I must say I was more than a little disappointed with our recent cruise on the Diamond Princess, “Spring Flowers and Golden Week” around Japan, sailing on 20th April for 12 nights.
We are not new to cruising so we had certain expectations for our cruise. On boarding the ship, we were expecting the usual sort of greeting, a glass of bubbly and a sit down in the lounge area. Where the cruise line take the opportunity to sell various trips, events and beverage packages, etc. Alas, this was not the case. We were directed to a gangway leading straight to an elevator lobby, where a crew member checked our sea pass and ushered us into an elevator and pressed a button for deck 11 sending us on our way.
We found our way to our cabin, B219. On entering we were astounded. Firstly, by the overwhelming smell from the drains. Then, by how old and tired the cabin was, the give away was the flat screen TV shoe-horned in to a unit designed for a cathode ray TV, the floor was very uneven and lumpy as if the carpet was laid on top of rubble, the shower looked old and worn out, its performance confirmed this. The furniture was generally worn and tatty, and to cap it all the balcony had a “wet paint” notice on it, so standing out on it was a bit heady due to the varnish fumes. Smells inside and outside! We reported the drain smell, by phone, to passenger services, and while waiting for a maintenance man we also told our cabin steward. She poured some chemicals down the toilet and waste outlets. When the maintenance man arrived, we explained to him what the steward had done. He sniffed the air and left.
A couple of days in to our cruise my wife attempted to open a dressing table drawer and the front came off in her hand. As we emptied the drawer the side fell off as well. I was impressed with the all the dovetail jointing, sadly there was no glue or fixings! I reported the drawer problem, and the shower inefficiency to passenger services. A crewman arrived the same day to reassemble the drawer successfully, and the following day another crewman to fix the shower. Despite his efforts at cleaning limescale from the head there was little improvement. Half a dozen jets of water sprayed with force either nearly horizontally at you or over your head, or if angled on the next setting by the mounting, vertical on to your feet. If the spray pattern was adjusted the head just oozed water down the wall of the cubical. Not at all like any other cruise ship we’ve been on. A few days in to the cruise we received notification that after 08-00 hrs the maintenance dept required access to our cabin for balcony maintenance. Then another couple of days passed and again, from 08-30 access was required for balcony maintenance. Each time we found the wet paint notice on the balcony. Then when we docked in Yokahama, without any warning, at about 08-00, a crewman came walking back and forth across our balcony. When I opened the door to see what was going on I found all the balcony connecting doors were open allow general access to all balconies along the ship. When the crewman first appeared, my wife was in the process of getting dressed. To simply access a private balcony for which I paid extra was extremely poor service and rude. I’ve never experienced such an appalling attitude to passenger’s privacy on any other cruise we have been on. 4 days out of 12 my balcony was accessed for maintenance. The whole ship appeared like our cabin, tired and out dated. Instead of trying to tart up the ship on the run perhaps Princess should pop it into dry dock for a refit to bring it up to an acceptable modern standard?
As we were waiting to board on day one in Yokahama we met some departing passengers waiting for their transfer, they told us that the food was generally cold. We can confirm that they were correct. The first night at dinner, in the Vivaldi restaurant, our main course was only barely warm, and the jacket potatoes were only partially cooked. We complained to our waiter. He just removed the potatoes from our plates and fetched some replacement potatoes. They were no better, warm but not fully cooked. We decided that as we had continued to eat the remaining meal, while it still contained some warmth, before the potatoes were returned, we resigned ourselves to just pick out what was edible from the potatoes. We suggested that in future it might be a clever idea to serve the food on a warm plate. After this our meals at our allotted table in the Vivaldi were served on warm, and sometimes hot plates. Alas, the food remained cold! The same applied in the Horizon Court restaurant, the food was cold.
I downloaded the Princess app to keep abreast of shipboard activity etc. A good job I did. We had a premium beverage package each, note the drinks are limited on this package to 15 per day including coffee and water. On checking our stateroom account, I found we were being incorrectly charged for drinks. I contacted Passenger Services and was told it would be rectified. It was, until later that evening when the charge plus some more was added on. Once again, I contacted Passenger Services and we started the process again, at one point I was told I had $400 on my account that I knew nothing about. This became a daily event for the first week, checking my account balance, queuing at passenger services, getting the balance corrected. It’s difficult to relax when you’re likely to be overcharged all the time. On the day after we left Yokahama for the second time I was once again at Passenger Services with the spurious charges and told that my package was for the cruise, and as we had now moved on to a second cruise it no longer covered us. I pointed out that we had bought a 12 night cruise and a 12 night beverage package and had the invoice with me to prove it. The clerk went off and did a bit more digging and sent some emails and hey presto it was sorted, no more spurious charges. Why did this take so long to rectify?
We were somewhat amazed to find that the only diet or sugar free drinks other than diet coke are not available on the premium beverage. My wife is type one diabetic and while she has no special dietary requirements for her meals, she can only have sugar free drinks from the bar, never normally a problem, until this cruise. We discovered that sugar free drinks on Princess are canned, and are subsequently not included in the package. We were told we could included them in our premium package for an additional 25% charge. This smacks of profiteering from your passengers’ misfortune. I would think diet drinks cost no more than sugar dinks. In fact, in the UK sugar free drinks are now cheaper due to the sugar tax.
The shore excursions we went on were very poor value, lots of traveling and little cultural or other content. We discovered that as non-Japanese speakers we paid extra for the excursions to cover the cost of an English-speaking guide. Well, I can say that apart from the Aomori trip the English language skills of the guides were practically useless.
As for the entertainment the Bravo show, which we saw twice, and the comedian/magician were very, very good.
Sadly, the condition of the ship and the general service we received did not represent a good cruising experience for us, and a Princess cruise will have to be something pretty special for us to consider cruising with you again.
Worn and outdated as demonstrated by the unit for the TV, it's designed for a cathode ray TV but has a 32" flat screen shoe horned in to it. The furniture is a bit tatty, drawers stiff to open, in fact one in the dressing table fell to bits. The cupboard/shelving unit that houses the safe had the the wrong screw bodged in to it to hold the magnetic door catch in place so it snagged clothing on the bottom shelf. The shower is old and inefficient, just a hand held type of wand with a curtain, very very basic. The floor is uneven as if the carpet is laid over rubble, I suspect the underlay is broken up due to its age.