We cruise quite a lot and have been sailing Princess nearly exclusively for the last 6 years or so. We felt we owed it to ourselves to try another line and see whether we should "branch out". Here's a quick good, average ... Read More
We cruise quite a lot and have been sailing Princess nearly exclusively for the last 6 years or so. We felt we owed it to ourselves to try another line and see whether we should "branch out". Here's a quick good, average and ugly rundown.
The good (sometimes great):
Without question, the singers and dancers who performed many times throughout this voyage were the best we've ever seen. We were disappointed whenever a headliner was featured (the headliners were a mixed bag and on average were just OK) because that meant we wouldn't be seeing these 10 incredible performers. Kudos to HAL for producing incredible shows with minimal sets that really showcased the talent.
We also need to give very high marks for the dinner service in the Open Seating MD on 4. From seating to service to food - they get a 10 out of t0. The only issue I have is not with the food or service but with the incessant upset. Some waiters were very pushy and insistent regarding the bottled water, the lobster, the 75 oz steak (OMG), the cappuccino, etc. I don't blame them, and the service was otherwise perfect, but it was sometimes pretty annoying and quite a shame given how great the food was and how hard they otherwise worked to deliver a very upscale experience.
On the occasions that we were able to enjoy a casual breakfast or lunch in the Lido (see the ugly for an explanation) we found the choices to be abundant, so many things to choose from but frankly the food just wasn't very good. The salad bar was OK, the dressings were bland and the service was sometimes pretty slow. We liked that food was served by staff and utensils weren't handled by passengers but it was often tedious.
The offerings at the Dive In stand poolside was another option that looked better on the menu then in delivery. Again, the food was OK at best often evidenced by the amount of uneaten wasted food left around the pool tables. We tried a few times and were disappointed on each occasion.
The band in the Crows Nest gets a nod for showing some enthusiasm and playing a good mix of music to dance to. The tried to keep the small crowd happy and up on their feet.
We are both seniors, retired and pretty seasoned travelers and we found this ship to have a very institutional (assisted living) feel to it. We just returned from a 60 day cruise on Princess where the average age was very high. The vibe on this ship was much older. It's hard to explain but the whole experience seemed more suited to a senior center than a cruise ship despite having a large number of young families and kids away with grandma and grandpa for the holidays.
--The reason we couldn't enjoy breakfast or lunch daily was because, despite having a large, two sided buffet, they simply closed the whole thing for long stretches at times when we would have enjoyed a meal or snack. If you danced till 12, relaxed with a book in your room, woke up at 9:30 and took a shower - you missed breakfast - completely closed at 10, reopen for lunch 11:30. If you get off the ship, as we did on a port day and return to the ship at 2:05 - no lunch for you - visit the Dive In or wait a few hours. If you get off the ship at an overnight port and return at 9:05 (yeah just our luck) the DR is closed, both sides of the buffet are closed and will reopen for a short When we lacked other options we waited 20 or 30 minutes until the phone got picked up. You can't have this kind of schedule unless you have an International Cafe type venue. Ridiculous.
--The only reason we ever got to go to breakfast was because of the incredibly loud announcement at 9:15 most mornings. Usually you have to open your cabin door to hear what's being said. No here. The speaker was so loud that sleeping through it was impossible. My pleas to lower the volume were spoken to deaf ears (pun intended). Three times on this 17 day voyage the captain chose to have crew drills at 9 AM, blaring 7 short and 1 long blast into the cabin along with instructions to the crew. So loud. We've never been woken up by a crew drill in 100's of days cruising until now, 3 times in 2 weeks. Why?
--The Ocean Bar would have been a lovely dance venue in the center of the ship but the trio catered to a very elderly crowd, particularly one couple and played slow fox trots and waltzes almost exclusively. One night we were the only people in the venue before the early show let out. After hearing two songs that were written in the 40's I asked the piano player to play a salsa, no one else is here. He told me that the band didn't have one - What? That was our last night in the Ocean Bar.
--For probably half of the trip at least on hot tub was not useable because the temperature was way too high. Reports to the crew didn't solve the problem. Where was the crew regarding chemicals and temperature? On a ship with only one pool and two hot tubs this is a big issue.
--Lastly, this old gal needs some service. Our cabin, 1801 had a loose panel that squeaked terribly when we had some seas. I reported it so they shimmed the panel.. It didn't work. I told the staff at Passenger Services that if it's not fixed by the time the world cruise comes about they will have a very unhappy guest.
All in all we made our own good time. We were told, over and over again, not to let the problems evident on this ship keep us from trying HAL again. So many passengers we're complaining about the scheduling, the noise, etc but they indicated that it's not common. We may give them a chance if the opportunity arises but we may well stay loyal to Princess for some time. Read Less