The 2008 Thanksgiving Mexican Riviera cruise out of Los Angeles was a mad house. This is a large ship, the largest I've been on with Princess, and there was not enough room for everybody because it was packed to capacity. There was a line for breakfast, lunch and dinner no matter where you went including traditional dining every single day! In fact there was always a line everywhere (photos, shops, everywhere). I've never seen this on a Princess ship. I was glad that I loved retreating to my huge aft balcony a lot because it was the only place where I could find enough room!
I was on the Ship for 3 days before my nameplate showed up! When I asked the purser to get me a name plate he said that was easy to do but it took him three days! No so easy after all I guess. I had also requested egg crates for the bed but my Steward insisted that I didn't and that there were none left. We had to insist strongly before we got our egg crates. I know my TA faxed the request.
Our room was okay; the drawers were broken and had to be messed with to get them closed. The beds seemed smaller and shorter than on other ships but this is my first balcony room and I am used to mini suites so I was in bathroom shock for the first few days. I wrestled with the shower curtain but it often won and wrapped itself around me as if it were my new lover! I finally dealt with the overly amorous curtain by keeping it opened most of the way, which created a small lake but with enough extra towels that was easier for me to deal with!
Around the middle of the cruise I noticed that many of my toiletries were empty. The brand new deodorant was depleted, the brand new Elemis products that I had brought explicit for this cruise were empty, my moisturizers were empty, my facial soap and oils were almost empty, my toothpaste was gone, and all of my lipsticks were broken and smashed down. My perfumes were empty, and my sunscreens were depleted too. This was the creepiest experience I had to date on a Princess ship. Clearly my room steward did not like when I complained about not getting the towels I asked for (remember the lake) and not getting our patter one night. I can not think of any other reason why this happened, I did not stiff him and I did not put in any formal complaints. beware of hostile room stewards, I am calling Princess on this guy today!
This is my second Mexican Riviera cruise this year and I notice a big difference in the quality of food no new menus here and it just doesn't taste very good. My traditional dining room table assignment made me crazy the first night because I was surrounded by families who let their kids run like banshees through the dining room. One child kept coming up to my table with her dripping nose sniffing my food. Yikes. I asked the Maitre d to change our table. He asked me to come and talk to him every day about whether a table opened up. Gee this is not my idea of a relaxing cruise. I had no intention of complaining again because that makes it worse for me and I can't relax.
We switched to anytime dining after the first night. This was the first formal night and there were tons of people everywhere taking formal photos and milling about and I couldn't find anyplace to stand. We got into a line to take a formal photo and it took forever to get to the front. The photographer was being very professional but we always look goofy in this kind of shot. Anyway, by the time we were done, there was a 45 minute wait for anytime dining. It was this way every night. I almost gave up and went to the Buffet but I complained one last time to the purser's desk about our seating and the Maitre D John Paul changed us to the International Dining room and we got a fantastic table for 8 with the best group of people we have met on a cruise so far. We really enjoyed getting such a good (and diverse) group of people, it made dinner so fun. We were always the last table to leave every single night!
No meals were real standouts, and none were real stinkers either. The Turkey dinner was rubbery, but I met someone who had a juicy piece so I guess there was some inconsistency. I tried the Fajitas and I hated them with their melted cheese on top and too few pieces of Chicken. There was no ripe fruit on the trip either, no berries except Strawberries, and only the Pineapple was tasty. We couldn't get a reservation at any of the specialty dining rooms because of the massive crowds. . The new waffle bar was good; one of the girls at our table had to get the name of the waffle mixture because she loved it so much. I'm not much of a foodie so I really don't care as long as they have sorbet at desert. I love their sorbet. They are getting the new dinnerware in a few cruises, but no new menus yet! We all suggested that they bring out the waffle bar in the afternoon with the Ice cream (3:30 HC) because those waffles with Ice Cream would be to-die-for. Maybe it's not such a good idea!
The chair hogs were out in full force. Although half of the lounges were empty of people much of the time, they were marked with towels and magazines and nobody seemed to care. We asked for help getting a chair but the response (which I heard over and over) is "Madam there is over 700 kids on the ship and we cannot do anything about it". I really doubt it was the children's ideas to save the chairs.
I got aggravated and disappointed at paying such a high price for a specific cabin which of course immediately created in me higher expectations for everything. I realize this is a dumb thing to do, and I did really LOVE the huge aft cabin (E735). For a cruise that I take so often (sometimes 2-3 times a year) I have to say that the best one I've ever taken was the one that I paid the cheapest price for because I had no expectations. We did some different excursions this time including snorkeling with sea lions at Las Calates in PV. For some reason they decided to combine the kids' Sea lion encounter with our snorkeling adventure and I ended up getting kicked by 15 children while I felt guilty because I wanted to push them all aside. I paid and extra 75 for the experience, they paid 10. I hated having to be with 15 children since as a teacher I am programmed to watch out for their safety and certainly not ram them aside so I can have my turn. Not what I signed up for, not what I wanted, and not what I paid for! Furthermore, we missed many of the other activities like kayaking, hiking, and snorkeling. Unfortunately, we didn't miss the lunch! All in all for the $174pp we paid through Princess, it was not worth it. Do it independently and skip the Sea lion stuff! I did not complain verbally to Princess because I can't stand the excursion director (who I know from prior ships) so I just wrote up a note and dropped it in their comments box and within 2 hours there was a note in my (finally labeled) room mail box. Princess offered me a 25% discount on this excursion because they were not supposed to combine the tow groups! While this was a nice gesture, I still paid a lot of money for something other than what was advertised. I call that bait and switch!
We did a good tour in Mazatlan to the mountain towns of Concordia and Copala which was very interesting. We could only understand about half of what the guide said (Maria), but it was enough to really enjoy. We went to Todos Santos in Cabo and that was pretty interesting. Our guide spoke impeccable English and was very knowledgeable about Baja Mexico, the ride to Todos Santos was beautiful and we saw many whales blowing and breaching from the busall on the Pacific (and none in the Sea of Cortez). The infamous Hotel California is supposed to be in Todos Santos but I don't think it really is. Still, we ate there and they did play the Eagles song over and over and the food was pretty good. The prices in Todos Santos were outrageously high, just like in Cabo; we were not going to pay $20 for a junky fake Hotel California Tee shirt! We would have liked to see more of Todos Santos and less of the shopping opportunities there, still the tour was nice and I would recommend it.
The entertainment was good, don't miss Steve Morris, he is a riot! One of the reasons I repeat this cruise is because I love his comedy and he is usually on part of the cruise. He gets the audience singing and involves us in his comedy and it's really fun. His shadow puppets are the best I've ever seen. Bohemian Rhapsody will never be the same for me!
Disembarkation was a bummer if you didn't choose walking off with your own luggage. There were few reps around to answer questions and lots of families going wherever they thought they could get off the quickest. It didn't seem like many people were following instructions, and instead they were making up their own rules. I heard one man say" I am an American and I want to get off this boat now!" At least I didn't hear any name calling!
Our room was okay; the drawers were broken and had to be messed with to get them closed. The beds seemed smaller and shorter than on other ships but this is my first balcony room and I am used to mini suites so I was in bathroom shock for the first few days. Everything worked except our toilet started to back up and delay the flush (don't know why this happens) but it never got bad and we did not have to have it repaired.