My parents have enjoyed several cruises in their retirement, but they have not enjoyed any cruise more than a 2013 Princess cruise to Alaska. So, they decided to take our entire family--13 people all together--on a once-in-a-lifetime ... Read More
My parents have enjoyed several cruises in their retirement, but they have not enjoyed any cruise more than a 2013 Princess cruise to Alaska. So, they decided to take our entire family--13 people all together--on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Alaska aboard Princess earlier this year.
To say that it was the cruise from hell would be an understatement.
The trouble started before we even got on the boat. There was a problem with my "cruise card" room key and the security staff refused to allow me to enter the ship. They made me wait for over an hour on the deck as they let other passengers aboard. When my mother and father made their way up the gangway, they too were stopped and made to wait. The incompetent security team just kept trying to make new cards for us, but nothing seemed to work. They never told us what the problem was, they never offered us a chair to sit in, and they made no effort to make up for this terrible introduction. Finally, a set of keys worked, and we were allowed to board...
When I tweeted my displeasure (and paid $5 for the onboard internet access to do so) at being made to wait with no explanation, @PrincessCruises promised that someone would reach out to make up for this situation. 2 months later, I'm still waiting.
Although the security staff let my father onto the ship, they paged him to the "guest services" desk shortly after we got settled in our staterooms. When he arrived at the desk, the crew accused him of being a stowaway and threatened to take him off the ship and arrest him at the next port. He'd only spent $40,000 to bring his entire family aboard, but since no one at the front desk knew anything about that, they threatened to arrest him.
$40,000. 13 people. Accused him of being a stowaway.
It turns out that all these problems might have stemmed from the fact that my father is James J. Surname and my oldest brother is James F. Surname. Apparently, in 20 years of operations, with 3,000 passengers aboard on any given trip, Princess had never had two family members with similar names onboard at the same time. Their reservation system couldn't distinguish between James J. and James F., even with different birthdays, different passport numbers, and different middle initials.
At the first port, Ketchikan, when my brother disembarked, it deactivated my father's "cruise card." When my father tried to leave the boat, security stopped him once again. They re-issued his "cruise card," but that in turn deactivated my brother's. When he returned to the boat at the end of the day, he would also be hassled by the security team.
This was not just an issue during embarkation or at the first port of call, either. Problems with the room keys would haunt us for the rest of the voyage. When my mother tried to find out if Princess would do anything to correct the situation, she was brushed off by some nitwit in the "finance" office that headquarters were closed for the Memorial Day holiday, and besides we were not losing money because of the problems Princess was creating so they would not make any offer to refund any portion of our $40,000 fare.
$40,000. Accusations of being a stowaway.
When we wanted our family at one table for the Captain's dinner, the maitre'd gave my mother a lot of push back, and when we arrived at the dining room, I was made to sit further away from my family than any of my other family members. Gee, thanks, sitting all by oneself is a great way to spend those precious moments on a family vacation.
When I spoke to the guest services desk, I was told that something would be done, just like the Twitter tweet, but again, I'm still waiting for something to be done. When my brother's room key stopped working, and he called guest services to replace it, they made him wait for 30 minutes before I went to the desk, and then they told me that someone had been by the room to help but he wasn't there. I informed the employee that whoever had told him that was lying to him, because we had both been waiting outside the room and no one had come by. Then the staff member tried to just hand me a key for my brother's room. It is a violation of every security policy to blindly hand a passenger a key to another passenger's room, but they did. I told them I was not going back to the room, and the staff member looked at me like I was crazy until I finally just said "you're going to take him the room key, not me."
At the end of the cruise, Princess lost my roommate's luggage and, two months later, still has not made any effort to reach out to her. Never mind that we drove all the way from Whittier to Denali (a 5.5 hour, 307 mile trip) only to find her bag had accidentally been sent to a Princess lodge, even though we were not staying with Princess.
When a representative from Princess did reach out after our cruise to inquire as to our terrible experience, they once again stated that since I had not spent any money as a result of their incompetence, they could not make an offer to reimburse or refund me any amount. The representative did apologize for the crew's complete incompetence and hoped that I would consider Princess for my next cruise, but as I told her, it would not take much effort from any other cruise line to convince me that they could do a better job than Princess had. All they'd have to do would be to let me aboard the ship at the start of the cruise and not accuse me of being a stowaway, and we'd be golden. The representative tried to excuse away the inexcusable behavior of her crew by saying it was early in the cruise season and they crew may be inexperienced, but I've worked in hospitality and customer service for over 10 years and it would never, ever be acceptable to behave the way Princess's staff did.
Unless you love being accused of being a stowaway and love having room keys that don't work, I would not bother setting foot on the Grand Princess or any other Princess ship. Did I mention that there were buckets up and down the hallway for the duration of the cruise, catching water dripping from the ceiling? Read Less