This is a cruise review i thought we would never have to write-- we had a really, really disappointing cruise.
Embarkation seemed to go smoothly enough but then one of the keys wasn't even processed appropriately at check in so while it let us into the room it would not work to pay for anything onboard that you could swipe. The time we waited in line at passenger services we were told we would have to come back later as they could not rekey it at that time. We just worked around and used one card to pay for everything along the way as a result.
Our cabin was ok and our cabin steward was friendly. But this cruise was clearly not well-organized as we were missing important information such as the voucher that went with our pre-paid specialty restaurant meal resulting in a service charge after going to the restaurant that took two trips to passenger services to have taken off the account again, because i'd already prepaid it. We never received towel animals or other fun surprises in our cabin. Our bathroom was sporadically replenished with lotion and such.
There was no information about the vow renewal i had prepurchased in the cabin so that was another wait in the line at passengers services that first day. When i arrived at the desk the attendant said "so you're celebrating anniversary? What do you want? Cake? Balloons?" the door wasn't decorated like so many others as we wandered the hall that day and there was no information in the room- it was as if they didn't notice i had prepaid hundreds of dollars for the vow renewal and lugged our wedding clothes half way around the world. But a manager tasha was summoned and sat down with me and said she had been planning to contact us that afternoon... So we sat and worked out details for the next day. The next day they called to confirm our vow renewal at noon. Then, 5.5 short hours later, we had spent the afternoon getting showered, dressed, and made up for the ceremony. then, just 30 minutes before, my husband got a call and we were told to come to the atrium immediately. A medical emergency required an evacuation of another passenger and our ceremony had to be cancelled. So there we were, hours before the time we were set to dine at, dressed in formal wedding wear, and with no place to go. As medical professionals, we understand the importance of the crew being available to assist with this so that didn't upset us but what i didn't understand was why she took the liberty of cancelling the photographer, the flowers, the chocolate and the champagne, seemingly token gifts, that were to accompany the ceremony. Why not do something special for us in lieu of the ceremony that night and ask us to reschedule? We were all dressed up and had nothing to do. We had spent hours preparing for the ceremony and then just stood there, bewildered, wondering what to do for the evening. What if i had spent the afternoon at the spa paying for an updo and makeup? What if it had been my actual wedding- is that how they handle the wedding ceremonies people plan? What if we had guests attending? Would somebody else have stepped in for the captain? It just left us feeling weird and with a lot of questions.
We were very disappointed- never received a note or any other token of apology for the cancellation from the crew during our cruise- so we cancelled and did not reschedule the ceremony and were refunded the amount (on paper) some days later. We still have not received this refund on our credit card nearly 3 weeks after the cruise has disembarked however.
Needless to say after an embarrassing dinner at the specialty restaurant- the food was terrible and the service was appalling- food delivered to the wrong tables, no refills, and to top it off, the specialty restaurant is actually just a part of the horizon buffet. I'm not kidding- they set up a screen and throw up a few tablecloths and call it a steakhouse. Awful. I ordered carpaccio and was essentially served very brown thick roast beef slices. The smores dessert was inedible.
We saw waiters yelling at patrons in the dining room multiple times telling them to wait to order more juice or to request additional items such as jams or cream with their meals. Everything took a really long time because people were generally seated in large groups so a waiter would come through and take an order for juice, then go get juice, then hand out juice. Then that waiter would take an order for coffee and tea. Then he would go get coffee and tea. Then he would serve coffee and tea. Then they would offer the pastries. Then they would take the menu orders. It just took forever. There were barely any tables for 2 in the dining room, and even when there were available tables we were strongly encouraged, or required on some days, to eat with a group of 8-10 people for breakfast and lunch which we have never had to do on a cruise. Even when there were empty tables. We assumed they must have issues with staffing and an inability to inadequately staff the dining room for meals. We generally love quiet mornings in the dining room and if i'm sitting with coffee and cream i'm happy to wait for meals, though that's never been an issue on a cruise before. We began to resent the dining room, the apparent lack of service training and possibly the short staffing and we would just go to the buffet regularly for our dining needs.
Most of the food was awful on the cruise. We loved pizza on our first princess cruise- this time the pizza was not good. It used to be available on deck all afternoon and evening and you could see what it looked like and choose a variety of slices. But now you either pay $3/pie from room service or wait til the restaurant is open for a few hours in the evening and choose blindly an entire personal pizza in 1 flavor off the menu. The antipasto was weird- like little deli cheeses and flavorless vegetables and a very funny tasting thing they called tiramisu that is most definitely not tiramisu on the menu at the pizza place are bad too- which is weird because one time they had an italian buffet on the horizon court and served real buffalo mozzarella and italian looking cold cuts. Someone in the kitchen knows what antipasto should look like-- i'm just not sure why that doesn't translate across restaurants. We thought some of the pastas and lunch were good and enjoyed the lamb chops one night, barramundi and shrimp were ok one night, and the steaks at the steakhouse tasted alright. But i would never pay $25-30 pp for the steakhouse because the steaks were not that good.
One of our ports was cancelled (natural disaster, not the ships fault) resulting in an extra sea day. The library was amply stocked and we were able to leave some of the books we brought onboard there as well-- that was helpful. We spent more time in the library on this cruise checking out books to read than ever before-- because there was not much else in the way of entertainment. The ships performers were so bad that we didn't stay for an entire performance the first night. We did enjoy the piano player and the violin player on more than one occasion but they often played in the crowded atrium so it was difficult to find a seat and enjoy them- even as large as the atrium is. We often enjoyed them for short intervals. We were grateful to have nice weather most days and be able to sit out on deck reading.
We ended up only using the ship for assistance at one port and the shuttle to brisbane was efficient and affordable at about $30/pp round trip to downtown area. We spent the day eating and shopping there and then took the shuttle back to the ship. We found the ships planned excursions to be quite a bit more costly and with larger groups than doing similar excursions on our own.
Overall i was mostly disappointed with service on the ship. For the first time ever, we were not able to do anytime dining by ourselves and i thought well, it's ok, we'll find a waiter we love who will get to know us and our dining style the way the waitress on our first princess cruise did (even though that had anytime dining nearly a decade ago and we were just placed in her area repeatedly for most of 10 nights). But unfortunately our assistant waiter frequently changed (again, is this mostly a training ship? Or just severely understaffed?) and our waiter never really got to know our likes and dislikes. From the way our vow renewal was an afterthought, to the way we were treated at passenger services during the times we approached with repeated concerns, i was just embarrassed for princess. For the first time ever we ended the cruise with a negative folio amount- they owe us money. Money that was immediately charged to my credit card months ago by princess when i purchased things like the vow renewal but which cannot be refunded for weeks apparently.
Since returning home nearly 3 weeks ago i filled out a survey sent by the cruise a day later and nobody from the ship has reached out to me to apologize. Then a week later i contacted them online, requesting the refund to my credit card. Nobody from the ship has reached out and the credit card still has not been refunded. Now i'm going to just submit this review to cruise critic because i feel like i might still get my refund, since the ship account did clearly show a negative balance, but i feel like the company didn't care. I had been looking forward to this cruise and my vow renewal for years- i booked this years ago and we flew from the us to sydney to have this life event, and share it with what we thought was an amazing cruise line whose service would make us feel special and that for $3500 this cruise and vow renewal would be magical. It wasn't and i'm still disappointed and will not be likely to sail with princess again.
But day after day i'm still email bombarded with their special deals to cruise again-- how can a company be so clueless? Spend some energy and goodwill reviewing surveys and fixing the problems from our last cruise instead of email bombarding us to give up money for another one.