I want to begin by saying that both my husband and I consider ourselves positive people who try to start our day over when things aren't going as we wish they would. We found it quite difficult to be positive, however, on our seven-day cruise aboard the Caribbean Princess, sailing May 28-June 4, as there was very little to be positive about. This was our first cruise, and while I doubt we will ever cruise again, I am writing to express both of our feelings of dissatisfaction with the vacation and to provide documentation of the experiences leading to these feelings.
Embarkation: Our first complaint is the lack of clear communication at embarkation. We arrived at the embarkation gate at 11:15 A.M. There were no Princess crew members available to assist us, but a security guard told us to just be seated. As a result, we had no idea that we had to check our luggage. One half hour into our wait, we noticed that no one else had their luggage, and we asked another passenger. He showed us where to check our luggage in. We returned the favor by helping another group of people who still had their luggage 15 minutes later. As the gate continued to fill and crew members began to appear, they attempted to tell passengers what to do, but there was no P.A. system or message board, so we could never understand what was being called out to us. The crew seemed just as frustrated as the passengers.
Stateroom #1: While our room, Lido 307, was clean, we had the following complaints:
• Although Princess calls itself a 5-star cruise line, the linens are not 100% cotton. The cruise line representative who I spoke to three weeks before embarkation was shocked at this fact as well. My travel agent called in advance to let the ship know that I have an allergic reaction to polyester sheets. They not only failed to respond to the medical form she filed stating I would need cotton sheets, this accommodation was never made for me. I brought my own sheets.
• We were originally registered for a queen bed configuration, but I made a change 2 weeks before embarkation to put the beds in a twin bed configuration. This change was not made in our room until after our arrival.
• I asked for robes in the room. (Nor were there laundry bags) Our steward said we would not be able to get them until the following morning, May 29. The evening of May 29, I called the front desk because we still had not received them and Imelda was not answering our page. At this point, we received our robes.
• Our room was incredibly loud. The main door to the Lido deck pool, bar, Pizza, and grille was located right outside our room, so there was constant, audible traffic. Also, at 6:30 A.M. each morning, the area above us began loud movements of setting up the restaurant level. The deck area just above us also had much audible traffic. Basically, it sounded like Grand Central Station. I will say that the balcony on this room was really quiet.
• Loudness was brought to an optimum at the "deck party" on the Lido deck after the day in St. Thomas.
• On Saturday night, I was on hold with room service for twenty minutes to get some hot water delivered for tea in our room, and I finally called the front desk who had it delivered to us. • Monday A.M., we had opted not to get the continental breakfast, just in case we were able to sleep in. We'd already called at 6:45 A.M. about the noise above us, which we were informed was the bar being set up, but we were trying to go back to sleep. At 7:20, a knock at the door from room service occurred. I thought that maybe the card we filled out the first day may have extended through the whole cruise, so I realized I better accept the service.
Still in bed, I called, "Please, just leave it by the door."
"But ma'am, you have to sign for it!" he answered.
I reluctantly rose from bed, put on a robe, found my glasses, but when I got to the door, I saw two grapefruit halves and coffee, and said out loud, "That's not our breakfast."
He looked at the tag, looked down the hall, apologized quietly, and left, realizing he had the wrong room.
Spa: We decided we should take advantage of the spa to try to relax. We scheduled appointments for 4:00 P.M. and 4:30 P.M. massages. Our spa experience was terrible:
We decided to arrive 90 minutes early to take advantage of the other amenities of the spa. Upon arrival at the spa, our key was taken, and we were told to make sure we were in the meditation room "down the hall" at promptly 4:00 and 4:30, accordingly. I asked where our robes would be, and they said to look in the lockers.
We each proceeded to our locker rooms with our locker keys, and no one gave either of us further direction. I was not fully in to the idea of searching everything out in my robe, so I asked another woman in the locker room what to do. She looked relieved, and said, "I have no idea where the relaxation rooms are either. My masseuse told me to relax in one, but I don't know where they are. Do you want to go look for them with me?"
When you're paying $109 for a massage, you shouldn't have to search out the amenities without help from the service staff.
Together, we went in our robes to the main room and asked where the other amenities were located. A staff member pointed us in the direction, and I remembered the rooms from the tour from the previous day. Good thing, because the staff member didn't show us anything else.
One of the toilets was clogged with feces, and the locker room was foul-smelling as a result. No sandals were provided for me (or for my husband), so I walked barefoot.
I relaxed in the aromatherapy room that was gorgeous, but because the spa is located just below the basketball court, it was incredibly hard to relax. There was no calming music—bird sounds, Native American flutes, chimes, or other typical spa music—to try to cover up the buffalo-like sounds from above. The room with the stone loungers has bright lights that shine into your eyes.
I made sure to be in the meditation room at 3:50, remembering how emphatic the staff had been that I needed to be there at exactly 4:00. I saw my husband in there, and he said the sauna and steam rooms in the men's locker room were not even warm.
This room is far from a meditation area. It looks out onto a pool full of people, and the blinds were open. The delicious berry water was wonderful, but it attracted traffic from the fitness center passengers, and there was really nothing to deter these people from entering. The lights were bright, no calming music, no candles, no encouragement for quietness. No cool towels for the customers' faces. It was no better than a waiting room in a hospital. At 4:05, I asked a staff member whether they were running behind with the massage times. She answered, "Oh we're on time. She is probably cleaning the room right now."
Another client was in the waiting room, and at 4:10, he asked the same staff member about his appointment. She had the same answer, "Oh it's still on time." The client's response was, "Not by my watch. She's late."
Fuming from this whole spa experience, I asked to speak with a manager. This same staff person's response was, "Well, he's not in his office, he's up at the front desk."
I answered, "Okay, well will you please get him from the front desk, then?"
My masseuse became ready at 4:15, but I told her I wanted to speak with the manager before my massage rather than after so that I didn't defeat the purpose of the massage. She looked concerned that I was complaining about her, but I reassured her that I wasn't.
In my robe, I was escorted down the hallway leading to the treatment rooms to meet Goran, the spa manager. I wanted to speak quietly so as not to disturb the clients having treatments completed—what a bad place to meet with a client who is complaining. I explained my dissatisfactory experiences as discussed above, and his answer was, "You are complaining about things that are unchangeable. I wish things were quieter, but I can't change that. The problem is you people who go to day spas at home, and you think you can get the same experience on a cruise ship. This is a ship, not land. I am sorry about the toilet. We must keep the steam and spa rooms cooler for people with high blood pressure. Now that you tell me about it, I can fix that. I can not change the other things."
The steam and sauna rooms in the women's locker rooms were very comfortably warm, contradicting Goran's statements about blood pressure, unless they don't worry about this for the women.
My husband said the sauna was warmer when he returned to it after his spa treatment. He gave me a choice to not have my massage, to leave, but I opted to stay. My masseuse was wonderful—Dolores.
Miscommunication, Misrepresentation in Literature about Sports bar: My husband and I are San Antonio Spurs fans, so we went to the Churchill Sports Bar (that's what it is listed as in the literature), and when we asked if the Spurs game would be on Saturday evening the bartender said, "We don't show sports games in here anymore." I honestly thought he was joking…it's a sports bar for goodness sake! But when we peeked down in the bar that evening, there were no sports being shown on the TV
On Tuesday evening, the next Spurs game, we called the front desk and pleaded, "Is there anywhere on the ship besides our stateroom that we can watch the Spurs game?"
The clerk answered, "Yes ma'am, we have the Churchill Sports bar."
"Really?" I asked. "On Saturday, we stopped by and asked the bartender if the game would be on and he stated that they don't show sports in there anymore. I thought he might be kidding."
"Oh, he must have been kidding, ma'am," the clerk answered. "It is a sports bar."
"So you're positive if we go down there, we can watch the game if we can find it on ESPN?"
"Yes, ma'am. Just ask the bartender."
My husband and I put on our Spurs shirts and caps, and headed down to the bar. Once again, there were no sports on the TV I approached the bartender as I'd been directed, and he said, "The cruise director doesn't like sports in here. It's a cognac and cigar bar now."
"But the pamphlet says it's a sports bar," I persisted. "And we called the front desk and were reassured you showed sports on the TV's."
It just so happened that James, the cruise director, was having a drink at this bar at this moment. I went directly up to him and told him our situation. He wanted me to give him the name of the front desk clerk who has misinformed me, and apologized for the fact that I got misinformation. My answer was that it is printed in the literature, and I didn't blame the clerk for getting it wrong. Two gentlemen behind us called out, "The ship's too cheap to get ABC or the main channels—we didn't get to watch our game either." Not wanting to start a riot, we quietly and disappointedly left.
Dining Dinner on Sunday, our first formal night, we decided to go to a sit down area as opposed to the buffet. Upon arrival at the Palm, we were told it would be easier to seat us as a couple instead of with a group, and I answered O.K., if we could still sit by a window, which was what we had reserved. Our server was far from happy to have us at his table. The table was nice, but we really wanted to have it look out over the water, so we asked him if he could turn our table so that we were parallel to the window. He immediately shook his head, and explained, “You see, we have regulations about how far the tables must be from the window.” However when we looked around, we noticed that other tables were right up next to the wall. I guess he noticed this too, immediately stating, “I’ll ask the head waiter.”
I started to tell him not to worry about it, but he kept walking. The head waiter came and said our request was no problem. He moved our table the 2 feet necessary, but I felt like we had asked for a really huge request.
Our service remained bad this particular evening. Our water glasses remained empty for 15 minutes, and every time I tried to get someone’s attention for water, they didn’t hear me. We poured our own wine all evening.
At dessert, our waiter’s attitude changed a bit. He seemed a little less busy, and he asked us, “How is your cruise going so far?”
“Well, to be honest,” I answered, “we’ve found it difficult to get good service. The staff seems rushed and overwhelmed. It just seems that there are too many people and not enough help. Is the boat really overloaded or what?”
He responded, “Passengers on this cruise eat all at the same time. It’s the problem with the Anytime Dining…everyone wants to eat at 8:00-9:30 P.M. Or maybe they go to the buffet and then come here. You come in at 6:00 and there is no one.”
It was an odd answer. I felt bad for coming at 8:00, as if we were a burden. If this was so, we should have been told that we should come back later.
On Monday night, we decided to try the Coral Dining Room, hoping for better service. The food was poor, including my main dish of mussels and pasta which included only 4-5 mussels in the whole plate. We had a hard time getting refills on coffee. The two other couples at our table were on different courses, and there was not attempt to try to catch us up to each other…rather, it was a rushed dinner for everyone. The waiter tried to take my plate twice before I was finished. The other two couples stated they were dissatisfied with their cruises as well. One elderly couple said they’d never take Princess again, and they cruise all the time. This couple explained that they were offered to take the same cruise in July and $500 shipboard credit if they would do so because the boat was overbooked. The woman explained that being made such an offer the night before departure was almost insulting. She also said that they were bumped from a suite to a balcony room. The elderly gentleman received no help from the staff getting back into his wheelchair, so the other passengers at the table helped him. The third couple at our table was also disappointed with their trip.
We attended the buffet twice, and while the food was amazing, the thunderous thumping from the “Fun Zone” and basketball court above the Horizon and Caribe buffet areas caused us to feel unrelaxed and rushed.
Customer Service: We met with Graham Kelly on Monday evening. The front desk had made a copy of my notes, so he had the gist of our complaints before we met with him. He was very nice, but said there was no way we could get our room changed because the ship was booked. He explained that the Caribbean Princess is modeled after two other Princess ships that have fewer rooms. He said that people complained that there weren’t enough people on board (can you ever imagine such a complaint), so this ship added rooms for 500 more people (or was it 500 rooms), while keeping the same sized ship. Had the ship had 500 fewer people, many of the problems we were encountering would have been avoided, I believe.
What else could he do? I guess he could have offered us ship board credit or a free trip to the spa. We could tell he felt badly for us, especially when I explained I’m a school teacher badly in need of sleep after the last week of school.
We did let him know that we’d be in contact with the main cruise line when we returned to shore.
Stateroom #2 On June 1, Graham Kelly called us and told us that another room had come available and we could be moved. We took him up on the offer, and moved to Baja 522.
Unfortunately, we were placed across the hall from five rooms that had doors slamming constantly, rooms of teenagers and kids. There were also several instances of kids running down the halls. Maybe signs should be posted on the doors asking people to hold the doors as they close so that they don’t slam shut. I guess some people don’t realize. Our new balcony was loud and smoky because people on either side of us smoked. You can hear the neighbor’s toilet flush and my husband, a typically sound sleeper, lay awake as our next door neighbors coughed all night.
My husband realized he had left his swim trunks in the shower of the old room on Thursday morning. I called the front desk, and they said they had found nothing else in the room, but they’d check on it. At 5:00 that evening, his swim trunks were brought up to the room, but he went the whole day without them.
Our new steward, Jefferson, was friendly and highly-available, making us understand that when Imelda did not answer her pages when we were in room L307, she wasn’t doing her job.
Excursions and Activities: On Thursday, I called to find out if we were to receive a cabana on the Princess Cayes as we requested online two weeks before the cruise. We were told that we were on a waitlist of 207 people requesting the cabanas, and that if we hadn’t received tickets yet, we were not to receive one. I was taken aback. My husband is very fair-skinned, and we thought without proper covering, it would be a bad idea to head ashore. We actually enjoyed being on the ship this particular day as it was quieter and not full of people.
The two nights we called for tickets for Movies Under the Stars, we were too late and we could not get reservations. It should be made clear that you must make all these reservations early in the trip in order to ensure participation.
Sterling, the specialty restaurant, had no availability for reservations after Tuesday.
Disembarkation: On Wednesday night, we received our disembarkation bag tags. They were silver, but I woke up in the middle of the night with a feeling that I should call to make sure they remembered we had an early flight (I called Passenger Services 2 weeks prior to the cruise to make sure they knew).
The front desk clerk was annoyed that I was just now calling about this because we had been put with the silver group rather than one that we needed to be with. I explained that I had already called, but reminded her that we had switched rooms mid-cruise. She realized this was the problem after checking her computer, and asked if we could come down and pick up our new tags. We had just gotten ready for bed (11:00 P.M.), so I asked her to have them delivered to our room. Friday morning, we saw that they weren’t in our box, so out of curiosity, we went to our first room, and low and behold, this is where the tags were as well as our “Captain’s Circle” package. Had we not checked on this ourselves, we may never have received the proper tags. I certainly did not feel “taken care of”. I went to the front desk to let them know about their error. The clerk didn’t even apologize.
Disembarkation was nuts. I guess this is inevitable with 3300 passengers. Before leaving the room, I could not find my glasses in the cabin where I thought I had left them, but then figured I must have packed them. Upon arriving home, I realized they weren’t in my bag and since they weren’t where I thought they’d be in the room, I am wondering whether they were stolen. I’ve already called the cruise line, and I’ve been told it will be 4-6 weeks before I’ll know because they send all lost items to California, they are searched through, and any potential matches from customer reports are then distributed to the passengers. Seems like a very complicated procedure for merely finding something a passenger left in the room and mailing it to them if the passenger calls. And for all I know, they were stolen.
In conclusion, my husband and I feel very tired, disappointed, and resentful about our vacation with Princess. We each took sleeping pills every night to try to block out the noise, and sometimes these were helpful. We both find the fact that sleeping pills were necessary aboard a “five-star” cruise. We need to recuperate from a lack of sleep rather than from a fun-filled vacation. Read Less