This was a relatively late UK-advertised (guaranteed cabins only) and hence a late booking (2 months prior) for us and our friends. At no time were we advised, by our agent or Princess, that this was to be it’s first cruise after a ... Read More
This was a relatively late UK-advertised (guaranteed cabins only) and hence a late booking (2 months prior) for us and our friends. At no time were we advised, by our agent or Princess, that this was to be it’s first cruise after a two-week scheduled major refit in the Bahamas.
It was to leave Fort Lauderdale 3rd April and after 14 N end up in Barcelona and in taking a more southerly heading than most transatlantic ‘repositioning cruises’ and thereby the prospect of better weather.
A couple of weeks earlier Princess had issued a notification of a later embarkation time commencing at 14:00 in and that it had to be completed by 17:00!
With flight transfers booked and hotels vacation times being well before noon most passengers, including ourselves, arrived earlier. Elite & Platinum captain circle members were seated in one terminal building and the remaining passengers in another.
Boarding commenced at 14:20 but was so-slow. This seemed to be dictated / controlled by staff on-board ship undertaking the photo-ID scans – instead of the normal shore-side check-in desk-top webcams (very basic error). In the hour-long queue an American couple cited this cruise as being a ‘no-brainer’ to them as it was cheaper than a 7 night Caribbean cruise. Could it be that Princess anticipated there being some potential problems?
Our lifeboat drill was held in the Theatre – where the customary Princess Procedure of scanning-in of attendees cruise cards; to ensure all passengers attendance; had been abandoned. Also advised not to bring with your life vests with you!
Bathroom and furniture surfaces in our ‘guaranteed’ inside cabin, particularly the bathroom and wardrobe areas, were filthy. Before attempting unpacking our late-arriving cases my wife gave our steward the task of correcting the situation whilst we went for late Dinner. Unfortunately this ended up with my wife doing a deep clean herself.
Being a 4 berth cabin we suspected that some fit-out contractors had likely previously occupied it and had given it some very ‘heavy-use’? That said, there is still no excuse for this serious failure on the part of housekeeping.
Upper decks (16+) were akin to an on-going construction site – handrails covered in thick dust windows not cleaned, large rolls of deck ‘astro-turf’ type covering stored on-deck 16 for future laying, etc. Badly stained wooden treads to staircase linking the pool deck with Deck 16 with a fractured tread (no nosing) which was only repaired on Day10.
After 40+ years in the construction industry I certainly do not expect to go on a vacation on a luxury cruise ship and be confronted with these sort of issues.
Before departure even the Captain apologised over the PA for the state that the ship was in and it not being up to the normal Princess standard(s). He also advised that we would now have to take on ballast (water), ahead of their then being able to fill the pools – expected to take 2days.
By way of an apology for the boarding fiasco he arranged for a complimentary glass of wine to be served to passengers over dinner (on day 2) or a ‘US’ beer if you preferred. However a soft drink would be chargeable!
Some of the flooring contractors we spoke to at the bar on deck 16 told us there was a further 2 weeks work still to be done, mostly to be undertaken to passenger circulation areas during the night.
One good-for-us feature arising from the refit became apparent as we departed from Fort Lauderdale when the ‘Love-Boat’ horns failed ‘big-style’ and had to revert to the traditional 3 blasts (for the duration of the cruise). After 34 nights on-board the Majestic Princess you can soon ‘over –dose’ on that melody!
The new bed linen (mattresses?) was a welcome to the ‘very tired’ comments posted in earlier reviews for this ship.
New LG large screen television rather oddly did not have numerical channel keys on the remote – just a single up/down button which proved to be a bit of a pain. Nor were they ‘smart-connected’ to the free movies / shows feature on the newer Princess ships.
Day 2 - Princess Patter revealed that this ship’s management has a unique way of changing things to suit themselves and not their passengers or, as it later became evident, even their own crew members:-
1) To put back clocks forward at 11:00 AM (6 in total) was explained later in the cruise as having been thought –through ‘by a committee of Manager’s Minds’ to be better and a preferred option ie. in order to give to passengers ‘no loss’ of sleep. No thought was given that passengers would be losing daytime benefit, what most passengers come on cruises to experience. It had obviously not occurred to them that with their being no late show in the theatre either (see below) the bulk of passengers were in bed for 22:00, likewise that passengers can; by their own choosing; always decide to lie-in (as indeed they are well accustomed to when clocks alter at home)!
Waiters and cabin stewards explained that ‘we now have less time to do the same amount of work, putting us under more pressure’. More realistically, I suspect that such a crazy decision may well have been driven by the fact that the flooring contractors would otherwise lose carpet-laying time during the night?
For the first seven consecutive sea days we were unable to get internet in our cabin (first time ever).
I frequently resorted to using a spare desk in the IT department where the Passenger Tech support / help desk was also scheduled daily for 9:00-12:00. Their passenger support was consequently cut short to 2 hours on those mornings! I found myself helping several passengers with their issues, wherever I could.
Several times during the daytime the whole internet system went down for long periods, little surprise that half our internet allocation ended up unused.
2) No late show in the Theatre – just at 18:30 (explained as being for those late diners) and 20:30 (for early diners).
The attraction of Freedom Dining would normally allow us to have Dinner at circa 20:00 followed by the theatre Show – considered as being the traditional / normal option - as indeed was only afforded to the ‘early diners’ on this cruise!
This decision however had serious consequences on early dining passenger experiences (starting at 17:15 for those on fixed dining option) as already strongly vented in several reviews posted on Cruise Critic – taking up to 2+ hours!
There were however queues forming for the now even ‘earlier’ 17:15 dining on this ship for the Davinci Restaurant at 17:00 that quickly extended to the International Café most evenings. Normally on Princess ships 18:00 is the early dining opening time.
Just as they complained of experiencing poor / long table service we found the reverse. With the Da Vinci dining room no queues and were only circa 25% occupancy. Best described as akin to a ‘super/turbo -service’, being served in 60 – 75 minutes tops, even the waiters had time to socially converse with you, Even the maitre’d had time to converse with us every night and even asked if would like to choose any particular preferences, for something not on the menu, for the following evening (a first time ever).
All too frequently, whilst the plates were hot the same could not be said of the food served was not, even when this need was expressed to them when ordering.
Returning the food determines that it has to be replaced instead of merely micro-waving - as we were suggesting - as it would have helped mitigate any delays to other table-guests.
To take in a show at 18:30, seemingly determined for us later diners by the so-called ‘on-board management committee’, was impractical to us and many more. In order to take-in the sail-away on port days we would have had to go in to a show in our deck-attire. Hence I only made it to two main shows.
With there being no circa 22:00 theatre shows the only alternative venues for late evening entertainment were the Explorers & Fusion bars. Both of these are relatively small with inefficient seating layouts with many passengers standing.
On Days 2 & 6 they put on ‘A Night at The Movies’ film on in the theatre starting at 22:00 but why they chose not do the same on other evenings seems a mystery.
If this change were to be made across the Princess fleet it would prove to be a ‘red-line’ issue to ourselves, particularly with our having a 27 night port-intensive booking later in the year. On Day 2 I asked this same question of Guest Relations and was asked to fill in a form and handed - back to the same staff member.
On Day 4 I asked at the desk as to why I had not received a response only to be told that it was not showing on their system as having been logged. If nothing else over the years, I have learned with Princess Guest Relations, to take a photo of any completed forms handed to them. This young lady duly re-typed it in to their system (so they could not lose it again?).
It simply read “Evening Shows – Been told by Guest Services that 6:30 / 8:30 are to be every night – Please confirm and if so why no circa 22:00 show? If so is this now to be on all Princess Cruises? If so we have a 27N port-intensive cruise booked on Sapphire Princess later in the year and will be considering cancelling. NOTE – We dine at 20:00 and choose, as always, to take in the show afterwards.”
Day 6 – Having heard nothing further I spoke to the same staff member as on Day 4 and enquired as to why I had still not received a response and was told that her boss was not at his desk and to try again later in the day. I was later advised by her that there being no late show and replacing with the 2 earlier ones, was indeed to be a change made “across the Fleet”.
Because of the potential cost implications to ourselves were we to cancel, I requested her to re-ask the question of her ‘boss’ who advised her that he “will send an e-mail to the “Entertainments Director”. The ED later advised me of completely the opposite – that a decision regarding this had only been taken on-board this ship, for this cruise only. Again this was explained as being done “by a Committee of Departmental Managers”.
Pretty obvious from this response that some serious Princess Staff Training – of their Senior Management - is urgently required!
A lesson for Princess –If it works and is well-proven, please leave well alone!
Disc –cutting of funnel steelwork + chiselling-out carpets in public areas (impeding fire-escape routes for carpet bowls) what sort of management expertise would determine a need to undertake these day-time operations on sea days – why not do on port-days? Again scant regard or thought was even given for the actual opinions of their fare-paying passengers! – See https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=qJvPc0HW_Iw
Conspicuous by their absence were those crew members normally engaged in the cleaning of internal staircase handrails. Along with the lack of any Promenade deck cleaning the first week, these may have been in part due to crew being used in labouring for the flooring contractors?
Tables and chairs in Horizon Court were very shabby, many stained and soiled-looking.
On Day 3 - at 05:00 I was awakened by noise of forward thrusters beneath our cabin – in mid-Atlantic!
At 09:00 the Captain came on the on the PA and explained that we had a passenger in need of off-ship medical attention as did a further passenger from a nearby Holland America vessel. It had been decided (by whom?) in the night to transfer their passenger to our ship. We were then on a heading for Bermuda where a further transfer of both passengers was to be made on to the Hamilton Pilot boat at 22:00. Passengers were later advised that both had since received successful medical treatment.
Being much further North the weather and sea-state had deteriorated compared with on our original heading.
A further call went out by the Captain seeking passenger blood group donations which proved successful.
Day 8 Funchal Madeira - Our first port of call which we last visited in November . As we sat on deck 16 by the bar waiting the advertised sail-away party scheduled for 17:15 the Captain came on the PA at 18:00 and announced that divers were still in the water checking-on dry-dock engineering issues – and advised that it would now be depart between 20-21:00 - finally left at 22:00.
The fact that there were relatively few passengers on deck at the time we later related as being due to many passengers being in for their much earlier dining time?
Day 10 Gibraltar – Pouring with rain management had ad-libbed and announced that there would be an 11:30 screening of The Greatest Showman movie in the theatre. As it finished the weather had improved to allow us a couple of hours walk in to town.
An internet connection was finally available in our cabin. The IT Manager explained that the upgraded system which included a new router, originally scheduled to have been concluded during the ‘dry-dock’ re-fit, had only then been fully operational.
Day 11 Cartagena – First time visit for us was a port with ideal berthing so close to the town centre. Across from us was the 360M Euros High Tech Yacht built for a Russian Oligarch (impounded pending a claim of 10M Euros owed to builders! - https://metro.co.uk/2017/02/20/oligarchs-360million-superyacht-impounded-because-he-didnt-fully-pay-for-it-6461932/
Day 12 Palma – The current largest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas (6,600 passengers), was berthed at the farthest point in the port - en-route from the Shipyard to the Med. Much longer transfers for their passengers, compared with the 50 – 60 minute pleasant walk we had to the Cathedral.
Day 13 Barcelona – A slight delay to our arrival time for a full day + overnight stay. Having independently booked a guided tour for 11:00 for the La Sagrada Familia (18E each) we hopped a taxi from the port terminal for the four of us (28 Euros). This worked out at 25 E pp compared with the $75 ship tour cost.
A locally -operated coach shuttle service frequently runs between the port terminal(s), taking you close to / from the Columbus monument, costing 3E each way. The ship charge for a shuttle coach was for $8 each way.
Day 14 Barcelona – With a late afternoon flight departure we booked the Ship’s Barcelona tour which included dropping us and our baggage at the airport ($70 pp) and was supposed to last 3.5 hours and including 2-3 stops (Coach No.23). After a stop at ‘La Sagrada’ and their missing-out on the opportunity to do the intended stop at the Olympic Stadium (for Panoramic views over the city) and only 1.5 hours in to the tour, the guide announced we would then start the journey to the airport (20 mins away). After strong passenger exchanges they decided to return via the Placa d’Espanya, a heavily congested traffic route, and literally had to squeeze the coach in to the Museum coach-park. Given a max 10 minutes for photo-call overlooking the city. We would certainly not recommend this ship tour option.
With the Captain’s Welcome speech on Day 3 making no reference to passenger nationality numbers it was apparent that there were not many of us from the UK / Europe.
Later in the cruise, sight of the ship’s manifest revealed - Total passengers 2,892 (of 3,080 Capacity) - USA -2072 Canada-557 UK- only 91 The ship had however reported a full complement of passengers leaving nearly 200 empty or likely contractors still on-board?
Lessons learned for the future – After 7 transatlantic crossings we would never consider Princess again for such a cruise – such stupidity and co-ordination failures on the part of management begs belief!
Cost – Cutting Changes (across the Princess Fleet):-
Abolition of Happy Hour(s)! (was previously a buy1 get 2nd for $1+15%)
Wine Tasting – Of the 6 place-mat the No6 was always a Madeira sweet-style wine (originally in a collectable souvenir glass) and is now for a glass of chilled water!
Champagne Hoop-La – It used to be a bottle each for the first 5 winners (could also be served chilled in restaurants) but was a single glass offering of ‘bubbly’ for each ‘winner’. Almost begrudgingly they had to open a second bottle!
Canapes on Formal Nights (Elite perk) – The 3 each now reduced to 2 (had previously removed a chocolate - dipped strawberry offering).
Chocolate on the pillow maybe next – who knows?
Not long ago the Cruise Director was considered to being ‘one-down from the Captain’ in terms of hierarchy and standing bringing with them considerable entertainment experience. They were also solely responsible for all on-board entertainment including the selection of the guest artists.
More recently with Princess and P&O sailings, and again on this ship, we now find younger recruits, best likened to being holiday camp entertainers; as is borne out by their CV’s; being given that same job-title. We find them to be rather immature and come across rather loud / brash.
Ask them a question that they cannot or do not wish to answer and you are more likely to be told that they are now responsible to an Entertainments Director and that you may wish to take it up with them. (A reverse to any cost – cutting or do they come on a 2 for 1 salary package basis?).
We found the normally entertaining and informative Wake Show to be cringingly embarrassing to watch and only worthy of turning to another channel.
In the Marriage Match Game Show (a ‘Mr & Mrs type show), held in the Explorers Lounge, the ‘laddish’ style behaviour of the Cruise Director only served to promote some obscene ‘memorable moments’ responses from one particular couple. More akin to a Stag-night party and unworthy of this self-promoted premier branded cruise-line.
Our experiences on this cruise only served to never pre-pay gratuities, as promoted by Princess and other cruise lines.
In a recent e-mail the return voyage of the Crown, to Fort Lauderdale, from ‘Rome’ on 3rd November 18, was being marketed and has prompted me to post this review. It will be interesting to learn as to how Princess would propose to address some of the issues raised here – particularly their time-fixing for putting-back the clocks one hour on each of those 6 sea-days.
Based upon assurances given by the Entertainments Director, we remain more optimistic for our next 2 cruises – both on the Sapphire Princess. Fortunately, since it arrived in the UK after it’s refit in Singapore it has been getting very positive reviews.
Happy Future Cruising. Read Less