped the cabin steward what we thought was fair in cash and left it in the room. We also caught a staggering $475.00 charge that was accidentally added by the spa staff without any explanation. After we questioned the charge, it was immediately removed as an honest mistake - but it would not have been if we did not see it first.
- Service: There were only two issues we encountered with certain staff members... The crew at the ship's front desk were always elsewhere. With 7 stations, it was usually staffed with 0-3 people max. This made the front desk lines very long. The only other person who was unpleasant to deal with was our main cabin steward. He was nice enough on the first day but for the next 11, he would never smile, talk, or acknowledge you unless you made the first move. A real sour puss. My dad asked if I did something to offend him; that's how cold he was toward both of us. We both kept our cabins clean but I felt unwelcome and judged by him because he gave off such negative vibes. If I trashed my room each day then I would have understood, but this was weird. Sufficed to say, he did not earn his $13.50/day cleaning gratuity from me or my father because of his unfortunate demeanor which threw off our daily routine.
- Commercialized Atmosphere: At times, it felt like being in a floating mall. Everyone was trying to sell you something - either a GoPro camera, a Discovery Brand accessory, or a really bad painting. The art gallery was right outside our room, so it was unavoidable. It felt a lot like Disneyland when you see signs like "Indiana Jones - Sponsered by AT&T" . Didn't feel upscale.
If you are reading reviews on a site like this, it means you care about what kind of vacation you are about to put good money into. If you don't care about food quality, upscale entertainment, or aren't looking for a young person's experience, you should seriously consider a Princess cruise. However, if you want a less commercialized experience, gourmet cuisine, and upscale amenities - seek another cruise line like Holland America or higher.
I talked to some other passengers who had much worse horror stories on our same cruise...
One man's room was directly across from the laundry room. During the first day of very rough seas (that day's port was cancelled), the laundry machine's overflowed and water spilled into his cabin - soaking the entire carpet and the luggage/shoes/belongings of his that were on the floor. When they discovered this, the crew made them virtually stay out of their room except to sleep while they cleaned and replaced the carpet. They claimed they had absolutely no other rooms to switch them to for the inconvenience. Despite several of their belongings being ruined in the food, Princess would only compensate them $50.00. No free things, no discounts, and no upgrades. I know it was hearsay, but I cannot imagine this lack of service in the hospitality industry.
The only other note I have was more of a personal bummer, not the ship's fault. I know that a 12 day cruise in September around the British Isle's isn't as sexy as a Spring Break cruise to Cabo, but I was very surprised that I was one of the youngest people on the ship. There was virtually no nightlife after 9:00 PM and the few bars that stayed open until 1:00 PM were very dead. The last Holland America ships I was on allowed the crew to enjoy the bars and nightclubs which made it a lot more social and fun. This was not allowed by Princess, so there was zero party scene. The crew told me that there are lots of parties and social events each night on the lower floors, but passengers are not allowed. There was also a number of "un-hosted" meetups advertised at various bars and lounges for singles, LGBT, etc. I tried to go to three of these but it was impossible to tell who else was there for the same reason. I only ended up meeting one other person there for the meetup because the only way to tell was to awkwardly go up to others and ask if they were there for the same thing. Just a poor system.
It was not a bad cruise, but if I could do it over - I would have found another cruise line for this vacation. Overall, disappointing. Read Less