Along with our good friends, we planned this trip for almost a year. Our extended vacation would start by spending four days, including New Years Eve on Copacabana Beach prior to boarding the cruise.
This cruise did not start well. The embarkation process in Rio de Janeiro was an organizational disaster that reaffirms our perception that Princess, while a cruise industry leader in many categories, lacks competence in the basic tasks of embarking and disembarking guests. The delay in Rio de Janeiro may well have been exacerbated by ANVISA authorities arriving late for work and delaying the disembarkation of the arriving passengers but the flawed embarkation process falls solely on the shoulders of Princess. The disorganization started with the written communication from Princess announcing a “Progressive Check-in Schedule”. This ill-conceived idea failed to recognize that hotel guests have check-out times and they should not be expected to sit waiting with their luggage in the hot sun of Rio. The check-out for our accommodation was 11:00 AM so, on the advice of our travel agent, we headed to the departure terminal considerably earlier than the time dictated for our Riviera deck. We supposedly have preferential boarding based on our platinum status…supposedly.
Upon arrival it was apparent that another boarding procedure was now in place and departure staff were handing out stickers with letters and numbers presumably based on a guest’s status (although that was never made clear). Once inside the departure area it was total pandemonium with no leadership from Princess staff, no signs and no indication of where to enter or how to navigate a poorly designed queue. This is yet another example of Princess Cruise Line’s lack of respect for their customers and, in particular, their returning guests. First time cruisers were being boarded prior to platinum, elite and suite customers and the number and letter “system” was being ignored by both departure staff (a contractor) and cruisers alike. Asked by us what was supposed to happen and what we should do….the supervisor indicated that he and his co-worker were trying to figure that out! Obviously it was a little late in the game to try to formulate a plan. It must be noted that no Princess staff were offering direction or assistance to the guests or to the ground contractor’s staff. Princess staff were only at the final station where they were collecting passports. Princess can blame ANVISA and the ground contractor but the ultimate responsibility to embark and disembark passengers is theirs and they do not do it well.
Functional and in good shape. Small balcony but that was our fault for not paying more. Great cabin steward.
Did our own tours while in Rio prior to the cruise.
Sadly...the most important port call was cancelled.